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RI President in Lebanon

RI President John F Germ - Biography

Whenever John Germ saw a need in his hometown, he engineered a solution. He'll bring the same can-do attitude to the office of RI president.

Champion of Chattanooga

RI Board of Directors

TRF Trustees

What is new

Rotarians meet with EU officials to examine Rotary’s role in achieving peace

PRIP KR Ravindran was conferred with the nation's prestigious honour of " Sri Lanka Sikamani" at a ceremony in Colombo on 20th March.

PRIP Ravindran received the award from the President of Sri Lanka

RIPE Ian Riseley on attracting new members, building strong clubs

Rotary women inspire

Samuel Owori will become first Ugandan to head Rotary International

Japanese diplomat earns Rotary alumni award


India is enthused....about giving

PRIP K R Ravindran on The Benefits of Rotary Membership.

International Assembly

2017-18 RI President Ian H.S. Riseley announces his presidential theme, Rotary: Making a Difference

Watch International Assembly speeches

Giving Tuesday Winners Announced

3-H: A Bright New Dawn for the Rotary Foundation

Surgeons from India bring relief to underserved patients in Rwanda

Rotary Staff Members Help Keep India Polio-Free

Reasons to Love Rotary Right Now - The Rotarian staff

Rotary's 31-year struggle to wipe out polio

ShelterBox and Rotary clubs take action following earthquake in Italy

Hall Of Fame Singer Donovan Becomes Rotary Polio Ambassador

Polio resurfaces in Nigeria

First wild poliovirus cases in Nigeria since July 2014

Government of Nigeria reports 2 wild polio cases, first since July 2014

WHO plans mass polio vaccination in West Africa

Fresh polio cases embarrassing – Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima

We will redouble our efforts towards eradication of Polio from Africa - Past RI President Jonathan Majiyagbe

Polio will be eradicated - Michel Zaffran, Director of Polio Eradication, WHO

A live Q&A on the Polio response in Nigeria, with Dr Michel Zaffran, Director of Polio Eradication, WHO

Cases in Nigeria: What’s the Outlook? - Interview with Michel Zaffran, Director of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative

RI President John Germ and Vice President Jennifer Jones Facebook Live chat.

Raja of Rotary - An account of  55 years Rotary journey of  PRIP Rajendra K Saboo by Rasheeda Bhagat, Editor, Rotary News Online

RI President-elect Ian Riseley on the progress in ending polio in Radio National, Australia

PRIP K R Ravindran's Farewell Message

PRIP KR Ravindran's Farewell Remarks

 John Germ is a man of commitment - The Rotarian Q & A Session

Poverty rates are creeping back up in Latin America. Investing in entrepreneurs can help change this - John Hewko

6 key numbers in the fight to end polio

HowDo You End a Global Disease - John Hewko in Medium

What can we achieve within our children’s lifetime?

To create peace we need to look beyond the causes of conflict

What defines a Rotary club? You choose

Rotary helps women in Honduras to successfully build their businesses and future - John Hewko in Medium

What is ‘global competence’, and is it the key to inclusive growth? - John Hewko

Creating Sustainable Peace - John Hewko, RI Gen. Secretary in Diplomatic Courier 

What’s Love Got to Do With It? - RI Gen Secretary John Hewko's Special Contribution to the Parliament of World's Religions

Pope greets Rotary members at special Jubilee Audience

Council on Legislation Grants Clubs Greater Flexibility in Meeting, Membership

What should you know about 2016 CoL

The Council on Legislation - First day comes to an end

The Council on Legislation - Second day of action draws to a close

The Council on Legislation – The third day completed

The Council on Legislation – Fourth Day Concluded

The Council on Legislation Comes to an End

Canada & The Polio Story: A Will, A Way, And A Healthier World - Past Rotary Polio Chair Dr. Bob Scott

We’ll see an RI woman President in five years - RI Director Jennifer Jones

2016-17 Theme Address by RIPE John Germ

Download 2016-17 theme logo and materials

Rotary's 2016 International Assembly coverage and resources


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Apr 16



24-30 April is World Immunization Week

Piano teacher leaves more than $1 million to Rotary

The Rotary Foundation of the United Kingdom received the generous donation from Helen Ruddock of Suffolk, England. Her only connections to Rotary had been an introduction to the Foundation, arranged by a member of the Rotary Club of Halstead, Essex, England, and a shared passion for improving the lives of others.

