SDGS BlOG SERIES – East Africa’s Youth REACT to Good Health and Wellbeing in 2017

Author: Jamal Harsam

sas1For the past five years, young men and women drawn across the five East African nations of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi have dedicated their precious time every Easter in volunteering, building goodwill, professional networks and cross border lasting bonds of friendships.

This, is thanks to the Rotaract East Africa Impact (REACT) project.

REACT is a multi- award winning East African Rotaract project conceived and first executed in 2013 in Masaka, Uganda. The project idea was to unite members of Rotaract clubs in the East African region through service. The theme for the 2017 REACT edition is “Maternal Health & Child Welfare” and the project will be held at Nyamagana District Hospital in Butimba, Mwanza, Tanzania.

Rotaract is an international service organization that gives young people ages 18-30 a platform to grow their leadership and professional skills, provide opportunities for young people to address the needs and concerns of the community, develop friendships and foster international peace and understanding. Members of Rotaract clubs are called Rotaractors, and a similar platform for older professionals is called Rotary.

For young people across East Africa to unite and engage their communities every year is no sas2easy feat, exemplifying the exceptional beauty of service above self as fostered by the Rotary movement. When the rest of the world is a little anxious about Millennials being “me-centric”- focused on improving their individual lot, projects like REACT give a glimpse of what the alternative looks like.

REACT centers around Rotary areas of focus such as promoting peace, fighting disease, providing clean water, saving mothers and children, supporting education and growing local economies.

REACT has previously been hosted by Uganda (2013), Burundi (2014) and Kenya (2015) and Rwanda (2016). Tanzania (2017) staged its fifth edition from 14-16th April 2017 in Mwanza. Due to the continuous good work, REACT was recognized by Rotary International in 2014-2015 as an outstanding project winner.

REACT 2017: Maternal and Child Health

The focus of REACT 2017 at Nyamagana District Hospital in Butimba, Mwanza was on awareness in maternal health issues covering the following: family planning, importance of attending clinic for pregnant women, child health and welfare, as well as disease testing and vaccination.

The REACT leadership and host country looks at several criteria when it comes to project identification, including project and impact sustainability, community cooperation, relevance to Rotary areas of focus and potential for community growth.

With a large population in the Nyamagana District using the hospital, there has been a shortage of supplies, disproportionately affecting women and children. Additionally, awareness on various crucial issues related to maternal and child welfare is minimal causing those who can afford it to rush off to urban centers for better care.

Since Rotaract provide opportunities for young people to address the needs and concerns of the community, members of Rotaract clubs led by the REACT 2017 leadership team took action to meet the needs at Nyamagana District Hospital and the community around it, to willingly serve humanity and touch lives.

By REACTing to the need in this community, this youth led group

  • Increased knowledge and education for pregnant women on maternal and child welfare, including the importance and benefits of family planning
  • Increased knowledge in the importance of attending clinic for both women and men
  • Increased the spirit of volunteering in the community
  • Assisted new born babies by donating diapers, anti-malarial drugs, and bed sheets for the hospitals

The impact of this exceptional group of young men and women for the past REACT project years has included:

  • Villa Maria primary school in Masaka Uganda (2013) has added REACT’s hand washing routine to the school’s syllabus in the year REACT focused on hand washing and hygiene
  • Buterere village in Burundi, assisted by UNICEF, Rotaract & Red Cross follow the 2014 REACT project guidelines on hygiene and water purification
  • Kisumu District Authorities in Kenya have since added trenches and a tarmacked road at the scene of the 2015 REACT project and, along with Rotaract, visit the area often to assess impact
  • Locals at the center for REACT 2016 project in Kigali, Rwanda started constructing their own kitchen gardens, increasing their nutritional output especially during rainy season. The publicity also increased medical insurance & other donations.

It is exciting to imagine the beautiful legacy that REACT 2017 will leave at the project site and the Butimba community.

Isn’t being an agent of change inspiring!?

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