The Rotary Club of Newport News (RCNN) was recently awarded a $109,650 Global Grant by the Rotary Foundation to build footbridges and train farmers in three of Rwanda’s poorest communities: Gasabo, Gakenke and Rulindo.

The Newport News Club will work closely with the Rotary Club of Kigali-Gasabo to reduce poverty in these underserved communities by building bridges and educating farmers through training workshops on how to become better farmers. The clubs will work with collaborating partners, Bridges to Prosperity (B2P), to build the three bridges, and Vi Agroforestry, to conduct the agricultural training. Both organizations have exemplary records in their field and will work closely with community leaders to fulfill the economic and community development area of focus.

The majority of residents in these three regions are farmers who scrape by living off the land and lack supplemental income generating opportunities to lift their families out of poverty. In addition, each of these communities are cut in half by a river that becomes life-threating to cross during the rainy season, which last from November – April. In two of the locations, the river is bridged by a series of rickety timber structures that must be replaced every year when high waters wash them away.

By constructing sustainable bridges not only will family members in each of the communities be able to access both sides of the river, but local farmers will have year-round access to fields and markets, children will be able to safely cross swollen rivers to attend school, and medical facilities will be available to everyone anytime of the year. These bridges will instill confidence and improve the life style and livelihood for all concerned.

The agricultural training workshop will give farmers in these rural communities the opportunity to discuss and learn about specific topics relevant to their agricultural challenges, such as crop rotation, new seed varieties, increasing production, and pest and disease control. Vi Agroforestry will conduct the training and provide farmers with increased knowledge in their area of agricultural focus in order to maximize their farming output and ensure sustainable development. The farmers and their families will benefit from this as it will supplement their incomes and help propel them out of poverty.

These bridges will also instill in these families the importance of higher education. The children of these communities will not be forced to stay home from school due to swollen rivers nor will they be forced to enter the labor force earlier than necessary instead, they will be afforded the opportunity to pursue their education at all levels and fulfill their dreams for a better life.

Generous contributions to this grant were made by: RC Newport News, RC Williamsburg, RC Yorktown, RC Gloucester and District 7600. We thank all the clubs and our District for supporting this grant.

The RCNN and the RC Williamsburg are excited to be a part of this life-changing project. The project has already begun with two of the three bridges currently under construction. The third will be constructed following the six month long rainy season.

Members of both clubs hope to travel to Rwanda to meet the members of the RC of Kigali-Gasabo and work on the third bridge.

This is RCNN’s first approved global grant.  RCNN has been involved in multiple Matching Grants in the past, building bridges in Rwanda, Nicaragua, Haiti and Zambia.

Thanks to all of the RCNN members that contributed financially toward this grant and special thanks to Roma Frye and Robyn Long, members of the international committee for RCNN, for all their hard work to implement this grant.