Rotarians focus on six different issues designed to improve the world in which we live. One of those issues, supporting education, is the topic of this week’s column. Rotary’s goal in this area is to strengthen the capacity of communities to support basic education and literacy, reduce gender disparity in education, and increase adult literacy.

As a whole, the global literacy rate is quite high. The literacy rate for all males and females that are at least 15 years old is 86.3%. Males aged 15 and over have a literacy rate of 90%, while females lag behind at just 82.7%. Developed nations as a whole have a literacy rate of 99.2%. Most of the illiterate adults live in South Asia, West Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. Of all of the illiterate adults in the world, nearly two-thirds are female. (Source of these statistics: 2019 World Population Review.)

Different Rotary Clubs have different methods of addressing this issue: clubs in Africa are often direct in their approach by intervening to educate youth at club-built schools, or by providing transportation, clothing, lodging and more for youth to attend schools in cities that may be remote. In Afghanistan, a girls’ school was opened by Rotary members to break the cycle of poverty and social imbalance. Rotary members in Detroit partnered with a local literacy program to recruit and train tutors after a study showed that more than half of the local adult population was functionally illiterate. Teach the teacher: the SOUNS program is used in South Africa, Puerto Rico and the United States to improve literacy by teaching children to recognize letters by sounds instead of names. Rotarians are providing clean, fresh water to every public school in Lebanon…a critical need so that students can be healthier and get a better education.

Locally, the Brunswick Rotary Club is doing several things to support the international initiative. For example, at each of our weekly meetings, we have a speaker, and as a “thank you,” we donate a children’s book in his/her name to the Curtis Memorial Library.

We also host and recognize community contributions from students at several local high schools: Region 10, Brunswick and Mount Ararat. Throughout the school year, we have students and their facility advisors join our weekly meetings; these students are invited to address the group and share insights from their perspective, an important educational opportunity for the Rotarians.

The Brunswick Rotary Club also offers several secondary education grants to local students through an application process. These grants are not limited to students attending college; students pursuing trade school educations are also eligible to apply. We also send several local students to RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership Awards) training annually to assist in their leadership development.

In addition to these ongoing programs, we also secured a Rotary district grant last year to equip the Teen Center at People Plus with new computer equipment. We also assist by volunteering to read to students at Coffin Elementary School (along with other local Rotary Clubs). We also put together pencil boxes filled with school supplies each August to donate to local schools for distribution.

Interested in learning more? Visit the International Rotary website at for more inspiring examples and anecdotes, or plan to attend a local Rotary meeting. The Brunswick Rotary Club welcomes visitors to our weekly meetings, held most Mondays at noon in Brunswick at the Daniel Hotel. Check our website,, for program and meeting details, or feel free to reach out to any of the officers/board members listed on our website for more information. Our club is currently offering 2020 calendars featuring local pictures by Rotarians for $20. Proceeds help to finance our annual bike rodeo, games on the mall, school supply gifts and annual scholarships. Contact us through our website or on Facebook.

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