Posted by Shelly Duben on Apr 25, 2019
Instead of shining the light on a particular club, I would like to shine the light on a multi-club project that has been a big part of District 7010 for several years - the Rotary Wheels for Learning (RWFL) Project.
The Rotary Wheels for Learning (RWFL) Project is an international humanitarian project, conducted in Cambodia, and led by the Rotary Club of Gravenhurst. In its eighth year, the aim of the project is twofold. First, they build, repair and distribute bicycles to impoverished rural children so they may have the opportunity to attend school. Secondly, they identify and fund critical Education and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) projects at rural schools so the children can remain healthy and stay in school.
Why Cambodia? Cambodia experienced significant turmoil in its recent history, and only since early 2000 has the country been at peace. During the Khmer Rouge years (1975-1979), life in 'Democratic Kampuchea' was strict and brutal. The party's aim was to establish a classless communist state based on a rural agrarian economy and a complete rejection of the free market and capitalism. To accomplish this, they abolished money, free markets, schooling, private property, foreign clothing styles, religious practices, and traditional Khmer culture. Public schools, pagodas, mosques, churches, universities, shops and government buildings were shut or turned into prisons, stables, re-education camps and granaries. There was no public or private transportation, no private property, and no non-revolutionary entertainment. While figures on the number of people who died during the Khmer Rouge's rule are disputed, most estimates say between 1.4 million and 2.2 million people starved to death, died of disease, or were murdered out of a population of just 8 million.
One of the significant long term impacts of this genocide is a general lack of support in the rural areas of Cambodia. Where they exist, hospitals, clinics and schools are often located great distances from the villages making it very difficult for villagers to access them. Children that can attend school are often prevented from doing so as the distances to the school are significant. Rural children often have important chores they need to accomplish at home, such as gathering fire wood, going to the local well or pond for the family’s water, or working in the rice fields – all taking precedence over a formal education.
From 25 January – 17 February 2019, twenty-two Rotarians and Friends participated in the RWFL Project. The team was made up of Rotarians representing seven clubs within District 7010 including Gravenhurst, Bracebridge, Minden, Barrie Kempenfelt, Collingwood-South Georgian Bay, and North Bay-Nipissing. They travelled to six different provinces and covered more than 1200 km! Seven of the 8 distribution sites received 112 bicycles, while the 8th received 116 for a total of 900 bicycles.
The bicycles are purchased in Phnom Penh for $37.00 US, and then transported to the actual distribution site. As the bicycles are gently used, they have a team of “bicycle mechanics” who conduct the repairs and verify the serviceability of the bicycle. Spare parts are purchased in Phnom Penh prior to the first distribution so that the team is equipped to make all necessary repairs. Typically 1 in 2 bicycles require some type of repair (tire change, tube repair, brake cable replacement, chain adjustment). Their goal is always 100 % serviceability for each bicycle so that every child receives a bicycle that is as close to new as possible.
After the bicycles are assembled and ready for distribution, members of the RWFL team conduct a formal ceremony which local government officials and district school board members attend. At this point, they give a dental hygiene demonstration for the children and then provide each child with a new toothbrush and toothpaste. Once the formalities have been completed, they distribute the bicycles to the children, who have waited patiently for many hours in the hot sun.
Following their successful trial project in 2018, the team set a lofty goal of completing 8 projects for 2019. The projects included 3 wells, 2 wash areas, 2 playground renovations, a latrine renovation, provision of a ton of rice to the Peoples Improvement Organization, and the distribution of 32 water filter systems to 6 schools and two villages. Please read the report for a description and several photos of these projects as well as photos of the RFWL team in action.
The RWFL Team 2020 will be heading back to Cambodia in January 2020 to distribute 816 bicycles in six of their target areas. In addition to the bicycles, they will be funding and project managing 9 other projects that will begin construction as early as August 2019, including a 2 room school, water filter system, wells, wash area and more. See the attached report for the details of the proposed projects and estimated costs.
How can you be part of this great project? Consider joining the RFWL Team 2020 Team travelling to Cambodia from January 25-February 16, 2020. Details regarding costs, deadlines, and contact info are in the attached document. You and/or your club may also choose to support the project financially. The RWFL Team is seeking sponsors for both the bicycles ($50.00 Canadian each) and the other projects listed above.
This is another example of the amazing work being done by Rotarians in District 7010 to better the lives of others around the world!
Visit our "Spotlight on Service" Page to read previous articles about clubs and projects.