Ojai and Westlake Sunrise Rotary Clubs’ Grants Save Lives in Niger

Nomads move around a lot. The camel was always the best means of transportation in their desert land –then for the “wealthy,” the Toyota Land Cruiser took its place. For average nomads a 4WD Toyota is way beyond their means, but a motorcycle costs about the same as a camel, and moves a lot faster. Of course, the down sides are the motorcycle doesn’t eat pasture, which is free, and doesn’t give milk to feed the family. The main problem is that wear and tear in the rugged terrain requires constant maintenance, a skill no nomad had developed.

Recognizing this need, the Nomad Foundation asked Rotary to help fund a motorcycle repair program at the Nomad Foundation Tamesna Center for Nomadic Life in October, 2018. In response, the Rotary Clubs of Ojai and Westlake Village Sunrise partnered on a successful $6,450 District Grant. 

The training was initially planned for 20 people, but the word spread and 30 showed up – with many more calling to apply. All thirty were allowed to watch and participate. Each student completing the course was going to be supplied with basic tools to be able to continue this work and start a small enterprise, but there were only enough tool kits for the original 20. This overwhelming response demonstrated a major need, so the two Rotary Clubs are submitting another district grant to fund additional training and tools in the fall, 2019.

The Rotary Clubs of Ojai and Westlake Village Sunrise would never have learned of such unique needs if they hadn’t developed an in-depth, cooperative partnership with The Nomad Foundation, and with nomad leaders in Niger during the past 14 years.  District 5240 Rotarians have contributed over $500,000 to the Ojai-based Nomad Foundation through 20 grants, plus club and individual donations. Programs addressed needs in maternal and infant health, education, vocational training and community development, water and sanitation, community health, and food and herd security.

Local Rotarians participated in numerous missions to Niger. After setting up and staffing the Tamesna Medical Clinic for several years, Rotarian physician Bob Skankey developed an innovative program to train illiterate nomad women in improved prenatal care and childbirth practices. These trained local “matrones” have dramatically lowered maternal and infant mortality rates in remote nomadic communities. Now the most experienced matrones are teaching life-saving skills to other women in even more remote communities.

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