Indigenous Awareness Committee at Rotary Club of Guelph

“As of January 23, 2018, there were 91 long-term drinking water advisories affecting First Nations communities on public systems [in Canada].  (Adding short-term advisories brings the number to 147, as of October 31, 2017.)  Over the past two years, the government has lifted 32 advisories, but 22 new ones were added over the same time, illustrating the complexity of the problem.” (Media report, source unknown)
One of the many significant problems our Indigenous communities contend with is the availability of clean water.  And so our club's Indigenous Awareness Committee felt that a project related to this problem could make a significant difference.  But where to begin?
On Friday, March 23, 2018, Prof. Ed McBean from the University of Guelph was Rotary’s guest speaker on the topic of “Clean, safe water supply to our Indigenous People”. This talk led to many discussions within the committee and significant reaching out to various contacts both within the Indigenous community and our own business leads.  Unfortunately, nothing crystalized until another guest speaker – Ami Gopal, Director of Development for WATER FIRST – spoke to our club in the fall of 2019.  Immediately, club members Helmuth Slisarenko and Dianne Dance investigated and felt very comfortable suggesting that the committee become a partner with WATER FIRST in one of their Indigenous projects.  Upon review, it was felt that supporting their Internship Program was the best fit – preparing young Indigenous adults for careers in their communities’ water treatment plants and providing ongoing support as they enter the water science field.  
This short video ( explains the WATER FIRST program and its effect on the Indigenous youth it involves.   
This was an exciting development which spawned even more exciting developments.
  • First, Helmuth, as Chair of the “Rotary Local Lager Committee” indicated that this internship program was a perfect fit for the profits from the selling of local lager.
  • Secondly, Dianne suggested that a District Grant could be applied for through HIP.
As discussions continued, Ab Moore, our club's 'Grants Guru' for many years, suggested that with the support of an international club that he had contact with, a Rotary International Global Grant could potentially be applied for. Our club has been very generous over the years, supporting international projects in Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Uganda, India, etc. but this would be a first in securing a Global Grant for a project in Canada.
Needless to say, all of this has happened and in September 2020, word came from Rotary International that a Global Grant of $80,000 US ($115,000 Cdn.) was awarded to the cluster of Guelph Rotary Clubs, Oakville, Brampton and Toronto as signatories for partnership with the WATER FIRST Internship Program.  (See “News” on our Rotary website for more information, including a very informative video.)
As Chairperson Dianne Dance very succinctly said,” I have learned during this grant process … Rotarians working together GET IT DONE.”
Read the fascinating story of how a Rotary Global Grant was awarded for a water project in Ontario.
This information is available as a PDF download on our club website.