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Fighting Disease

Second in Series: Rotary’s Six Areas of Focus

Fighting Disease

Disease Prevention and Treatment is one of Rotary's six areas of focus. This video shows Rotary's global efforts to set up temporary clinics, blood donation centers, and training facilities in underserved communities struggling with outbreaks and health care access. We design and build infrastructure that allows doctors, patients, and governments to work together. Our members combat diseases such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and polio.

Projects Both Large and Small

Rotary Members sponsor projects throughout the world that help people fight against disease. Disease results in misery, pain, and poverty for millions of people worldwide. That’s why treating and preventing disease is so important to us.

We lead efforts both large and small. We set up temporary clinics, blood donation centers, and training facilities in underserved communities struggling with outbreaks and health care access. We design and build infrastructure that allows doctors, patients, and governments to work together.

Our members combat diseases such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and polio. Prevention is important, which is why we also focus on health education and bringing people routine hearing, vision, and dental care.

How Rotary Makes Help Happen

Disease does not prevent itself. We educate and equip communities to stop the spread of life-threatening diseases. Rotary members have hundreds of health projects underway around the world at any given time. Here are some specifics:

Providing clean water: Rotary has worked with partners to provide more than 80 percent of Ghana’s people with clean water to fight Guinea worm disease.

Reducing HIV infection: In Liberia, Rotary members are helping women get tested for HIV early in their pregnancies. They used prenatal care to reduce new HIV infections in children by 95 percent over two years.

Ending polio: Rotary members have played a key role in bringing the world to the brink of polio eradication. Their efforts have not only ended polio in 122 countries but also created a system for tackling myriad other health priorities, such as Ebola and Dengue Fever.

This article and accompanying video tell the story of a unique Rotary Club that works to prevent disease.

Muslim and Christian Women Work Together to

Prevent Dengue Fever in Indonesia

By Rotary International

In a world where intolerance and violence fueled by religious differences are seemingly increasing, one Rotary club in Indonesia is showing how diversity can help prevent a pandemic threat.

When the Rotary Club of Solo Kartini in Surakarta, Indonesia, formed 25 years ago, its members drew criticism from the predominantly Muslim community.

The club’s members were mostly Christians, atypical for a country where more than 80 percent of the population is Muslim. Religious leaders were skeptical of Rotary’s secular mission and wary of intrusion.

Undeterred, the club started recruiting more members. Today, the 72-member, all-female club includes both Muslims and Christians.

The effort they have put into breaking down barriers and fostering respect and understanding among club members has reinforced the club’s capacity to address dengue fever, one of the biggest public health threats in tropical cities like Surakarta.

Dengue fever is a virus transmitted by mosquitos that flourish in tropical urban environments like Surakarta. There is no effective treatment; once infected, victims experience sudden high fevers, severe headaches, joint and muscle pain, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting.

Launching an effective public health initiative to prevent the disease requires volunteers with deep knowledge and connections to the community who can craft specific and sustainable solutions. And that means being able to build relationships across religious, cultural and socio-economic lines.

The Rotary Club of Solo Kartini in Surakarta, Indonesia, installed white tiles on more than 3,500 tubs. The tiles make it easier to see and clean mosquito larvae, which helps prevent dengue fever.

Rotary member Mariam Kartonagoro says her club’s diverse makeup – particularly its abundance of mothers and professionals of varied ages and backgrounds – enhances their effort to fight dengue fever. “The fact that we are different does not create trouble, but it strengthens our relationship,” she says.

In collaboration with the Rotary Club of Westport, Connecticut, USA, and the local ministry of health in Surakarta, the Muslim and Christian club members have been able to help reduce the risk for dengue fever by interrupting the breeding cycles of carrier mosquitos.

The first step was to implement a startlingly simple, low-cost strategy: line the dark cement bathtubs, common in Indonesian households, with white tiles so mosquito larvae is easier to see – and remove. In five years, the club project modified more than 3,500 tubs in two neighborhoods.

But tiles weren’t enough. The club needed to change habits and behaviors that contribute to infections, which required building trust to educate the community.

“Our main focus is to educate and invite people to be aware of health issues, hygiene, and the importance of a clean environment,” says Rotarian Indrijani Sutapa, one of the dengue project leads. “This takes a very long time to teach.”

Community social workers teach homeowners how to empty and scrub infested tubs twice a week, close the lid on water containers, and bury waste that can collect water.

The fact that we are different does not create trouble, but it strengthens our relationship.

Siti Wahyuningsih, Surakarta’s director of public health, hopes to extend Rotary’s white-tile project to other parts of the city.

“Health is a shared responsibility between government, society, and the private sector,” she says. “The government can’t do it alone. We as a community must embrace all of our strengths, and Rotary is a big one.”

The club hopes to see more people crossing cultural lines to help each other.

“Rotary has a very diverse membership, and we can be examples to others in the way we work. After all, when we give help, we do not ask about the religion of the person whose tub we replace. We think in a much more global way,” says Rotarian Febri Dipokusumo. “And we try to foster relationships with people who may have different beliefs or thoughts. We can become friends here in Rotary. Maybe this way, we can inspire Indonesia and the world.”

Photos by Tim Deagle




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