IPDG Lesley Barmania, 2020-21 DARG Chair
 
The Disaster Advisory Resource Group (DARG) was established in the summer of 2020 to communicate, connect and coordinate information from members regarding local and international disaster initiatives.  For clarification, the DARG Committee will not manage projects; their role is to provide information to support our members and clubs. 
 
It all started last year with a request from Betty Jo Parent, Rotary Mississauga West, to find out how our members might provide emergency support to those affected by the disastrous Australian bushfires.  (You can read the full story on our DARG pages.)  Not long after, we were facing a crisis of our own – the COVID-19 pandemic.  And a few weeks later came news of the Beirut explosion.  Emails were flying between Rotarians and clubs who were eager to help, and we quickly realized that we needed some way to coordinate our efforts.  But where to start?
 
This was new for us because in the past, Rotary International and the Rotary Foundation had focused their efforts on long-term community relief by providing funding through global grants to aid sustainable recovery projects and leaving emergency response to our more experienced partners like Shelterbox.  Today, Rotary affirms that we support three phases of relief:
 
  1. Immediate response: Our local clubs and partners immediately offer helping hands and supplies.
  2. Short-term assistance:  Our clubs and districts help affected communities wherever we can through funds and materials to re-establish day-to-day operations.
  3. Long-term rebuilding: Our clubs plan and implement projects that rebuild affected communities.
The Rotary Foundation has established the Rotary Disaster Response Fund.  This is funded by donations from Rotarians, Rotaractors, Interactors, corporations, friends and community members. From these funds, Districts can apply for a single grant of up to US $25,000 to help mitigate a disaster that has occurred in their district.  In 2020, that fund was quickly drained by the multitude of requests for assistance from countries around the world.  D7080 also received this grant last year which has been used by our clubs to support their communities with PPE and food during the COVID crisis. 
 
So what have we learned?  We’ve learned that most disasters strike without warning.  We’ve learned that to be effective, we must be able to mobilize quickly; often disasters require help immediately or at least within days of the occurrence.  We’ve learned that in order to be more effective, we need to be able to help clubs, Rotarians and Rotaractors communicate, connect and coordinate their efforts and resources.  And we also have learned that if processes are not in place, it’s often too late to provide meaningful emergency relief to those who need it most. 
Yes, we will continue to focus on sustainable and measurable solutions for our communities through implementing global grant projects requested by the affected communities…and we will do our best to provide information to our members about disasters.  Will we be able to address every disaster?  Unfortunately not, as it will be hard to keep up with all the numerous crises that are occurring around the globe.  But we will do our best to keep the webpages updated with information, links and stories that will help our members to connect with each other and external support organizations. 
 
On a final note - special thanks go to Community Service Director Norma Gamble for designing and developing the DARG webpages which are still under development and to the DARG Committee for their input.  Take a few minutes to learn more about DARG by visiting the district website