9.2 million dollars
The money The Rotary Foundation has spent last year on growing local economies and reducing poverty
795 million people – or 1 in 9 people – do not have enough food
60% of the hungry people of the world are women and girls
70% of the poorest people in the world live in rural areas and are dependent on agriculture and related activities to support themselves
These statistics are for the entire world, including Romania and the Republic of Moldova.
People fight poverty daily, their main job being related to subsistence farming and animal husbandry. What is more alarming is the fact that children who are in school fight hunger even during classes. They struggle to live in continued hunger and to ignore their empty stomachs daily.
We are no strangers to news about poverty and hunger, but we fully understand the reality of these numbers: Romania leads the European ranking on poor children with 51%, followed by Bulgaria, where 45,2% of the children are on the brink of poverty. Yes, Romanian children living in rural areas are the poorest children in Europe: 1 in 10 goes to sleep hungry because many families cannot afford more than 2 meals a day. Furthermore, the trend shows that the number of poor children will grow annually with 1%.
The question is – what are we doing? The simplest thing would be to make sure they get all their meals, but this will not help them in the future. Instead of giving them fish, we should help them learn how to fish.
In Rotary, the month of October is dedicated to growing local economies, the month when our collected efforts aim to develop entrepreneurial spirit and economic self-sufficiency to create real, lasting changes in communities.
Economic development is closely related, even directly proportional to education. The more educated a person is, the better their chances to get out of poverty and to build a better future in life. There are projects in our District that allow us to change perspectives and help communities, offering families a way out of poverty. Some are related to professional training, mentoring, supporting family businesses, and others are related to offering them jobs that are paid very well. I strongly believe that our efficiency lies in us helping and supporting people learn a skill that is needed on the job market, we support them to raise awareness and capitalize on their potential, to transform their mentality and to become an economic force. Allowing ourselves to tap the community resources, we can open new doors. When we do such projects, regardless of how small they are, we actually change the world.
What can we help them learn?
– YOU CAN LIVE OFF YOUR WORK. The systematization of vocational education is failing to adapt to the new reality, this is why the key to growing the local economy is to develop vocational and technical schools. However, if we want to take it one step further, we need to teach, cultivate and develop the MENTALITY OF A THING DONE WELL.
What makes the SWISS QUALITY different from us? The attention to every step of the process, meticulosity, so as to have every detail made to perfection. This is it. It is just a matter of mentality, of education.
An example of a project is the one developed by the club I am part of in collaboration with Rotary Club Sunrise California, District 5220. The objective is to provide students from the Bihor county area with the necessary conditions for learning useful trades like carpentry, locksmithing, barbering and tailoring. The specific equipment was purchased, fitted and put into operation, we provided the right furniture, tools and supplies, so the students could train, test and love these trades. The project is carried out in close relation to the mayors’ offices and school management, that have assured the necessary space and qualified personnel for training.
– YOU CAN BE A LEADER. The best performing educational institutions in Romania and the Republic of Moldova teach performance. But it is high time we taught our children to develop their self-esteem, to be leaders, to be the best professionals, regardless of their field of activity. A mentality issue that should be taught from the very beginning. A child who is educated in the spirit of taking initiative, open communication, innovation, constructive debate, social peace, conflict resolution and collaboration, has their success assured. Why exactly should social peace and conflict resolution be included in children’s education to become leaders? If we compare poor countries to developed ones, we can see that it’s the social peace that diminishes violence, conflicts and wars, it assures a stable climate, proper for development, for respecting human rights, for even distribution of resources, information flow, developing diplomatic relations with neighboring countries and other international actors, social peace assures the development of quality human capital, it reduces corruption and it assured the good functioning of public institutions. The benefits of social peace can be measured, in the long term, in economic indices.
– Success, then, depends on mentality, and if we want success, we need to start educating our generations ACUM (NOW) in the spirit of leadership. Vasile Dancu, a known sociologist, concluded that Romania is a society with low self esteem. 30 years of “second hand” destiny and Romanian seems to be devastated by distrust: in institutions, but mostly in other people. And if we take a look at the superpowers, self esteem and trust in other people stand at the base of a healthy economy.
– KEEP ON LEARNING. If we want to be adapted to these times, it is necessary to continue learning, to adapt to changes. While many sectors will disappear, others will become more influential and, alongside them, new professions and opportunities. Continuous training is the chance we all have to become adapted to the times we are living – times of continuous change, but also to develop our skills and to connect to people who share the same passions.
– WRITE BUSINESS PLANS TO OBTAIN MICROCREDITS. Once educated, small entrepreneurs use microcredits to develop their small businesses. Rural entrepreneurs can borrow money to buy animals or vegetable crops, or they can be trained in sustainable agriculture. For instance, Rotary Club Oradea, the club I am part of, together with Rotary Club Salida and Modesto from California, USA, have started a program that supports and promotes small businesses from Bihor. Through education and support, the entrepreneurs receive consultation for entrepreneurial development, and also a loan between 3.000 and 16.000 RON they can put towards consolidating or developing their business. This is a very useful tool, especially for farmers or craftsmen.
– Another possible direction, often taken by Rotary at an international level, is to adopt a village. Using a multifaceted and coordinated strategy, Rotary members can teach villagers how to break the vicious cycle of poverty. We can teach people to become resources for their communities, offering network activities, consulting regarding new business approaches and training in mathematics and financial management. We can teach farmers the skills they need to improve soil fertility, to control soil erosion and to sell their products.
– Economic development is directly proportional to education. The more educated we are, the better we will do in life and the more our self-esteem and respect will grow. Developed countries have understood this a long time ago and all we can do is to look longingly at their educational system and take the first step ACUM (NOW).
– Let’s take the first step and look in the mirror, look at ourselves, the ones of us who are not part of the statistics above. We can afford to volunteer, we dedicate our time to developing the community we are part of. We have this super-power: THE POWER TO VOLUNTEER, the choice we make to spend our time and resources this way. But we have another super-power that we haven’t yet understood completely and that is completely free: CHOICE. The power to choose NOW between local or international products and services. The power to support NOW small, local businesses, craftsmen, artisans or artists, buying from them the things we need on a daily basis. The power to support NOW businesses responsible with the environment or that practice bio agriculture. Let’s take the first step NOW (ACUM).
– LET’S MAKE A DEAL WITH AGRICULTURE. The real challenge is to shift our attention from international problems to local ones, specific to each country. The need and responsibility of a global change is big, but we can only do what we can do, where we are, with what we have. Real change will only come when national economies make a deal with agriculture, when people understand that they have the power and that if they want a healthier, more balanced and better quality diet, at a better price, society will have to make a deal with local agriculture. In this way, food quality will be better, and farmers will be encouraged to be more competitive, to educate themselves better and to innovate so as to boost their businesses. Futhermore, the unique taste of local foods, as well as quality wines, can turn into a great advatange for extremely competitive tourism, invigorating the tourism industry in Romania and the Republic of Moldova. We can already see this happening. Each of us needs to understand that the sovereignty of our diets, thus our health and future, lies in agriculture.
If we want to make progress, there is only one chance, one way: EDUCATION. From the education that beings in kindergarten to entreprenorial education and continuous training at any age. And the right time is ACUM (NOW) through ACTION, CONSCIENCE, UNITY AND MENTALITY.
We have what it takes to change the future. Each of us, through every action we take. It is an obligation. It is a responsibility. It will not be easy, but I want to challenge you to take the first step ACUM (NOW).
District Governor 2241, Romania si Republica Moldova
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TRAININGS (In Romanian)