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The Humanitarian Service Rotarians Action Group host a “WATER SUMMIT” in Houston, Texas, USA

A colossal event for a colossal issue
By Pat Johns

At a time in global history when focus on “WATER FOR THE WORLD” could not be more appropriate, the Rotary International’s Humanitarian Service Rotarians Action Group hosted an international Water Summit to discuss this complicated pool of related topics. The Rotary Water Summit was held in Houston, TX on March 6th and 7th, 2006.

 This summit was held at the Stewart Conference Center and chaired by Dr. Ron Denham; General Coordinator of Water, Health and Hunger Concerns for Resource Group and Charlie Clemmons; Chair of the Humanitarian Service Rotarians Action Group.  This impressive event was organized with the help of local Rotarians and staff from Living Water International.

 In attendance were more than 85 representatives and delegations from 7 countries around the world, all choosing to participate in this smooth flowing forum to share their ideas, discuss their needs, and offer technologies and strategies but more importantly display their desire to teach, learn and collectively find solutions for this most critical world issue.

  Adding to the authority of this two day program were presentations given by several key Rotary International figures including Frank Devlyn, Past President of Rotary International and now the Chairman of The Rotary Foundation Trustees. The second keynote address was powerfully delivered by Dr. Ron Denham, General Coordinator of The Water, Health and Hunger Concerns Group of RI. The statistics that Ron showed regarding the need for water around the world were staggering. The stream of wisdom didn’t stop there.  Malcolm Morris, Chairman of Stewart Information Services Corporation, gave the initial keynote address.  Malcolm is the Chairman of the “Millennium Water Alliance”.  In addition, experts after expert in the area of “clean and safe water for the world” shared openly their successes and unfortunately a few of their setbacks, further illuminating the need for a properly orchestrated effort.

For the Rotary participants who have already chosen water to be their cornerstone campaign and are already on board with their Water directive, establishing significant and long term water projects in their own districts, the Rotary Water Summit was the ideal place to be. “This summit will inspire other Rotary districts to mobilize and become energized in the same way that District 5810 has become.  We have made a major commitment to RIPE William Boyd’s water initiative, beginning in 2006-2007, said Kim Holland (Dallas, TX) District 5810 Governor 2006-2007.

“Project sustainability and longevity” was discussed as one of the most critical variables for choosing and facilitating a water project type. Sustainability can best be insured by having those who are the recipients of the effort involved on all levels of development, long before the first drop of water is delivered.  The range of solutions are many, including the most obvious which is drilling new wells. Consideration of storage, filtration, solar pasteurization, bio sand filtration, distribution and well rehabilitation each has its appropriate place and many times will overlap in real world scenarios.

The complexity and the enormity of this challenge of developing and coordinating efficient water programs was made clear as the wide range of geographic, political and technological options were put on the table for discussion. The wide spectrum of opinions, fueled by the individual personal passions that bubbled to the surface, was as diverse as the many countries and cultures that were in attendance. Any thoughts of individual agendas were effectively brought into alignment, when PRIP Devlyn and Mr. Morris pointed out that, “This meeting was key to birthing a Rotarians Action Group to process and coordinate multiple ways to provide a cup of safe, clean water to the people of the world who had none and to coordinate those efforts in a global sense within each country.” And politely mentioning that everyone present in the room this day had plenty of water, “Nothing more than what we would all hope for our own families.”

 At an appropriate point during the first day, the group was easily divided into three discussion areas for those whose interest, passion and lives are directed toward Africa, Asia, and Latin America. These are generally the areas that statistics support to be the target areas of greatest need. All three of these break-out groups would later reconvene to unite and identify a cohesive, singular, and common vision.

 This vision ended up being so incredibly large that it was obvious that only a proven organization with experience of the Polio Plus Program behind it would dare to accept. Of course this organization is Rotary International and the vision is, “To provide clean and safe water world wide for all.” 

It was made crystal clear by the attending Rotary speakers that it was their personal hopes that all Rotary Clubs world wide would embrace on some level a program to do their individual part to help address this herculean challenge!

Communication is critical and once again it will take this level of blanket commitment and a “Planetary Rotary Call to Action” to support this monumental initiative.

 In concert with the message to “think big,” and punctuating all the discussions with a break, the audience was treated to a video program which virtually transported the group on a journey to Kenya to see and hear just one example of how critical water is to developing countries and the goodwill that is developed by meeting this basic need of life. 

 PRIP Frank Devlyn, suggested with his usual spirited flair to employ the four T’s, which are: “offer your thinking, talent, time and treasure,” as this will provide one of many good road maps to a Rotary success.

 The Water Summit proved to be a great experience, time and energy well spent. What most certainly will surface from this pooling of knowledge will be this: “a child somewhere in the world who otherwise would go without, will be handed a cup of CLEAN, SAFE WATER.”

 A colossal undertaking like this can change the lives of millions of people in the world.