Posted by Claudine Schooley
Since July 1st 2018, community assessment is mandatory for any global grant application with Rotary International. Leading a community assessment in the country where Rotary Club project is being developed is not always an easy task but it is a guarantee that relationships will be built between the involved Rotary clubs and their partners in country. It is my hope that telling you the story of the Ukraine community assessment from our Akron Rotary club, will help any club to fathom the great benefits of such a task. The first step for our Akron club was to gather enough volunteers, interested in our project of developing a new type of pediatric wheelchair and in exploring transportation in Ukraine for wheelchair users. We started a new committee composed of 5 professionals in marketing and surveys, willing to work together to start investigating the sustainability of our project. How not to be impressed with the high level of proficiency of this new team: two retired professors from the University of Akron in entrepreneurship and languages specialists, one director of marketing study company and a student in anthropology with MPH in epidemiology? All of them have a heart for people with disabilities and the desire to extend their high level of skills to Rotary international projects. My first experience was to build relationship with them and to know them better. Following the general guide lines from Rotary international, we decided to start working on the questionnaire that would be used in Ukraine. First, we needed to collect data and statistics concerning people with disabilities in Ukraine, then to determine who will fill up the questionnaire. Accessing statistics in Ukraine from the government was not simple. It was not like "you just ask". You need to find the people who care enough to navigate for you the country administration and bureaucratic system to obtain information. We live in a world full of statistics and surveys (good and bad), and some categories of population, like hidden people with disabilities, are more difficult to contact then other. How do you engage with those who tell you "we don't have people with disabilities in our country!"? You have to keep in mind that you are dealing with a different culture than yours. Some of our questions could not be answered.
We had to face unexpected barriers with our project like virulent opposition from a Rotarian who did not like that our main partner in Ukraine was a godly woman. Religion, and political opinions become obstacles to avoid. Ukraine is a country at war and we found a lot of hurt and divisions. Community assessment is a great tool to understand better the culture of the country.
The best of all is when community assessment becomes a tool to help people in a specific situation. Let me explain what I experimented. Home visits of families affected by disability were part of my program in the city of Bila Tserkva. I was explaining the questionnaire to the mom of Pauline, a 14-year-old girl affected by cerebral palsy, when the mom talked about a problem she could not solve. The building the family was living in had a very poor and dangerous ramp for wheelchair users. Pauline's mom was able to mobilize other families in the building to give money to build a new ramp, accessible for wheelchairs. The project was stopped, not because of a lack of money but because they could not obtain the authorization from "the jack", the person responsible for all work in their building. They could not reach him. The next day I asked Nita our partner in Ukraine, what can we do to help Pauline's mom? Nita knew a lawyer who would talk to "the Jack" and she assured me he would not be an obstacle any longer. She will make sure that Pauline get her new ramp.
Finally, I know very well that there is no respite for the one who cares for the poor, the orphan and disabled. This community assessment in Ukraine was a great adventure and will be a great addition to our Global Grant. I want to thank those who participated for their efforts and dedication.
Submitted with love and peace by Claudine Schooley, member of Akron Rotary club.
Picture of Pauline in Bila Tserkva – Ukraine
Picture of kids with disability – Orphanage in Bila Tserkva - Ukraine