August 7, 2020
Dianne Dance, Chair of our club's Indigenous Awareness Committee, shared wonderful news at our weekly meeting about successful grant applications that will enable three initiatives to proceed within Ontario.  
This is so inspiring! 
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Dianne said:
So the Indigenous Awareness Committee had a good week last week, and we would like to share that news with you. 
We were told that both of the applications we filed under the Government of Canada's "Emergency Community Support Fund" (ECSF), via the Guelph Community Foundation, had been approved. Past President Carolyn Weatherson had brought forward the idea of receiving funding from the ECSF to help our club committees deal with their budget shortfalls due to COVID. Our Indigenous Awareness Committee was successful in receiving:
  • $500 to fund next year's youth award to a local student at the annual "Turtle Island Heritage Festival" in Wellington County.
  • $4,100 to pay for transportation of clothing and medical supplies to the Thunder Bay area, for distribution to Indigenous communities in that area.  This project is in collaboration with the Rotary Club of Markham Sunrise that  donated medical supplies, and also with Indigenous Sport & Wellness Ontario that worked with Rotary’s HIP (Honouring Indigenous People) organization to arrange the transportation. 
Our second success was notification that our Rotary Global Grant application that we submitted on June 30th was approved.  This grant is one of the first in this area and perhaps one of few in Canada where a Canadian club is the HOST, being supported and partnered with an International Club. Usually our efforts and $$ as the International partner go abroad, but this global grant will serve our Indigenous People in Southern Ontario’s Georgian Bay Area. 
This grant will send $88,000 US or roughly $115,000 CDN to support vulnerable Indigenous communities here in Ontario, via an organization called Water First, whose internship program will train and assist up to 20 Indigenous youths to become provincially certified water operators.  
Our federal government has responsibility for on reserve water infrastructure, but does not have responsibility to provide reserve education or training. As a result, the lack of local qualified personnel often becomes the reason the water remains unsafe and the infrastructure not maximized.
Ensuring clean water for the youth and their entire community is the program's objective. This internship training program and the resulting availability of continued safe water will have a profound impact on the economically challenged communities. As their youth graduate and receive a meaningful full-time job in their own community, these trained youth will also serve as role models for other Indigenous youth. 
Water First's program brings western science to work alongside the traditional knowledge of the land held by the Indigenous people, bringing Indigenous Elders and youth together to manage a critical and spiritual element of their communities.
Water FIrst's inherent philosophy of “work alongside” and “when invited” is critical to Indigenous relationships and mirrors Rotary’s own project criteria. Local Tribal Councils initiate and typically financially support the training process and are involved throughout the 15-month program. This Water First internship offers its participants customized skills, training and tutoring to obtain certifications in drinking-water treatment and environmental water quality monitoring. Also included in the training are Issues Affecting Water Source, as well as Wastewater Treatment Collection.
This short video will do a much better job of explaining the Water First program and its effect on the Indigenous youth it involves.   
I am sure you can see why this project has united many Rotary Clubs. This global grant is supported by all Rotary Clubs in Guelph (thanks to an active district cluster) as well as Rotary Clubs in Brampton, Oakville and Toronto.  Our international partner is the Rotary Club of Buffalo Sunrise. Rotary International's WASRAG (Water and Sanitation Rotary Action Group) posted our project on their website. A Rotary Club in Mexico would like to support our future project. We also have a Rotary Club in Benin, West Africa that has financially supported this project. 
This was their note:
Our country, Benin, is currently ranked as the 25th poorest nation on Earth.  Canadian Rotarians have often demonstrated their generosity and concern for the well-being of our citizens by supporting Rotary Global Grant projects in our country.  As Beninese Rotarians, we feel that it is our duty to demonstrate solidarity and reciprocate by supporting needs in Canada. It is rare for us to have the chance to do this. We thank you for providing us an opportunity to help First Nation communities in Ontario access improved drinking water by assuring a trained, qualified, indigenous workforce.  
Let that sink in … those that we have helped previously are now helping us.
I do need to thank everyone that has assisted with this grant (and hopefully will continue to).  Ab Moore, you are such a gift to this club and to grant recipients all over the world and now at home too.  Thank you to the members of our club's Indigenous Awareness Committee and the Local Lager Committee as well as both our past and current Board of Directors for supporting this endeavour. Also special appreciation and thanks to Liz Sandals and Lager Curling Legend Helmuth Slisarenko. And thanks to Cody Avery from Water First - working with him on this grant has further affirmed to all of us the integrity of the program itself.
We will be moving forward with additional or maybe a larger project and maybe with even more Rotarians. As I have learned during this grant process … Rotarians working together GET IT DONE.
And unfortunately, there is so much more to be done.