A Rotary Project For Today 

In 2003 Rotary clubs around the world were urged to undertake their own special programme to mark the centenary of Rotary in 2005. Club member Laury Sinclair pointed out that child obesity was already a serious problem, and we could help to overcome it. The club agreed.

After studying the school curriculum on health and physical education (and other guidelines), Laury produced a programme that included the key elements for child health in one holistic programme called Pioneer for Better Health, later renamed Healthy Heroes.- click here for their website. It aimed to be simple, clear, challenging, long enough for healthy habits to be formed, and to make the family responsible for implementing it. Rotary supplies the programme while the school administers it.

It features five challenges to be met each day for nine weeks: Have at least 30 minutes’ physical activity; eat 3 vegetables and 2 pieces of fruit; have an agreed bedtime and 8-10 hours’ sleep; stretch the mind through eg reading; and help others at home, school or in the community. It aims to build wellbeing, and help safeguard children from obesity and associated problems including type 2 diabetes, stroke and colon cancer. Our future as a nation will depend on the healthy children of today.

After a pilot in four Wellington schools, the Healthy Heroes programme has continued to spread from the lower North Island to the northern half of the South Island and more recently to the Gold Coast in Australia.

Many schools and hundreds of families have experienced the programme, and testified to its life-changing value.  Wendie Hildred, principal of St Mary’s, Foxton summed up the programme as follows, “This is an easy to implement programme which has a significant, positive impact on the lives and actions of not only our students, but their whanau and friends also”, and, “The positive difference you are making to the lives of the St Mary’s community is invaluable, significant and life-long – we thank you!” Read her comments in full here.

Schools like the way it integrates their health curriculum into a single programme. Parents like the onus being on them to make it happen, and the way it draws the whole family into the programme. Children like the colourful programme and the way it builds their self-esteem.

Every school that undertakes Healthy Heroes has a sponsoring Rotary Club to fund the programme, and provide a selection of rewards for the children on completion of part or the entire programme. Wellington North Rotary has sponsored a number of schools before handing over to other local Rotary Clubs and is currently talking to two new schools who are considering introducing the program.

Global governance is through the Healthy Heroes Trust (here) whose members are appointed by the board of the Rotary Club of Wellington North. The programme is administered locally by Rotary District Healthy Heroes committees. In Australia the Rotary Club of Runaway Bay launched the programme in 2011, and in 2013 took steps to take the programme and its administration to Rotary District level.

In New Zealand the programme has been endorsed by the Royal College of General Practitioners and the Pharmacy Guild.