As November is Rotary Foundation Month, the following article by John Conroy is reprinted from Rotary International website:

Everyone remembers the horrifying December 2004 tsunami. But what few people know – because almost no media reported this fact – is that nearly half of total relief donations worldwide, $2.78 billion, came from ordinary U.S. citizens. Celebrities and big corporations got press, but not these individual small donors, most of whom gave less than $50.
Wendy Smith describes this unprecedented burst of generosity in Give a Little: How Your Small Donations Can Transform Our World , published this month. Smith, who profiled a bridge-building project funded by The Rotary Foundation, adds that giving a lot of money does not guarantee success. "What matters," she says, "is the outcome."

Rotarians know this firsthand, whether they are among the Foundation's top donors, bequeathing multimillion-dollar fortunes, or the many club members who steadily contribute smaller amounts every year.

We surveyed the landscape of recent projects funded by the Foundation and came up with these eight ways to change the world on the cheap. All of them fall into at least one of the six areas of focus outlined in the Future Vision Plan. And all have price-to-impact ratios that would delight any executive. For the cost of a candy bar, you can save a child from HIV infection. Give up a couple of lattes, and you can restore someone's eyesight. And your next dinner at a restaurant? Buy some chickens instead - you could feed a family and provide enough income to send the children to school.

Rapid HIV test: 70 cents

The remote border towns of China's Yunnan Province are a virtual petri dish for HIV, with a thriving sex trade, cheap heroin from the neighboring Golden Triangle, plenty of migrant workers to spread the virus, and a lack of education about safe sex practices. (In 2003, about 6 percent of Chinese villagers knew that condoms could protect against AIDS.) Yunnan is also a place of mythic beauty; it inspired the legend of Shangri-La.

The Rotary clubs of Shanghai and Fremont, Calif., USA, teamed up with pioneering virologist David Ho in 2006 to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus in Yunnan, which accounts for a third of China's reported AIDS cases - by far the highest of all provinces. Ho, named Time magazine's Person of the Year in 1996 for inventing the cocktail of drugs so successful in treating AIDS patients, is also credited with helping to convince the Chinese government to confront the AIDS epidemic with a huge commitment of resources.

In rural Yunnan, an HIV-positive pregnant woman has 33 percent chance of passing on the virus in utero, during delivery, and while breast-feeding. A 70-cent test, funded by a Matching Grant from The Rotary Foundation, lowered the risk to less than 2 percent among those tested. The rapid HIV test allows for early detection so the mother can be treated, preventing transmission and saving two lives.

Armed with Foundation funds, the Rotarians and Ho's China AIDS Initiative launched a massive drive to perform rapid HIV tests on 30,000 newlywed and pregnant women.

The China AIDS Initiative, a public-private partnership, is coordinated by the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center in New York, where Ho is chief executive officer. Ho recruited basketball stars Magic Johnson (Ho's retroviral drugs are keeping him alive) and Yao Ming to publicize the drive. "A photo of Yao showing Magic how to eat with chopsticks - that carried a message that HIV is not transmitted casually," says Fremont club member Lena Zee.

The Rotarians and the initiative also organized 270 educational events for the public, reaching 120,000 people, and trained 1,800 health workers.

More than 160 of the women in Yunnan tested positive. China AIDS Initiative clinics treated the women and provided drug therapy to prevent HIV transmission. Of the children born to the women, only two had the virus. "The rate is on par with standards achieved in developed Western nations," Zee says. Recently, a second Matching Grant funded another drive. Only one child tested positive.

Mosquito net: $5

"Give me $10-$20," Terry Youlton says, "and we can save a family."

Youlton, 73, is directing the delivery of 110,000 mosquito nets to boarding schools across Tanzania. "There are over 16 million cases of malaria a year in Tanzania," he observes. "And 100,000 people die. Most susceptible are pregnant women and small children."

Youlton's club, the Rotary Club of Ridgetown, Ont., Canada, and the Rotary Club of Moshi, Tanzania, with 18 Canadian districts, secured a Matching Grant from the Foundation and another grant from the Canadian government. The Rotarians purchased the nets through the Against Malaria Foundation, which guarantees that they're distributed where promised. On the group's Web site, donors can track the nets through photos and videos. "This was the kind of proof I wanted for Rotary," Youlton says.

The Against Malaria Foundation provides long-lasting insecticidal nets. The mosquitoes are drawn by the odor of the sleeping person and killed on contact with the nets. Even with holes, a treated net remains 90 to 95 percent effective for about five years. The insecticide also is safe for all: A mosquito is a million times smaller than an infant.

Population Services International, a global health nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., will install the nets. "It's a hot and dirty job," Youlton says. "I know, because I've been there and done that. You're climbing around on the top of double and triple bunks. They're doing it all for free."

Cataract surgery: $25

When Pennsylvania Rotarian Robert Walton talks to Rotary clubs, he doesn't plead for thousands of dollars. Instead, he asks, "How many eyes do you want to restore?"

