Rotary Victoria, community partnership and physical literacy

On April 3, 2014, supporters of the Victoria Foundation were welcomed to Government House by the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, the Honourable Judith Guichon. Our annual Donor Tea is our way of thanking our many supporters and recognizing the impact that their charitable actions have on our communities, now and for years to come. We thank Rotary Club of Victoria President Elect Ali Edgell for allowing us to share her speech from the event here on our blog. And we thank Rotary for the opportunity to bring physical literacy programming to Craigflower Elementary School.

I am sure many of you are familiar with Rotary, however, many people are unsure of the purpose of Rotary. Quite simply, Rotary is a global forum that joins leaders to exchange ideas and take action together to solve problems.

Our local and international service work focuses on five broad categories:

  1. Youth services, including infant and maternal health;
  2. Literacy and the promotion of basic education;
  3. Health with an emphasis on Water and Sanitation;
  4. Disease prevention (our big push is to eradicate Polio globally, and there are only three endemic countries left in the world); and
  5. Promoting peace

The 88 members of the Rotary Club of Victoria meet every Thursday at noon over lunch at the Union Club. Each week we are fortunate to gain new insights from our guest speakers on a wide range of topics. We take the time to discuss local and international problems and determine what we can do together to solve them.

We have realized that we can make an even bigger difference when we work together with other organizations. Internationally, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation matches Rotary fundraising for global health initiatives including the eradication of polio.

Locally, since 2010, we have successfully partnered with the Victoria Foundation. We found that we were limited by time and resources to properly research high quality, well vetted organizations providing the services that our community needs most.

Our collaboration with the Foundation in 2010 resulted in the initial purchase of the very large refrigerated truck for The Mustard Seed Food Bank. Every year since, our Rotary Club has raised the funds to make the ongoing payments for that truck, and it will be fully paid for next year.

Our association with the Victoria Foundation has become the cornerstone of our funding process. Now, rather than spend time figuring out what we should do with our funds, we can concentrate on the Fun and Fellowship of actually raising more money!

This past year, our club celebrated its 100th year of service in Victoria. For our centennial year, we chose four diverse projects totaling $250,000:

  1. We purchased a van and insurance for the Rainbow Kitchen (serving seniors lunch and friendship five days per week);
  2. We provided the Mustard Seed Food Bank with the annual payments for the refrigerated truck;
  3. We provided $100,000 to the Victoria Cool Aid Society for a renovation of their downtown drop-in center and the purchase of a van and insurance;
  4. For the last component we wanted to do something that focused on youth. Once again, we approached Sandra Richardson at the Victoria Foundation. Without any hesitation she said, “I have the project for you, and I can match it 100% through the Smart and Caring Community Fund.” We were so excited. 1) For the incredible project and, 2) for the impact that a $100,000 donation had in our centennial year.

The project still excites me and I have spoken about it so many times.

Together with the Victoria Foundation’s Smart and Caring Community Fund, the Rotary Club of Victoria “adopted” the entire Craigflower Elementary School for a 3-year program called “The ABCs of Physical Literacy” (ABC stands for agility, balance and coordination).

This program promotes physical activity and healthy nutritional choices starting at age 6. The school was specifically identified as one with challenging student attendance, a high risk of students not graduating and many behavioural issues in the classroom.

When the program started, the PISE coaches reported that these young kids were unable to do basic physical exercises like throwing a ball or balancing on one foot, and most didn’t get a proper, well balanced “sit down” meal for days at a time.

I cannot imagine my childhood without the fun of participating on sports teams or in the band or choir, and this type of activity provides important life skills. And, as an adult I find it difficult to focus on a task if I am hungry.

The program that we have partnered on has been in place since September of 2013 and, by all reports, student attendance has improved, self-confidence is on the rise, and there is more comraderie among the students. As well, focus in the classroom has improved immensely because these kids’ brains have been fed with nutritional food and more oxygen, and they have been able to release some pent up energy in a positive way through exercise.

Most importantly, there is a legacy component to this project as the PISE coaches have been mandated to train the teachers to maintain the program.

It is hard to believe that in Canada our schools require this extra support. In my opinion the world is going to need Rotarians and private citizens to fund government shortfalls and ultimately to solve the problems in our community that the Victoria Foundation identifies through Vital Signs. There is no doubt that we expand our impact when we partner with organizations like the Victoria Foundation, and we look forward to many more years of connection and team work for the benefit of Victoria.

In closing, if the ideals of Rotary match your personal values, I invite you to attend one of our lunch meetings to be introduced to our leaders, exchange ideas and feel the warmth and friendliness of Rotary.