Former Rotary Exchange Student Leads Ethiopia Water Project

As Rotarians, we know that positive changes in our community can be achieved by rallying individuals and groups to work toward a common purpose.  The new Lake Country Food Bank Project, which was spearheaded by our Rotary Club, is the result of one such collective action.
It’s also been said that good leadership is the key to almost all successful efforts.  This is certainly true in regard to one of our former exchange students, Thomas Scheuba, who has been leading an international water project in Ethiopia.
Thomas is from Vienna, Austria and as many of us will recall, participated in the Rotary Youth Exchange Program in 2010-2011.  During his exchange year, he attended Grade 10 classes at George Elliot High School and was hosted by the Brown, Guido and Colquhoun families.
I also had the pleasure of being Thomas’ counsellor during this time and was impressed by his maturity and interest in world events.  He displayed natural leadership abilities and I think that many of us thought that he would eventually become an important leader in his community.
As it turns out, our instincts about Thomas were correct!  After returning to Austria, Thomas and his local Rotaract Club began planning an ambitious project to construct new sanitary infrastructure in a rural village in Ethiopia.  A simple call to action: ‘Support Ethiopia’, became the name for the project and major fundraising campaign that followed.
 ‘Support Ethiopia’ is planned to include multiple phases and actions to address issues created by rapid population growth, poor sanitary infrastructure and deforestation.  The immediate priority is to provide secure sources of clean water for the local community. 
The fundraising campaign, spearheaded by Thomas’ Rotaract Club, raised sufficient funds to enable the construction of four water cisterns and eight rainwater tanks in 2016.  These improvements are able to provide a secure water supply for as many as 7,000 people.  The required funding was generated from activities such as volley ball competitions and music concerts organized by Rotaract; private donor contributions; and a six thousand dollar donation from our Rotary Club.  The Rotaract group also travelled to Ethiopia and worked with the villagers to construct the new water infrastructure.
The future goal of ‘Support Ethiopia’ is to expand the scope of the project to a wider area and also include new wash houses, solar panels, tree planting and livestock purchases to improve living conditions for the villagers.  Thomas estimates that approximately $700,000 Canadian may eventually be required to fully achieve the Project goals.
Our Rotary Club is continuing to support the work of Thomas’ Rotaract group by contributing an additional three  thousand dollars to ‘Support Ethiopia’ in 2016/2017.  International Service Director, Gord Lugrin, is also meeting with other Kelowna Rotary Clubs to request additional funds for the project.
The success of ‘Support Ethiopia’ serves a reminder of the power of individuals and service groups such as Rotary in making the world a better place.  To view a short YouTube video, produced for ‘Support Ethiopia’, please click on the following link.