Children At Risk Task Force
Project Ideas

Frank J. Devlyn

Together We Can Change The World

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Children at Risk - Project Ideas

For decades, and especially in recent years, Rotarians have been focusing their attention and resources on vulnerable and troubled children. From "adopting" homeless children to serving meals to schoolchildren from low-income families, Rotary clubs worldwide are working to provide education, housing, and a safe, secure environment for needy children. The plight of children at risk merits every effort.

According to United Nations agencies, an astounding number of children worldwide are living under extremely difficult conditions:

  • Some 40 million children age 14 and younger suffer abuse and neglect.

  • An estimated 250 million children aged 5-14 are working.

  • More than 100 million children live on the streets, vulnerable to exploitation, drugs, and crime.

  • Nearly 12 million children under age 5 die every year from preventable childhood diseases and malnutrition.

  • Some 130 million children of primary school age, mostly girls, do not attend school, contributing to shorter life spans and greater susceptibility to poverty and illness.

  • The 1998-99 Children's Opportunities Grants inspired a wave of Rotarian initiatives. Rotarians need to maintain that momentum on behalf of needy children.

Project Ideas

  • Host an immunization clinic or distribute immunization history cards to new mothers in order to prevent childhood diseases.

  • Support a school-based meal program to improve students’ nutrition.

  • Conduct a literacy program focusing on girls.

  • Establish an awareness campaign about child labor issues or provide alternatives for child workers and their families, such as scholarships for school.

  • Volunteer at a home for former street children or support programs to feed, educate, and provide health services and mentoring to street children.

  • Offer vocational guidance and training to increase a young person’s opportunities for employment and break the cycle of poverty.

  • Host a community-based workshop focused on raising awareness of children’s issues.

  • Promote a local program that assists victims of child abuse.

Project Examples

Preventing child abuse

Studies confirm that approximately 65 percent of child abuse cases involve injuries to the head, neck, and face — areas easily observed by dentists and dental assistants. With the assistance of an educational program called Prevent Abuse and Neglect through Dental Awareness (PANDA), Rotarians in Ontario, Canada, designed, produced, and distributed pamphlets to help oral health care providers determine and report symptoms of abuse and also to promote awareness of child abuse prevention. The PANDA guidelines include step-by-step instructions on how to report child abuse as well as graphic photos to assist visual identification. The first phase of the project was so successful that the provincial government offered to fund additional printing and distribution of the pamphlets for all dentists and dental nurses and assistants in Ontario. The next step may be the establishment of courses in community colleges to teach dentists how to spot signs of abuse.

Educating street children

The Rotary Community Corps of Delhi, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Delhi Central, India, is providing free formal education to 200 street children. Forty children are enrolled in each class, from first to fifth grades. They receive a mid-day meal, books and other reading material, uniforms, and access to medical aid, a library, and a sports facility. In an effort to offer a well-rounded education, the children are also taught music, dance, and arts and crafts.

Helping needy children be healthier

To overcome diarrhea and other health problems of needy children, the Rotary Club of Kowloon, Hong Kong, and several clubs in District 3810, Philippines, teamed up to provide emergency medical supplies, health assessments, and training in primary health care to 17 orphanages in Metro Manila. The Kowloon club and District 3810 each contributed US$5,000 to the project, which was doubled by a US$10,000 Rotary Foundation Matching Grant. Philippine Rotarians joined forces with the local health department to distribute 170,000 oral rehydration therapy packets, water purifiers to prevent diarrhea infection from contaminated water, health care manuals and other supplies to benefit more than 2,200 orphans. The effort subsequently expanded to reach nearly 5,700 additional children in seven more orphanages. The clubs in District 3810 made plans to adopt the 17 target orphanages and provide long-term support.

Nourishing underprivileged infants

Through their voucher support project and in cooperation with supermarkets in their district, French Rotarians helped feed and care for 750 underprivileged infants through their Bébés du Coeur (Babies of the Heart) effort. The two-day Community Service project raised FF1,300,000 (US$232,142) of store credit for needy parents to buy such essentials as diapers, milk, baby food, and baby care products. With greatly expanded volunteer involvement — from one Rotary club the first year to 27 clubs and two Rotaract clubs the second year — the grand total of vouchers collected increased over 15 times.

Providing buddies for children

Children, especially boys, have to wait a year to get into the popular Big Brothers, Big Sisters program in Venango County, Pennsylvania, USA. To reach those children on the waiting list, members of the Rotary Club of Franklin decided to regularly spend time with them until they are assigned a match. Club members plan activities for the children at least once a month; they have gone roller skating, bowling, to baseball games, and to the zoo. A local judge called the Rotarians' service "terrific" because the volunteers "significantly, positively impact the lives of at-risk kids."

Tackling the problem of bullies

About four million children across Great Britain and Ireland have access to an anti-bullying CD-ROM produced by District 1030, England. Local clubs and districts distributed 18,000 copies of the disk to half the primary and secondary schools in those countries. In the USA, the National Society of Crime Prevention Practitioners acclaimed the disk as "the best community crime prevention project." District 1030 plans to release and distribute other "Coping with Life" series disks to schools.

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