All Rotarians have that “thing” that pulls at their heart strings.  That humanitarian crisis that makes you say, “we have to do something about this.”  Thirty years ago, a Rotarian said, “we have to eradicate polio, because it’s possible.”  Look at us today – we’re making that possible.
For me, my heart has always gone out to disadvantaged kids. Kids that are victims of their life circumstance, and the odds are stacked against them. 
This past January, I was sitting at a table full of Rotarians from South Africa. They were passing around trinkets made by children living in orphanages. The children make the trinkets and the club sells them to raise funds to support the orphanage. After further inquiry, I learned that the children were all orphaned because both parents had likely died of AIDS.

They further explained the magnitude of the epidemic, caused largely in part by women being raped, infected, and then passing it along to their children. I wondered if the children’s AIDS diagnosis was an orphanage life sentence, or if they were every adopted, and so I asked. The man sharing the story with me exclaimed, “No!  They have AIDS!” 

The imagery in my mind of those children, and the conditions they likely live in is heart-breaking. The next logical question of course is, what are we doing to prevent this situation?

Research on the Rotary Matching Grants website would indicate there were 7 global grants entered into this system since July 1, 2018, when using “AIDS” in the search term. As of November 30, 2018, only one has been submitted to Rotary International.

The next question is, what am I willing to do? Will I be sad about those children in those orphanages, or will I support a project? Will I just tell this story, or will I take action? The answer is, I’m going to take action. My 2019-2020 Rotary year goal is to further explore what’s possible, identify potential partners, and then share that idea with others to see if they want to join me. 

Year-to-date, there are 205 projects, with more than $17 million in requests under the category of Disease Prevention in the matching grant system for the current Rotary year. During Disease Prevention month, get curious about what you can do around the world and in your community, to help prevent disease. Through the power of Rotary, we can give the greatest gift of all…life.

Jennifer Deroin, '18-'19 District 5400 Governor