Mrs. Ruddock, who passed away in 2015 at the age of 96, bequeathed more than $1 million to support Rotary’s efforts to provide clean water and sanitation. With her gift, Rotarians will have the needed funding for service projects to improve the quality and availability of clean water, sanitation, and hygiene practices in communities throughout Africa.

She was a well-respected piano teacher for many years at South Lee School in Bury St. Edmunds and Fairstead House School in Newmarket, finishing her career working part time at the Riverwalk School for children with severe learning difficulties. She also devoted much of her time and resources to several local organizations, including the Suffolk Opera and the Bury St. Edmunds Amateur Operatic & Dramatic Society.

She was described as kind, thoughtful, wise, and business-minded.

Though not a Rotarian, she personified the mission and values of Rotary through her leadership, service, and integrity. The Rotary Foundation could not be more pleased to honor her as an esteemed member of the Arch Klumph Society, formed in 2004 to recognize The Rotary Foundation’s highest tier of donors.

- Rotary International

RI Board decisions: Highlights of Board minutes — January 2017

The 2016-17 Rotary International Board held its third meeting 24-26 January 2017 in Evanston, Illinois, USA. It reviewed eight committee reports and recorded 61 decisions. Here are the highlights.

Clubs and Districts

The Board:

  • Agreed to a realignment of the 34 Rotary zones, in accordance with the RI Bylaws requiring the Board to review the composition of zones at least every eight years. .
  • Affirmed that for any Rotarian who is a member of more than one club at the same time, Rotary will officially recognize only the membership in the club to which the Rotarian pays dues
  • Agreed in concept with testing a global membership model that is not club-based, in accordance with the findings from Rotary's strategic planning effort
  • Approved regional membership initiatives that align with the new zone structure, to include annual funding tailored to each zone for training and other membership-related initiatives
  • Approved a national redistricting plan in Brazil

Programs and Awards

The Board:

  • Approved a new Rotary Service Awards and Recognition program
  • Recognized the proposed Hepatitis Eradication Rotarian Action Group
  • Approved 117 recipients of the 2016-17 RI Service Above Self Award
  • Designated the week (Monday through Sunday) that includes 7 October as Rotary Alumni Reconnect Week

Administration and Finances

The Board:

  • Approved President-elect Ian H.S. Riseley's proposed 2017-18 committee structure and appointments
  • Amended its policy to encourage candidate interviews at director nominating committees and further stipulated that if candidate interviews are conducted, the committee will ensure that:
    • Each candidate is asked the same questions
    • Each interview lasts the same amount of time
    • The committee conducts all interviews on the same day and at the same location

The Board approved the 2017-18 budget assumptions, which includes a list of enterprise projects.

Download complete 

- Rotary International

New RI Zone Structure: RI Board Decision 94, January 2017

1 Bangladesh, Indonesia, Japan (northern), Pakistan
2 Guam, Japan (central), Micronesia, Northern Marianas, Palau
3 Japan (southern)
4 India (western and northern)
5 India (southern), Maldives, Sri Lanka
6 Bhutan, India (eastern), Nepal
7 India (central and southern)
8 Australia, New Zealand, Pacific Islands
9 China, Hong Kong, Macau, Mongolia, Taiwan
10 Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand
11 South Korea (northern)
12 South Korea (southern)
13 Andorra, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Monaco
14 Italy, Malta, San Marino
15 Germany (northern and central)
16 Germany (southern), Israel, Switzerland
17 Aland Islands, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Russia (western), Sweden (northern)
18 Denmark, Faroe Islands, Greenland, Iceland, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Sweden (southern)
19 England (northern), Ireland, Isle of Man, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales
20 England (southern), Portugal, Spain, The Netherlands
21 Austria, Eastern Europe, Middle East
22 Africa
23 Central America, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Mexico, USA (TX), Venezuela
24 Brazil (central and northern)
25 Antarctica, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil (southern), Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay
26 Canada, Russia (eastern), St. Pierre & Miquelon, USA (AK, ME, MI, NY, WA)
27 USA (CA, CO, ID, MT, NE, NV, OR, UT, WA, WY)
28 USA (AZ, CA, CO, HI, NM, NV, TX)
29 USA (IA, IL, KS, MI, MN, ND, NE, OK, SD, WI)
30 USA (AL, IN, KY, MS, OH, TN)
31 USA (AR, IL, KS, LA, MO, MS, OK, TN, TX)
32 Bermuda, Canada, USA (CT, MA, ME, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VT)
33 USA (D.C., DE, MD, NC, PA, SC, TN, VA, WV)
34 The Caribbean, French Guiana, Guyana, Puerto Rico, Suriname, USA (FL, GA, SC)

* Zone numbers subject to change; sectioning and pairings to be approved by the RI Board at its June 2017 meeting.

