Four members of the Greater Cincinnati and Dayton community traveled to Nigeria for Rotary International Group Study Exchange Program in 2013.
The travelers included:
Michelle Harpenau – Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council,
Jennifer Reitz – The Blaine Block Institute for Voice Analysis & Rehabilitation,
Zach Brown – Hamilton County Public Defender, and
Misty Flantroy – P&G.
Together, the group traveled to Nigeria for a professional and cultural exchange. After this exchange, the delegation decided that they needed to do something for the Nigerian community.
There are great things happening right here in our region to affect change throughout the world! Hear the impact of their local initiative in Nigeria from one of the members – Jennifer Reitz:
A Trip to Nigeria Inspired: Lasting Friendships, Mutual Understanding and Clean Water for an Entire Community
In May of 2013, I was among four young professionals from the Dayton/Cincinnati Region to travel to Nigeria through Rotary International’s Group Study Exchange (GSE) program. The program’s overall goal is to promote goodwill and understanding between countries across the globe by exposing the young professionals to the host country’s institutions, economy and culture through site visits and by living with Rotarian host families.
During the one month-long visit, one of the things I enjoyed most was discovering both the similarities and differences between American and Nigerian culture. Some things surprised me- like the heterogeneity of the Nigerian diet and the sheer density of people in the cities, while other things reinforced my beliefs that deep down and despite our distance across the globe, we all share some basic desires and needs, like those to be understood and loved, and to have the basic life comforts.
As Nigeria is a developing country, there are still millions of people without the basic life needs; things that most Americans take for granted like a bed to sleep in, a roof over our head, food on the table, and clean, running water.
Currently in Nigeria, there are approximately 65 million people, or approximately 40% of the population who do not have access to safe water. Diarrhea is the second greatest cause of death among children in the country, most of which are due to the lack of water, sanitation and hygiene. Young female children are even more affected than young male children given their responsibility of fetching water that may take more than one hour of their time each day, often preventing them from attending school. As young girls mature, the lack of proper sanitation facilities presents and even greater barrier for attendance, causing absenteeism rates of up to 20%. (UNICEF, April 2010).
Upon return home to the States, the team asked themselves, “What can we do to help?” Build a borehole of course! So, after several months of planning and fundraising from various local Rotary groups, the GSE Team, in association with the Rotary Club of Dayton and the Rotary Club of Eziukwu-Aba, saw their dream realized at at Mbutu Ngwa Secondary School, Mbutu Isiala Ngwa South L.G.A. Abia State. The bore hole provided two access points- one within the gated school grounds, and one in front of the school accessible to the local community. Benefits of the borehole include reduced child mortality rates in this specific region, improved overall health of approximately 5,000 community members by providing them with safe water, and improved school attendance and ability to learn by reducing the amount of time the children spend fetching water.
The GSE experience, lasting relationships I formed through the trip, and ability to give back to a community that showed me so much hospitality while I was there has been a life-changing experience that I will never forget. Life is richer; I appreciate more of life’s “small things”, and am grateful for the blessings I receive every day. I am certain that I have been more positively affected by the experience than my friends across the globe.
Today, the relationship between the Rotary Club of Dayton and the Rotary Club of Eziukwu has fostered beyond the initial connection made by the GSE Team. The two clubs have jointly applied for a grant from Rotary International in which, if awarded would provide funds to create multiple sources of clean water in the Aba region.
Reference: UNICEF April 2010, Fact Sheet: Water, sanitation and hygiene in Nigeria.
Jennifer R. Reitz, M.S., CCC-SLP. The Blaine Block Institute for Voice Analysis & Rehabilitation