Josh the Otter Literacy and Water Safety Project

From the coast of eastern Florida to the shores of Hawaii, the message of Josh the Otter is spreading...quickly! Rotarians across the country and even the world are hearing the life saving message and are excited at the positive changes that a partnership between Josh the Otter and Rotary International can bring to communities everywhere. Over the past two years, Rotarians have distributed thousands of “Josh the Baby Otter” books and everyday more clubs are starting their own Josh the Otter literacy and water safety projects. With drowning a leading cause of unintentional death for children all over the world, Rotarians are helping to save thousands of lives!


Rotary International and Josh the Otter’s partnership started in Florida in 2010 with the vision of one incoming Merritt Island club president, Jim Underwood. As a newly retired Rear Admiral in the US Coast Guard, Jim saw the potential to save children’s lives with the help of Rotarians pursuing this project in their local communities. In Florida, drowning is the #1 cause of unintentional death for young children. Through the leadership and support of Jim, PDG Louis Venuti, and Richard Hattwick, General Coordinator for the RI Literacy Resource Group, thousands of children in Florida are meeting Josh the Otter and learning how to be safe around water. The Josh the Otter project has been a District-Wide Literacy Project for 6930 for the past two years and their efforts do not stop at the district level. They wanted Josh everywhere there is Rotary.


Due to the overwhelming support of the District 6930 clubs, Josh the Otter was awarded a project booths at the Rotary International Convention House of Friendship in New Orleans this past May. With an attendance of 22,000 Rotarians from around the world, Josh the Otter supporters were anxious to see the response from the booth. Excitedly the Josh the Otter booth remained swamped the entire week of the conference, 10 hours a day! With visitors ranging from Boston to Bangladesh and United Kingdom to the Ukraine, it was absolutely thrilling to hear their support of our project and their interest in partnering to provide the project to their communities. By the end of the conference, over 200 Rotarians wanted follow up information concerning how they could begin their own Josh the Otter projects.


Since the convention, over 20 U.S. states and Pakistan have Rotarians pursuing the Josh the Otter project within their own clubs. In District 7640 in New Jersey, DG Alan Stein has already approved the project to be a District-Wide Literacy Project and many clubs have already signed on within the district. In Washington State, current president John Hughes and his members of the Woodinville Rotary Club have purchased 1000 copies of the books and are working with local school districts and YMCAs to spread the message of water safety with Josh the Otter. From District 5000 in Hawaii with Gale Warshawsky to the Rotary Club of Rawalpindi, Pakistan with Munir Ahmed, Josh the Otter is saving lives through the power of Rotary International.