Source: Rotary International

Sustainable projects earn top Rotaract honors

The 2017 Rotaract Outstanding Project Award recognized the Rotaract Club of the University of Moratuwa, Sri Lanka, for launching a three-year project to improve lives in the rural community of Ranugalla. The club, which represents Rotary District 3220 (Sri Lanka), hopes to empower residents through sustainable education and economic development initiatives. 

During its first year, the club opened a library and science lab for the local school and helped students prepare for college entrance exams and careers. It also targeted infrastructure, bringing clean water into homes and building bridges to link neighborhoods flooded during the rainy season. To stimulate economic growth, the club opened a weaving cooperative for female entrepreneurs.

"Rather than initiating a project to donate materials, we thought a project to address all the issues in the village would be much more beneficial to all,” says Chamal Kuruppu, president of the University of Moratuwa Rotaract club.

Best multidistrict project went to Rotaractors in Brazil for their campaign to combat hate crimes in online communities. More than 1,000 Rotaract members from 34 Brazilian districts planned activities during World Rotaract Week in 2016, adapting the campaign to their communities — such as partnering with a university to design a workshop series on Internet hate crimes — and using their social networks to spread messages of diversity, inclusion, and peace.

This year, over 300 projects were nominated in 52 countries. The awards recognize the best single-club project, best multidistrict project, and outstanding service projects in each of six geographical regions. The best single-club project and best multidistrict project receive $500 each for future service activities and will be invited to inspire other Rotaractors at the Rotaract Preconvention in Atlanta.

These clubs received regional recognition:

Asia Pacific: Rotaract Club of ePerformax, District 3810, Philippines

The Rotaract Club of ePerformax, in collaboration with its sponsor Rotary club, the Rotarian Action Group Against Slavery, and local police, developed a curriculum to support young people’s emotional and physical well-being. Club members not only trained young people to recognize bullying and defuse situations that could become dangerous, but also created a school garden to keep them active, healthy, and self-sufficient.

South Asia: Rotaract Club of Lote, District 3170, India

For years, the rural community of Gavathan, India, has had a river winding through it, but no clean water or electricity. The Rotaract Club of Lote sought to harness the river’s natural resource to improve lives. Its project resulted in the construction of a small dam, pipes for irrigating crops, and a turbine-operated plant that is powering 61 streetlights.

Europe, Middle East, and Central Asia: Rotaract Club of Izmir Ekonomi, District 2440, Turkey

The ongoing conflict and refugee crisis in Syria has affected nearly everyone in neighboring Turkey, including its schoolchildren. To help Syrian and Turkish students overcome their differences and focus on their shared human rights, the Rotaract Club of Izmir Ekonomi hosted workshops in two primary schools. After the workshops, which were organized with help from the Council of Europe, the European Law Students’ Association, the United Nations, and child psychologists, the young students were asked to express their feelings through painting. “We saw in the paintings that their thoughts changed in a positive way,” said a member of the Rotaract club.

Sub-Saharan Africa: Rotaract Club of Cotonou Phare, District 9102, Benin

The Rotaract Club of Cotonou Phare undertook a multiphase project to bring clean water and improved sanitation facilities to a local orphanage. The first phase involved drilling a well for the facility’s kitchen and bathrooms. In the second, club members worked with their sponsor Rotary club and other service organizations to refurbish the toilets.

Latin America: Rotaract Club of Pau dos Ferros, District 4500, Brazil

More than 25 organizations and businesses supported the Rotaract Club of Pau dos Ferrosin its efforts to boost the rural community of Varzea Nova. Over 13 months, the club helped establish Internet connectivity in the town, provided medical exams and services, led childhood education sessions for infants and parents, organized vocational training for adults, and hosted a cultural festival.

