Posted on Jan 08, 2020
Shelly Duben, Director of Service Projects, Rotary District 7010
This Spotlight on Service is shining the light on R.E.L.A.Y. (Rotarians Enhancing Learning of African Youth) which is District 7010's International Project being led by the Rotary Club of Bracebridge-Muskoka Lakes. This multi-year project, located in a small rural village north of Lusaka, Zambia, began in its planning stages in 2016. Team leaders, Michael and Shelly Duben (both Bracebridge-Muskoka Lakes Rotarians) led their 7th R.E.L.A.Y. team to Zambia in March 2018. Since 2005, they have led teams to Ghana, Kenya, Ethiopia, Mozambique and Zambia.
With the help of their partner club in Lusaka, the Rotary Club of Nkwazi, they identified a school in the Chinsanshi region that only had one classroom. It is part of the Zambia Open Community Schools system. There were about 150 students attending nursery school and grade 1 at the time. The community wanted to expand the school to 4 classrooms because there were many other children who could not attend school because of the lack of classroom space. The school is in an area about 17 kms from the capital city of Lusaka in a very rural setting. It has a large catchment area of several villages but had very limited classroom capacity. The nearest government school is 6 kms away and that tends to discourage parents from sending their children to school.
In March 2018, the R.E.L.A.Y Team of 18 Rotarians and non-Rotarians, spent 7 days actively assisting with the construction and renovations at the Chinsanshi School which included painting, assembling desks, installing windows and doors, painting soccer posts, and planting trees. Team members also spent time with children and teachers in the daily programming component of the project – doing crafts, playing educational games, playing sports and outdoor games, and more.
There were several components to the 1st phase of this project, including:
  • Building a 3-classroom block
  • Purchasing and assembling desks for the new and existing classrooms
  • Purchasing water filters and training local community members how to use and maintain them.
  • Starting a library at the school
  • Providing curriculum books and teaching aids to the school
  • Providing sports equipment to the school
  • Providing backpacks with school supplies and new clothing for all students
  • Facilitating “programming sessions” with the teachers and students at the school
  • Providing mosquito nets to the families of all children at the school
  • Completing a Needs Assessment to determine next steps at the school and in the local community to determine the next steps for the project.
Through the needs assessment, it was determined that a solar powered submersible water pump and polytank for storing the water would be of great benefit to the school and the surrounding community, so funds were sent for this component of the project once the team returned to Canada.
We are very excited to announce the next trip to Zambia to continue the work in the Chinsanshi region. Based on the needs assessment and on discussions with our partner club, the components of the project will likely include the following:
  • Building a washroom facility with flush toilets and showers
  • Building a residence for teachers so that the school can attract qualified teachers to work there
  • Starting a bicycle program for students at the school
  • Providing more curriculum books, teaching aids, library books, sports equipment to the school
  • Facilitating “programming sessions” with the teachers and students at the school
District 7010 Rotarians have the opportunity to be involved in this hands-on project in Zambia. Michael and Shelly Duben will lead another R.E.L.A.Y. team to Zambia in early July 2020. They hope to have a team of 10-15 Rotarians and non-Rotarians that will travel to Zambia to complete the next hands-on phase of the project. R.E.L.A.Y. team members will, on a daily basis, actively assist with the construction and renovations at the school which could include painting, assembling furniture, installing windows and doors, etc. Team members will also help with the assembly of bicycles and will work directly with children and teachers in the programming component of the project.
Any Rotarians interested in learning more about becoming a team member should email Shelly at by January 20th to express interest. An information session will be held in late January or early February. Rotarians are encouraged to consider inviting non-Rotarians as well. What better way to “hook” a potential Rotarian than to involve them in a life-changing international project! Some basic information regarding the trip includes the following:
  • Team will depart on or about July 4th for 10-14 days
  • The project component will include 7-8 days of hands-on work at the school site
  • There will be an optional 3-4 day safari adventure for interested team members
  • Team members pay all of their own expenses which include flights, accommodations, food, visas, etc. The costs will likely be in the range of $2500-3000 per person. Costs for the safari may be up to $2000.
  • Team members each raise at least $500 for the project. This is often done through their Rotary Clubs.
We also encourage District 7010 Rotary Clubs to get involved in this World Community Service project. Clubs may choose to become a R.E.L.A.Y. project partner and donate funds to the project or sponsor a particular component of the project such as: a toilet or shower, bicycles, curriculum or library books, etc.
We look forward to another successful R.E.L.A.Y. project in Zambia with involvement from many District 7010 Rotarians and Clubs. View the presentation which provides further information on the project, includes several photos showing the school and team members “on the ground”, and lists the sponsoring/supporting Rotary Clubs.
Visit our "Spotlight on Service" Page for more messages about other district and club projects and initiatives.