UNSUNG HERO: Carole Tjoa, Rotary Club of North Rockland

Carole Tjoa came to the USA from China as a Rotary exchange student. She has dedicated her life to supporting many of the Rotary International projects around the world including clean water and the eradication of Polio.


Rotary International is a global network of 1.2 million members who come together to make positive, long-lasting change in communities at home and abroad through various charitable works.

Rotary’s view is that solving real-world problems takes commitment, vision and their credo: “service above self.” For more than 110 years, Rotary members have made their mark both locally and globally on issues ranging from literacy and peace to water and health.

There are several Rotary Clubs in Rockland County, including one in North Rockland, which was founded in Haverstraw in 1926. Carole Tjoa has been a leader of the North Rockland club, as well as a past district governor. She is this week’s Unsung Hero.

“Carole Tjoa has been a beacon for Rotary International,” said Club President Paul Piperato. “Carole herself came to this country from China as a Rotary exchange student. She has dedicated her life in supporting many of the Rotary projects here and around the world. She has risen in the ranks from club president to district governor and spends much of her time encouraging our youth to get involved on the high school level through our Interact Club and college level. I can’t say enough about her commitment to Rotary and her community, whether it be our dictionary, coat, food pantry projects, Meals on Wheels, eradicating polio around the world or raising money for a water project in Ghana. She is a true hero.”

Carole Tjoa told The Rockland County Times, “I have been a member of the North Rockland Rotary Club since 1988 and have served as a district governor of Rotary international. I volunteer to give back and help to make a difference. We promote peace and service projects locally and globally to make life better. We support projects big and small from providing coats and school supplies to local children to working with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to eradicate polio across the globe. I won a Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarship and Fulbright grant to come to the USA for graduate study some fifty years ago. A World War II survivor, I experienced hunger, poor health and abject poverty in war-torn China in early life. I am grateful for the opportunity which Rotary has awarded me and the friendship of Rotarians who continue to inspire me to do good work.”

Tjoa continued, “As co-chair of the Individual Giving Committee in our Rotary District, I ask Rotarians, as well as non-Rotarians in the eight counties in the Hudson Valley to contribute to the Rotary Foundation to help advance programs of international understanding, clean water, health, education, conflict resolution and world peace,  in addition to giving to the local community. A retired healthcare administrator after 27 years in New York State’s developmental disabilities service delivery system, I currently have the honor and pleasure of serving on the Meals on Wheels Board of Directors, helping with fundraising for meals for the homebound and programs for seniors in Rockland County. I believe this is a wonderful world that can be made stronger and more beautiful.”

According to the website www.rotary.org, health is everything, yet 400 million people in the world can’t afford or don’t have access to basic health care. Rotary believes good health care is everyone’s right.

Tjoa said, “Disease results in misery, pain and poverty for millions of people worldwide, that’s why treating and preventing disease is so important to us. We set up temporary clinics, blood donation centers and training facilities in underserved communities struggling with outbreaks and health care access. We design and build infrastructure that allows doctors, patients and governments to work together. Our members combat diseases like malaria, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, diabetes and polio. Prevention is important, which is why we focus on health education and bringing people routine hearing, vision and dental care.”

Rotary educates and equips communities to stop the spread of life-threatening diseases, Tjoa noted. Rotary members have hundreds of health projects underway around the world at anytime, such as polio eradication. Since 1985 approximately $65 million in grants have been handed out by Rotary to fight polio and in that time there has been a 99 percent reduction in polio cases.

Rotary has spearheaded an initiative to integrate water, sanitation and hygiene projects with education. “When children learn about disease transmission and practice good hygiene, they miss less school and take those lessons home which expands our impact,” Tjoa said.

Rotary’s target challenge to develop sustainable water, sanitation, hygiene and education projects are being piloted in five countries: Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, India and Kenya. The project stresses that keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps to take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.

But Rotary isn’t all about global initiatives. Plenty of love is saved for the folks at home. Some local charity drives and fun events that Rotary North Rockland sponsors include “Dictionary Delivery” to North Rockland Central School District, the Spring Family Fun Carnival in Haverstraw, scholarships for high schoolers leaving for college, regular donations to Meals on Wheels, an annual spaghetti dinner and much more.

Rotary Club meets every Thursday, 12:30 p.m. at Lynch’s restaurant in Stony Point. For more information about The Rotary Club of North Rockland go to  www.northrocklandrotary.org

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