USA, Canada, and Caribbean: Rotaract Club of the University of Lethbridge, District 5360, Canada

Rotaractors from the University of Lethbridge in Alberta raised $36,500 to update kindergarten facilities in the community of Mazatlan, Mexico. By collaborating with the local government and Rotary clubs, Rotaractors ensured that the funds were used for teachers’ salaries and for buying new plumbing and classroom spaces for about 70 students.

- Sallyann Price in www.rotary.org

Rotary, ShelterBox in Peru to help flood victims

Rotary International has been working with its partner ShelterBox to provide relief to flood victims in Peru. 

Since February, flash flooding and mudslides have damaged and destroyed thousands of buildings, including homes, schools, and churches  in several countries in western South America.

Rotary and Rotaract in Peru have reported widespread destruction there. A ShelterBox response team is working with local authorities and Rotary to assess the damage and determine how to help people in the northwest region of the country.

The floods in Peru have killed more than 100 people. According to the Los Angeles times, relief agencies estimate that 700,000  people have been left homeless.  Heavy rains are expected to continue for the rest of the week. 

Where flood waters have receded, they’ve left behind a thick layer of mud. This can lead to serious health problems and irritation of the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract, ShelterBox officials say.

Honouring Rotary’s Outstanding Champions of Change

Today, the ingenuity, dedication and sheer tenacity of Rotary is tested to the limit, with more conflict, disasters and increasing hardship, all of which offer greater opportunities to serve and this is where Rotary members step up to the plate.

Now in it’s fourth year, the Champions of Change Awards are all about celebrating the humanitarian service of Rotary members, both at home and abroad.

Rotary is delighted to share the inspiring stories from this year’s winners of the 2017 Awards, which will take place at a ceremony at the House of Lords of 26th April, hosted by Baroness Harris of Richmond and presented by Lord William Hague.

In a new addition for 2017, Rotary is also honouring members of the public with Community Champion Awards. These members of the public will have led and inspired others and have been nominated by their local Rotary club.

International category winners

Richard Brind – Rotary Club of Dorchester Casterbridge

Richard has planned, organised and implemented several projects to bring water to small communities in Nepal. Thanks to Richard’s work, new water supplies, free from harmful contamination, have been added to five rural communities in the country. With taps spread across the communities, no house is more than 50 metres from a tap, a drastic improvement from the long walks through harsh terrain that villagers previously had to undertake.

David Britten – Rotary Club of South Cotswolds

David set up Our Street Our Children (OSOC) with his wife Jackie in 2012, to reduce the dangers and increase opportunities for street children in Nepal by providing food, shelter, clothing and improved education. There are two main strands to the work in Nepal.

Firstly, The Homework Club, in which 30 children participate before and after school in a safe environment. Secondly, OSOC recruits outreach workers who can provide everything from basic food and clothing, to drug and alcohol abuse counselling, all with the intention of brightening their future opportunities.

Robbie Middleton – Rotary Club of Portlethen & District

Robbie’s service has led to the provision of education to over 300 children in Southern Uganda over a period of around 20 years. In addition to improving the prospects of these children immeasurably by upgrading local education to A level standard, the Amazing Love School project has also provided life-changing facilities such as a hygienic girls dormitory and toilet block.

Ian Parker – Rotary Club of Roborough, Plymouth

Ian has worked for over 10 years with Literacy in a Box, a Rotary club derived project set up to give the children of Zambia hope through education. Although the work of Literacy in a Box is ongoing, there are often individual projects the trust supports, such as at the Manaca Community School.

Ian visited the school in 2013 to find it was nothing more than a converted chicken shed, but over the next two years, working with other partner organisations who refurbished the school, Ian helped supply 20 literacy boxes full of education equipment and £3000 worth of textbooks for 400 pupils so they had access to a functional and secure learning environment.

Irene Russell – Rotary Club of Warrington

After seeing a hugely successful meal pack take place at the Rotary Convention in Brazil, Irene spearheaded the project to bring a similar activity to the UK. Working with charity Rise Against Hunger (formerly Stop Hunger Now), Irene, led efforts to raise £25,000 from 28 different Rotary clubs to make the meal pack a reality.

In August 2016 over 500 volunteers, aged six to 92, packed over 100,000 meals, which are now feeding children in the poverty-stricken area of Nairobi, Kenya. Irene, pictured above at the even in August, also hosted a meal packing at the Rotary Conference in Manchester, where 16,000 meals were packed to be distributed to Zimbabwe.

