Kiwanis International has four main service projects: the Worldwide Service Project, Read Around the World, Young Children Priority 1 and Kiwanis One Day.
The Worldwide Service Project is one of Kiwanis' best-known programs. Its mission is to eliminate iodine deficiency disorders in the developing world -- the leading cause of preventable mental retardation [source: Kiwanis International]. Iodine deficiency disorders are common in rural areas of countries like China, India, Java, Mali, Bhutan, Bolivia and Paraguay, where the soil is depleted of iodine. The plants grown on that land don't absorb iodine through their root systems, leading to a lack of iodine in the villagers' diets.
Without iodine, the thyroid gland can't produce the hormones the body needs to regulate crucial functions of the liver, kidneys, muscles, heart and brain [source: ICCIDD]. In severe cases of iodine deficiency, the person can develop mental retardation [source: Kiwanis International]. There's a simple solution: increasing the amount of iodine in people's diets. Through the Worldwide Service Project, Kiwanis has spent more than $80 million working with salt companies and local governments to provide villagers with iodized salt and to educate them on the need for iodine in their diets.
Read Around the World is a month-long program that takes place in February, during which Kiwanis clubs around the world promote child literacy in their communities. Events include holding book parties, distributing literature to school children and staging theater productions that promote reading [source: Kiwanis International].
Young Children Priority 1 is an ongoing program that encourages Kiwanis clubs to carry out at least two community service projects a year that address maternal and infant health, child care and development, child safety and pediatric trauma. Examples include distributing information on issues like shaken baby syndrome and lead poisoning, and delivering hospital trauma dolls to children undergoing medical procedures. The hospital dolls are made of plain beige materials that allow children to draw on them for entertainment. Doctors and nurses can also draw on the dolls to explain the surgery or medical procedure to their young patients [source: Kiwanis International].
Kiwanis One Day takes place once a year when Kiwanis clubs and their youth affiliates spend the day working on a community project like cleaning up a local beach, fixing up a playground, taking pets to a senior center or holding a book drive [source: Kiwanis International].
Read on to find out how to become a Kiwanian.