Dowagiac Rotary discusses international project

 DOWAGIAC — Thursday’s Dowagiac Rotary Club meeting at 227 S. Front St. was an international affair.

Elias Thomas III, past district governor of the Rotary Club of Sanford in Springvale, USA and Rotary International Project Leader, joined the meeting via Zoom to discuss his upcoming 20th Rotary project in India, where he and his team will participate in constructing its thirteenth water catchment dam in an arid area of Rajasthan this fall.

“We’ve raised all the money through local contributions, club contributions and district contributions,” Thomas III said. “We’ve been working with the Rotary Foundation on global grants and fortunately for us all of this all of the water catchment dams that we have constructed are still sustaining which is a really good thing.”

Thomas III and his teams have constructed 12 dams leading up to this year’s project. The creation of these dams result in improvements in health, literacy, and education among women and children as well as economic growth, he said.

A check dam is a small dam constructed across a drainage ditch or channel to lower the velocity of the water flow. Reduced runoff velocity minimizes erosion and gullying in the channel allows sediments to settle out. A check dam may be built from stone, sandbags filled with pea gravel, or logs. Once built, the dams will require little to no maintenance or recurring cost.

According to Thomas III, the water should provide them the opportunity for them to grow up to three crops a year, with the first crop meant to feed their families, a second crop to feed their livestock and the third crop becomes a bumper crop which they can sell which raises them.

“Each dam that we have built impacts between 7,500 people and 15,000 people depending upon the population of the jungle areas where we’re working,” he said.

Thomas III’s Rotary International journey began on the organization’s Rotary Polio mission in 2001. In 2003, Elias led a Rotary Group Study Exchange Team to India and again in February 2004, when he led his first team of Rotarians to India for participation in the National Immunization Day against Polio.

Thomas III led the first Rotary Dream Team to assist with 2004 tsunami relief when the Rotarians participated in constructing an orphanage. He helped raise $140,000 from Rotarians worldwide to build new homes for the homeless.

With roughly five months remaining before the trip, Thomas III is thankful for the opportunities Rotary has provided him.

“Rotary is so highly revered in so many other countries,” he said, “much more so I think than in our own country. In these other countries, people know what Rotary does. They have these blood banks, eye banks and all of these other things that benefit the people of the country and because of that we are trusted as Rotarians. We are trusted to be doing the right thing, and it really makes a difference in their lives.”

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