Then he tells them that for $6.75 - when combined with contributions from Rotarians in Karachi, Pakistan, and Matching Grants from the Foundation - each person in the audience could save someone from blindness.

Cataracts, the clouding of the eye lens, have many causes, among them aging, diabetes, hypertension, eye trauma, and long-term exposure to ultraviolet light. According to the World Health Organization, age-related cataracts account for nearly half of the world's blindness, and as people live longer, the numbers are rising.

In the United States, cataract surgery to replace the existing crystalline lens with an intraocular lens (IOL) costs about $3,000. Two small Rotary clubs - Spring Township Centennial, Pa., and Karachi South, Pakistan - found a group to do it for $25 at a state-of-the-art hospital in Karachi. With a Matching Grant, they funded IOL implants for 2,000 impoverished patients, teaming up with the Layton Rahmatulla Benevolent Trust, a nonprofit operating 16 eye care hospitals in Pakistan.

Concentrated language encounter: $8.56

Where conventional literacy techniques have failed, hundreds of thousands of children and adults have learned to read through the concentrated language encounter (CLE) method.

Schools in more than 30 countries have adopted the approach, developed by Rotarian Richard Walker more than 30 years ago, and the literacy booklets have been translated into a multitude of languages, among them Afrikaans, Arabic, Bangla, and Turkish.

And it's cheap. The basic supplies are paper, cardboard, crayons, and twine, to create books that the classes write together. The Rotary clubs of Pasig North, Philippines, and Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, recently completed a two-year CLE program for four elementary schools in Pasig City, Philippines.

With $10,000 raised by the two clubs and a Matching Grant of equal size from The Rotary Foundation, the program reached 2,337 students, at a cost of $8.56 each. And that's just the first class: The grant also funded training for 51 teachers.

Vitamin A: 2 cents

Consider this the next time you walk past a penny on the ground: The leading cause of preventable blindness in children, vitamin A deficiency, can be eliminated for 2 cents a dose. Up to half a million children a year lose their sight because they lack the vitamin, abundant in the diet of children in developed nations. (Eggs, fortified milk and cereal, carrots, and spinach are all good sources.) Children with vitamin A deficiency are also more likely die from common childhood illnesses such as diarrhea and measles.

Administering 200,000 IU (international units) of the vitamin for two days cuts blindness and mortality rates. Matching Grants have funded many vitamin A drives. Supplements also are often delivered with polio vaccines during National Immunization Days, averting 1.5 million childhood deaths since 1998.

Bio-sand filter: $32

The numbers are astonishing: One in three people worldwide lacks access to clean water, 3.5 million people die each year from drinking it, and one child dies every 15 seconds from waterborne illnesses. Recently, 19,000 bio-sand filters - simple, cost-effective tools for purifying water - were installed in homes in the Dominican Republic, funded by 30 Foundation Matching Grants to clubs in Canada, the Dominican Republic, and the United States.

The HydrAid bio-sand filter removes all parasites and 95 percent of bacteria and viruses. It uses gravity as a power source, has no moving parts, and lasts for at least 10 years. Made of plastic, it weighs just 8 pounds. For $32, you can buy yourself two bottles of water a day for about two weeks, or you can buy one bio-sand filter and deliver pure water for a decade to an entire family.

Polio vaccine: 60 cents

Unless you joined Rotary yesterday, you've heard this before: Drops of the oral polio vaccine in the hands of Rotarians have changed the world. But we're not done yet. Without dusting off your passport, you could help eradicate the disease from the four nations where the wild poliovirus persists. And it's a bargain: 60 cents will protect a child from polio for life. Since the PolioPlus program was launched in 1985, Rotarians have contributed more than $800 million to the cause and immunized two billion children.

Flock of chickens: $20

The Rotary Foundation has awarded many grants over the years to clubs that team up with Heifer International, providing farm animals to impoverished families. The stipulation: Recipients must pass on the good fortune, by way of animal offspring. With a Matching Grant, the Rotary clubs of Kololo-Kampala, Uganda, and Hayle, England, recently provided 22 Ugandan families with heifers for $500 apiece. About 58 gallons of milk are now flowing each day into the local economy.

If that's too pricey, Heifer International also can provide a starter flock of 10 to 50 chicks for $20. The birds can thrive on small plots and survive on table scraps and insects, making them ideal for impoverished communities.

A good hen can lay 200 eggs a year. Ray White, Heifer International spokesman, says that with 25 roosters and 25 hens, a family starts eating a lot better. "Suddenly there's protein in the diet," he says, "and if there is space for a garden, the homegrown vegetables do better with the application of the manure."

With a flock this size, White says, a family can bring both eggs and meat to market and still increase the overall number by allowing some eggs to hatch. A family in Burkina Faso, for example, could triple its annual income, sometimes in a matter of months. "Now they can afford the $3 to send a child to school for a year. They can afford what they call 'iron sheets' for the roof, so the home is dry for the first time. They can afford a little medical care, and a little goes a long way when children are dying of measles, dysentery, and malaria.

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