Posted by Xavier Sentamu on Oct 09, 2019
“I would like to encourage all clubs to develop projects through the prism of economic empowerment and poverty reduction.”
As District Governor, I have over the last three months been accorded the opportunity of traversing our great district. I have been privileged to see first-hand some of the tremendous work that Rotarians in both Uganda and Tanzania are doing at the community level.  But going around has also been a sobering experience for me.  I have been struck by the high levels of poverty in many of our communities, caused by high youth unemployment, underemployment and the lack of economic opportunity.
As Rotarians, we should all be concerned about these trends. Reducing poverty is at the heart of our service activities and yet I keep wondering - why is poverty still flourishing despite the numerous interventions being undertaken by governments, Rotarians and other development actors? I have, from time to time, wondered whether we are doing the right things; or whether we are doing the right things wrongly.  Are we putting the cart before the horse? Your guess is as good as mine. 
Unfortunately for us, time is not on our side. The consequences of high unemployment are here for us to see in the form of escalating crime.  And so during the month of October when we commemorate our theme on Economic Empowerment and Development, I would like to challenge you to reflect on these questions. What can we do differently or do better -  in order to address the needs of our communities in a manner that will ensure positive and lasting change?  Too often we engage communities and we talk to them.  We hear them but are we really listening to them? Are we capturing their priority needs?
Starting this month, I would like to encourage you to pay more attention to your community needs assessments and to be more intentional about poverty reduction in your undertakings. I would like to encourage all clubs to develop projects through the prism of economic empowerment and poverty reduction. The possibilities are endless. For example, how about exploring how we can expand the scope of our WASH interventions and technology to support improvements in agricultural productivity?  How about enhancing our education projects so that the knowledge and skills acquired by our youth can translate into livelihood opportunities?  How about developing the leadership skills of our Rotary Community Corps in order to build resilient communities? How about embracing the “Adopt a Village” model so that we can tackle poverty on multiple fronts? How about ‘connecting’ with other partners so that we can scale up our projects and increase the chances of changing lives and creating lasting change? 
Let us continue to develop and implement service projects that benefit our communities in the most impactful ways. I look forward to hearing your experiences and answers to some of my questions during my club visits.
F X Sentamu
District Governor  2019 - 20
Rotary International District 9211