For the past 10 days we have been going from town to town, project to project to see what it is that our Rotary Foundation dollars are funding. We have seen amazing results and amazing needs. We keep asking “How do we help? What do we do now.”
Today we took the entire morning to sit down with Rotarians in the two Sunyani clubs to talk about all the issues involved in taking a project from concept to reality.
Walter Hughes, who has worked on projects in Ghana for more than 10 years, led the discussion and helped all of us, Ghanaians and Americans, better understand the best practices involved in developing projects among international partners.
Too often we find that Rotarians at home, including most of us on this trip, have only a vague inkling of how to design, fund, and implement a project.
All of our discussion centered on Ghana but some of the advice is applicable to projects everywhere.
Here are some points:
1. Know who the champion is. For Ghana, it is Walter. He has worked with 20 districts and 120 clubs on projects for Ghana in the past 10 years. He has developed contacts and models that work. Any club anywhere in the world wanting to help this country should begin by contacting Walter.
2. The Ghanians know better than us what they need. We think a priority should be to buy books for classrooms. They think schools need water, bathrooms and electricity.
3. Focus on projects where communities and villages are trying to help themselves, and are not just looking for a handout. “We are not about charity,” Walter said. An example is the school we visited yesterday where the PTA raised enough money to about halfway finish bathroom facilities. “That is a school I want to help,” he said.
4. Every potential project needing funding should have a single page summary. In Ghana, clubs work with Walter to write the summary. When a club elsewhere is looking for a project to fund, Walter can provide them with summaries that best meet their objective and guide them toward making an informed decision. For example, if a club is interested in drilling boreholes, he’ll have summaries on water projects. A club interested in establishing a blood bank can receive summaries about those kind of projects.
5. Teamwork, collaboration, and productivity are critical to successful projects. The Rotary Foundation has strict application and accountability standards, as it should. Walter has developed templates for use in Ghana that help meet these requirements. For example, an accountant could input the project budget. An engineer could describe the procedure. When all questions have been answered, another person could enter it all into the online application that the Foundation requires.
6. All clubs and districts with money invested in a project should get regular reports provided by the host club.
7. Host clubs should keep a spreadsheet of all the projects they want to fund and all of the clubs/districts who are potential partners, and keep in touch with them.
8. Take full advantage of the Foundation’s global and district matching grants. A few thousand dollars from a club can be multiplied four times over using the proper procedures.
Was this a morning that tugged at our heart strings like all of our other mornings? No. We saw no hungry children and no one begged for our help.
But this morning was as important as any, for we all got a clearer idea of the logistics involved in affecting change by making the best use of Rotary resources.
This was a morning well spent in learning the HOW of engaging Rotary to change lives.