In the heart of Africa, a remarkable initiative is quietly transforming lives and communities. Rotary Action Group for Family Health & AIDS Prevention (RFHA), born from a passionate vision, has grown into a powerful force for change, addressing healthcare challenges and creating a healthier future for millions.
In a recent interview with RID Patrick Daniel Chisanga, a Rotarian with 38 years of dedicated service, we discuss his Rotary journey, experiences and insights on the evolution, significance, and future of RFHA.
“Currently, I serve as a member of the Board of Directors of Rotary International, with specific responsibilities encompassing Zone 22, which includes the entire African continent, and Zone 21, which covers parts of Eastern Europe and the Middle East. This role comes with immense responsibility, but it is one that I embrace wholeheartedly,” shares Patrick.
As a seasoned consultant in corporate governance, Patrick’s commitment to service has extended beyond Rotary, collaborating with the World Bank and serving as the President of the Institute of Directors and chairing the steering committee of the Africa Corporate Governance Network (ACGN).
Patrick's journey with Rotary began 55 years ago during his high school days in Zambia. A chance encounter with a Rotarian paved the way for one of Zambia's first Interact Clubs. "Back then, Rotary was an idea that resonated with us – young minds eager to make a difference," Patrick reflects. This desire to effect positive change was fueled by a visit to Kenya in 1969, where Patrick, an Interact Club President then, witnessed the tangible impact of Rotary's efforts in underserved communities. Inspired by the dedication of a district governor, Patrick's aspiration to serve as a governor himself was kindled.
In 1998, his dream materialized when he was elected as the governor to lead his district. This was a pivotal moment, solidifying his commitment to improving lives, a passion that has guided his Rotary journey ever since.
Broadening the Scope: RFHA's Role in Africa
Patrick's connection with RFHA started in 1998 when he met Marion Bunch, RFHA’s founder, a passionate Rotarian. “Marion's vision and determination inspired me, as I had personally experienced the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS on my country and had lost friends and family to the disease. Without hesitation, I joined her in this crucial journey, and we formed the first board of directors for the Rotary Action Group for Fighting AIDS (RFFA).”
RFHA's journey began with a focus on HIV/AIDS, a significant challenge in the region. However, as Patrick notes, "Africa had a bigger pool of diseases to fight." This realization marked the birth of RFHA with a broader health focus, addressing not only HIV/AIDS but also malaria, malnutrition, and various preventable diseases.
“RFHA's vision to broaden its health focus and fight a range of diseases was warmly welcomed in the African context. The impact of RFHA's work in Africa has been significant, and the organization continues to grow with the support of well-funded institutions such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” said Patrick.
A Healthier and an Inclusive Future
“Last year, a remarkable development unfolded in the Rotary world as we witnessed the election of the first female president of Rotary International, Jennifer Jones. Jennifer's leadership style was truly unique and captivating, endearing her to everyone she met."
“Jennifer's presidency has encouraged inclusivity and diversity, inspiring more women to engage in Rotary's mission. This shift is already visible, with more women assuming leadership roles at district and club levels, driving a stronger culture of service and excellence,” he shares.
The passion for service exhibited by Jennifer Jones and other female leaders in Rotary has been truly inspiring. “Looking back at how RFHA has evolved in recent years, much credit goes to the personal input and commitment of its CEO Sue Paget. Her ability to reach out, collaborate, and hold hands with others has been instrumental in driving the organization's growth and impact. I have no doubt that under Sue’s leadership, our vision of expanding healthcare access across Africa will continue to be realized,” remarks Patrick.
Looking Ahead: Strengthening the Impact Through Partnerships
As a Rotarian overseeing Zones 21 and 22, Patrick's focus is firmly fixed on nurturing Rotary's growth and impact in Africa. He outlines three key areas of emphasis: economic empowerment of young people, educational enhancement, and improving health facilities. These pillars resonate with Rotary International's vision, aiming to drive transformative change in communities and lives across the African landscape.
Patrick's enthusiasm for expanding Rotary's footprint is evident, especially in Africa where the membership potential remains vast. "Africa, with its population of 1.4 billion, currently has only 45,000 Rotarians. There's immense room for growth," he emphasizes. His immediate goal is to increase Rotary's African membership to 50,000 by the end of his second year, with a larger vision of adding another 50,000 members within the next few years.
“To achieve this, I have initiated a strategic partnership between Rotary Zone 22 and the Africa Corporate Governance Network, a consortium of directors' institutes across the continent. By aligning our values and synergizing our efforts, we aim to attract members from each other's institutions, doubling our impact and reaching our membership targets.
Through a structured approach involving Rotarians at different levels, from zone to club, we will work together to ensure organic growth and foster a culture of service and excellence. I am confident that by working together, we can achieve our membership growth goals and create a lasting positive impact on Africa and its communities.”
Vision for RFHA
Patrick's vision for the future of RFHA is one of continuous expansion and greater outreach, driven by collaboration and partnership. “By harnessing the dedication of Rotarians and like-minded organizations, RFHA's reach can extend even further, serving more communities and creating lasting change,” he shares.
“I am immensely proud of RFHA's growth and achievements, reaching over 12 million beneficiaries to date. However, I firmly believe that the journey has only just begun. My vision for RFHA's future is to continue expanding its reach, serving even more communities in need. As we move forward, our goal is to increase membership within RFHA, rallying Rotarians and like-minded organizations to join hands and amplify our impact. With collective dedication and collaboration, RFHA will continue to grow and make a lasting difference in Africa, striving towards a future where quality healthcare is accessible to all.”
Rotary’s spirit of service
Patrick vividly recalls an incident during his governorship in 1999 when his wife's impromptu blood donation saved a child's life. “This powerful experience has left an indelible mark on my heart. It epitomizes what Rotary is all about – ordinary individuals coming together to do extraordinary things.
To this day, I often wonder about that child's life and how he has fared over the past two decades. This experience is a reminder of the potential we hold to create positive change and save lives through simple acts of service. And as I reflect on this memory, I am filled with gratitude for the opportunity to be part of an organization that truly makes a difference in the world. Rotary's spirit of service and willingness to go the extra mile remains a driving force in my commitment,” says Patrick.
From humble beginnings to growing Rotary’s impact across Africa, Patrick D. Chisanga’s story is a testament to Rotary's timeless values of service, inclusivity, and creating positive change. Through collaboration, compassion, and a shared commitment to a healthier future, we're reminded that even the smallest acts can leave an indelible mark on the lives we touch.
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