The Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 was the deadliest in recorded history, devastating entire communities around the Indian Ocean. The 9.1 magnitude earthquake, which struck near the Indonesian coastline, killed more than 230,000 people in a matter of hours.
Rotarians worldwide responded with financial help. In Great Britain and Ireland, thousands of pounds was collected by Rotary GB&I with a committee set up to help distribute the funds.
However, Rotary GB&I is not a charity which meant bank interest was subject to tax. One way around this was to set up a charitable trust, so the Rotary GB&I Donations Trust, as it was then called, was established.
In 2007, the devastating floods in the north-east resulted in unprecedented donations nationwide, including £1 million raised from London Fashion Week as a result of model Naomi Campbell seeing the devastation on TV whilst in America. This money was paid into the new charity to help rebuild communities.
The Australian wildfires in 2008 was probably the first international disaster appeal for the trust. Trustees presented a cheque to the District Governor of an Australian district in one of the worst hit areas to provide a new community centre.
At this early stage, it became obvious that whilst the trust deed was sufficient, a code of practice and administration guidance was needed.
The trustees had always agreed that, wherever possible, funds should be given as grants to support projects involving Rotary clubs.
Rotarians in Great Britain and Ireland have always been at the forefront helping those affected by disasters. At the heart of that work has been the Rotary GB&I Disaster Recovery Trust.”
They did so using Rotary Foundation guidelines as a basis to support the rebuilding of communities.
At no time was the trust an emergency fund. Since then, appeals have been launched following further flooding in the UK and Pakistan, earthquakes in Italy and Nepal, hurricanes in Haiti and the Caribbean, and cyclones in the Philippines.
Grants have supported club and district community projects, sometimes adding to support from The Rotary Foundation.
Thousands of families living here and around the world have been helped by the generosity of Rotarians in these islands.
Moving forward, the trust later changed its name to the Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland Disaster Recovery Trust (DRT), which is more descriptive of the work it has always done at home and abroad.
Here are examples of a few projects which the DRT have been involved in recently:
Kendal: The rebuilding of the 1st Kendal Scouts HQ and Kendal Deaf Centre after they were flooded. Both are now back in community use.
Nepal: After severe earthquakes in 2015, two schools were rebuilt and repairs to other schools were carried out.
Dominica: When Hurricane Maria hit Dominica in 2017, the primary schools lost their IT learning tools. All IT learning tools have now been restored.
Kerala, India: After monsoons devastated entire villages, a project was launched to bring clean water to many desperate people. This project is so huge that it is still ongoing.
In 2020 there have been more floods in the UK and Ireland, hurricanes in the Bahamas and bushfires in Australia.
In February this year, an artificial grass facility in Hawick, Scotland, was rendered unusable due to river flooding during Storm Dennis.
The pitch was used for football, basketball and hockey, as well as by a social outreach group for walking football for older individuals, plus exercise classes for the over-70s. The pitch is a valuable community asset to the local people and is now fully restored.
In September 2019, Hurricane Dorian made landfall on the Abaco Islands within the Bahamas with winds of over 185 mph. It killed 70 people in the Bahamas.
The trust received an application from the Rotary Club of Abaco and the Rotary Bahamas Disaster Committee to repair Aldersgate Church and school, which suffered catastrophic damage.
A project to refurbish the damaged building was completed this autumn.
A year ago, Australia witnessed the worst bushfires ever, destroying many homes and buildings. One massive tragedy was the loss of over a billion animals, with some endangered species probably driven to extinction.
The Rotary in Great Britain and Ireland Disaster Recovery Trust is currently working with District 9820 in Victoria to build and extend a community hall in a rural community in East Gippsland.
The hall would allow those without power to stay in their unaffected homes, but have access to electrical power for cooking and storing food, showering, as well as a place to gather for support.
An application has just been approved for a Rotary WASH project in Tanzania where, due to heavy rains, a boys’ toilet block collapsed at a school.
The proposed structure will not only replace the toilet block, but provide a separate female facility for the convenience and protection of the girls.
All of these projects aim to bring back some happiness and normality to the lives of these communities, providing peace amongst the chaos.
The trustees are actively looking for suitable projects for funding from donations received.
For further information contact Rotary GB&I Disaster Recovery Trust Chairman, Brian Stoyel: 07768 700466 or firstname.lastname@example.org