A Rotary conference banner providing shelter

A Rotary conference banner providing shelter

When torrential rains deluged the Philippines last autumn, Rotary came to the rescue in a most unusual way to help some of the poorest people living in the capital Manila.

Few would ever dream of recycling the big, colourful Rotary banners which adorn conference stages in towns and cities around the world.

However, an imaginative project engineered by Rotary members in the Wessex region of southern England has helped some of the poorest people.

The Rotary District 1110 conference in Jersey last October coincided with a tropical storm tens of thousands of miles away which swept the Philippines.

Coincidentally, one of the speakers at the conference was Jane Walker from the Southampton-based charity, the Purple Community Fund.

Jane, the charity’s founder and Chief Executive Officer, started her Philippine project in 2002 after visiting the country and seeing the horrendous conditions families were living in on the rubbish dumps of Manila.

The vast majority of the residents scratch a living by waste picking the city’s rubbish.

Initially, Jane and her team began a programme with the families encouraging them to make products using recycled materials which could then be sold to provide an income.

However, materials are sometimes not easy to get hold of, and the weekend when Manila had experienced terrible storm Jane reckoned the banners could be used as tarpaulins on the roofs in the Tondo area where her project is based.

Allan Smith presented the Rotary banners to Jane at the end of the Jersey conference.

Jane is hoping to encourage more districts to donate their conference banners.”

And then a short while later, Stephen Hunt, and his partner Lis visited Manila, they got to work with other volunteers making good use of the banner.

“On arrival at the project which locally is known as the Upskills Foundation, in partnership with the Purple Community Fund, we were impressed by the offices and workshops located in the dockland area of the city,” explained Stephen.

“However, nothing could have prepared us for what we were to encounter over the eight-lane dual carriageway that we had to encounter to get there.

“Tondo is made up of about 8,000 homes. Some are in the two brick buildings which are sub-divided into very small living quarters for the families that were formerly living on the dump site known as ‘Smokey Mountain’ before it was closed a few years ago.

“They live within a difficult and dirty environment. The conditions and obvious poverty made me realise how lucky we were to be visiting, rather than staying.”

Rotary volunteers using old conference banners to provide shelter.

Stephen, Lis and some volunteers got to work and were introduced to a young lady called Gemalyn, who lives in a two-roomed wooden shack with Crystal, her two-year-old daughter, two sisters and her parents.

Their home was leaking and in need of some rebuilding.

“As well as the conference banner, we also were able to use the chipboard sheets that were previously used as dividers in the container shipped by the Purple Community Fund with shoeboxes, clothes and tools, so this was another bit of recycling!

“The tools we used were all from the charity Tools for Self Reliance and were in perfect condition.

“Having completed the task of re-building the front of their home and converting the banner into a roof-covering, I was slightly embarrassed by the brightness and colour which was in complete contrast to our surroundings.

“I asked Gemalyn if she would have preferred us to have secured the banner with the plain grey side up. Her answer was ‘no, the children living in Tondo need to be inspired to improve their lives and move away’.”

Stephen said he and Lis felt privileged to help in a small way in Manila and has promised to return to help the fantastic work of the Purple Community Fund and the Upskills Foundation.

He added: “Jane is hoping to encourage more districts to donate their conference banners. I will be happy to co-ordinate their transport to Southampton so that they can be in the next Purple Community Fund container scheduled delivery to Manila.”


For more details, contact Stephen or visit the Purple Community Fund website.

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