19. Phi Beta Delta: Well Beyond Money

Three of the best-known service clubs have international projects. Rotary, Lions, and Kiwanis are wide spread -- Rotary is in 166 countries, Lions in 192, and Kiwanis in 89. Their local chapters have lots of local service projects, but all three movements also have very large international projects.

Rotary has taken on polio. It has raised over half a billion dollars towards polio eradication. Its members have been involved in immunization campaigns reaching two billion children. Lions is the foe of blindness and has a full-scale program against river blindness, trachoma, glaucoma and diabetic eye disease. And Kiwanis has made mental retardation caused by iodine deficiency its specialty, and is now helping with programs protecting 91 million newborns each year.

The World Health Organization has said that without Rotary, the eradication of polio would not have been feasible. So "NGOs" can make a real contribution, and not just a token one. The significance, as public health leaders testify, goes beyond money. The money donated is great but even more important are the networks of well-informed people who are lobbying and are consciousness-raising.

Note that the diseases being fought by these service clubs are largely eradicated in the places where one generally finds such organizations. Their members are not afflicted. It is others, often less fortunate, who are the recipients of these service projects. We have to ask ourselves, as Phi Beta Delta members, whether we are building a network for something. It is great to have a network, but what is it for? We need to be alert to ways in which we can serve. Service goes well beyond money.

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