Homelessness and Hunger Initiative
Rotary International District 7930
Homelessness and Hunger Initiative (HHI)
April 1, 2015 to present
Rotarians engaged in a visioning discussion were brainstorming about how to make Rotary more impactful not only in our communities, but also to Rotarians. We decided to hold a Summit of executive directors of non-profits in the fields of homelessness and hunger and get their thoughts on how the 2,000 Rotarians in District 7930 could help. It was decided to create an HHI committee to focus on making a difference.
A total of 120 Executive Directors were invited to the Summit to explore this conversation with Rotarians. The Summit gathered 45 executive directors and 20 Rotarians from 12 clubs and the current and future District Governors and other district officers. After a buffet luncheon, a discussion of the needs of the homeless and hungry ensued, focused on the issue in general, and not about any specific organization. The question asked was “What can 2000 Rotarians do to help?”
The two requests were Education and Advocacy.
- Educate Rotarians on the issues, the myths and help dispel the stigmas normally associated with these issues – that those who are suffering - the elderly, those who lost jobs or suffered ill health, and most of all the children are people like the rest of us.
- Advocate in the State House and with our national representatives on these important issues.
A committee and a speaker’s bureau were formed, a script was written and a video was commissioned by five clubs and a Rotary Foundation Managed Grant. The video is available at https://vimeo.com/156288458. The video has been shown to 22 clubs in our District with supporting statistics about food insecurity and homelessness in each of the clubs’ communities or surrounding areas. Clubs were encouraged to get to know their facilities in their communities and to partner with them in helping to alleviate homelessness and hunger. They were also given the names of their local and state representatives in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. In February 2016, our District 7930 World Peace and Understanding Dinner chairs decided and planned to increase awareness through a role-playing exercise as part of the dinner. The 225 Rotarians and guests that attended were invited to assume a role of a person in need, be it an unwed mother of three, her children, a recovering alcoholic and his abused spouse, a single immigrant father who could not speak English with his two children, etc. Each role had varying degrees of wealth, food insecurity and housing and every participant had instructions on what they must do to secure food, shelter and warmth in a two-day time period spread over two hours. The meal that evening was a buffet of foods normally available at a modestly run food pantry or shelter. It was an amazingly impactful evening, not soon forgotten.
Seven managed grants were written and funded in 2015-2016 in support of hunger and homelessness, and six more the following year. At the 2016 District Conference a food packaging event was held in Boston, attracting 60 Rotarians packing and distributing 30,000 meals. Simultaneously, the Lynn Club, the Burlington Rotary Club, and the Ipswich Interact Club collectively packaged over 40,000 meals. Quite an impact in one day. In the fall, eight Rotary clubs participated in an event which packed and distributed over 50,000 meals.
Clubs from Boston to Salem, NH, Lexington to Rockport, have become more aware of the Homelessness and Hunger issues and are doing more in their communities. They are assisting food pantries, transporting food, sprucing up alternative housing, assisting in shelter needs, building playgrounds, cooking meals, purchasing diapers, all in the name of the Rotary District 7930 Homelessness and Hunger Initiative.