A project seeded by RCM only 18 months ago has grown quickly to be embraced by Rotary Clubs throughout Australia. Australia is the only developed country where trachoma still persists. Rotary has embraced the opportunity to work with a number of NGO and expert organizations, in addition to Fred Hollows work, to make a difference and eradicate this debilitating disease.
The organization, Nourish Our Communities Ltd (NOC), a registered charity, has Quin Scalzo representing RCM for relations with NOC , the conduit between Rotary Clubs and the other organizations. Read on and learn about the clever initiatives and the progress which has been made by Rob McGuirk, Kerry Kornhauser and Lien Trinh, our Rotary Foundation Scholarship Award winner.
It will be the first time that all Rotary Districts of Australia unite on a single Australian project focused on supporting our remote Indigenous peoples. The project was initiated by RCM in response to the problem of trachoma in Australia highlighted by Professor Hugh Taylor’s address to the RCM in 2015.
Rob McGuirk and Kerry Kornhauser, having already been involved in working on indigenous projects, undertook early scoping investigations for EndTrachoma at their own expense, visiting Alice Springs, Darwin and the APY lands in remote SA. They met with local Rotary Clubs and support organizations working with at-risk and affected remote, Indigenous communities. There was positive feedback. There was a project. There was a role for Rotary.
Lien Trinh, an optometrist and Rotary Foundation Global Grant Scholar in Public Health, was retained part time for six months with funding from RCM to further develop the project. Lien was invited to a World Health Organization meeting on trachoma to discuss Australia’s dismal situation. This Global Elimination of Trachoma by 2020 meeting was held in Sydney to discuss Australia’s situation. The meeting was held outside Switzerland for the first time, to highlight Australia’s position as the only developed country where trachoma persists. It was held here to highlight Australia’s position as the only developed country where trachoma still persists.
In early 2017, Rotary International President Ian Riseley agreed with Rob and Kerry that EndTrachoma by 2020 should be a national project for Rotary. Support for the project was confirmed by Zone Director Noel Trevaskis and District 9800. However, feedback from the Rotary community in Australia suggested that many clubs would not support a project that belonged to just one club. And so Rob and Kerry using the model of Interplast proposed to use, Nourish Our Communities (NOC) Ltd and the project was born! NOC is an entity with charitable status that could accept tax-deductible donations from all Rotary Clubs across Australia.
NOC is now conducting pilot projects in trachoma affected communities in collaboration with the Australian Trachoma Alliance (ATA) and local health authorities. The WHO SAFE strategy for the elimination of trachoma is used to guide the project work with Quin Scalzo representing RCM for relations with NOC . Further information can be found on NOC: www.endtrachoma2020.org.au and www.facebook.com/endtrachomaby2020.
Over the last year, we have seen Rotary in Australia strongly embrace the project. For example, District Champions now represent most Australian Districts; Clubs are supporting our field experts and are keenly interested in funding ongoing projects; and RCM is developing their Face-washing Station project in conjunction with private partnerships. Much credit goes to RCM for their vision, support and patience.
Former Governor General Major General Michael Jeffery, Chair of the ATA has invited NOC to work closely with the Alliance. The General will be a guest speaker at RCM in 2018.
Another update will be published in 3 months as the projects develop and will include what they are doing with Monash Uni engineers. A quote from Henry Ford is most fitting: “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself!"