Patricia Vytialingam Hoggarth – Rotary Club of Workington

In the aftermath of super typhoon Haiyan hitting the Philippines in November 2013, Patricia initiated a fund-raising campaign which initially raised £5,000 with a street collection, but, under her leadership, was eventually turned into £44,000 enabling the financing of 80 motorised fiberglass fishing boats to help replenish the lost fleet on the island of Kinatarcan.

David Wallwork – Rotary Club of Ramsey

David became aware of the dire conditions in Sierra Leone on a trip there in 2005. It became his aim to provide high quality, free education for the Temne tribe in a rural area of the country, where residents speak their own language and are unable to read or write.

What followed in 2008 was what the locals called ‘The David School’. Since then, the project has seen the opening of a refurbished primary school and newly built secondary school and living accommodation for staff. The site teaches around 360 pupils during the day and offers adult education programmes in the evenings.

Domestic category winners

Janet Cooke – Rotary Club of Peterborough Ortons

Janet has worked tirelessly to make Peterborough a leading city when it comes to improving the lives of those suffering from dementia. She helped to form the Peterborough Dementia Action Alliance, achieve £1.5 million worth of funding for a Dementia Resource Centre and started up Peterborough’s very own Rotary Memory Café.

Martin Kettrick – Rotary Club of Blythe Bridge & District

Martin has worked tirelessly for the last 34 years to improve the way that disabled people are treated. A former Royal Marine, Martin was left wheelchair bound at the age of 23 following a serious accident whilst on a training exercise.

Martin campaigned to change the law to give servicemen and women proper compensation. Martin now spends time working with limbless veterans to support them with their rehabilitation and reintegration into society, as well as mentoring and inspiring young people.

Geri Parlby – Rotary Club of Tavistock

Geri has been at the forefront of projects supporting people with dementia and their carers and has very much been the catalyst in Tavistock becoming the first Dementia-Friendly Community.

She has united the community to set up Memory Cafés and been involved with the building of Sensory Gardens, resulting in the awareness and understanding of dementia locally increasing significantly.

Graham Thompson – Rotary Club of Keswick

Graham was President of Keswick Rotary Club when devastating floods hit the north of England in December 2015. His swift action and local knowledge enabled help to be provided immediately to those in need and also assisted in facilitating longer term restoration funds to the community.

Graham’s experience with previous floods helped him liaise with local councils and galvanise Rotary clubs across Great Britain and Ireland who donated almost £250,000 to the recovery fund.

In addition to the Champions of Change Awards, a Rotary in Great Britain and Ireland Presidential Award will also be given.

Read more in http://www.rotarygbi.org

Why Rotary is Investing in Zero and Beyond

When was polio last in Europe? If you guessed 2002, the year the region was certified polio-free, you’re wrong. 

The last time polio affected a child in Europe was 2015. Two Ukrainian children were diagnosed with paralytic polio, and that likely means that many more were infected and didn’t show symptoms. At least one Western news outlet deemed the outbreak “crazy” — but the reality is that no place on Earth is safe from polio until the disease is eradicated everywhere. 

It costs real money to keep that network operational, and this lab network is the most highly sophisticated, state-of-the-art infectious-disease network in the world. Rotarians should be proud of that — it’s the No. 1 network, bar none. 

senior adviser to the director, Global Immunization Division, at the CDC

Ukraine had fully vaccinated only 50 percent of its children against polio, and low immunization rates are a recipe for an outbreak. In this case, a rare mutation in the weakened strain used in the oral polio vaccine was able to spread because so many children had not been vaccinated. To stop it from progressing, the country needed to administer 6 million vaccines through an emergency program. 

“Rotary was there at the beginning of the global effort to eradicate polio,” says International PolioPlus Committee Chair Michael K. McGovern. “It would be unfortunate if Rotary isn’t there at the finish line. We’ve done too much; we’ve made too much progress to walk away before we finish.” 

Finding poliovirus outside Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan, the only countries that have yet to eradicate it, is not unusual. In 2014, just before the World Cup brought travelers from all over the planet to Brazil, poliovirus was detected in the sewage system at São Paulo’s Viracopos International Airport. Using genetic testing, officials traced its origin to Equatorial Guinea. Brazil’s regular vaccination efforts kept the disease from showing up beyond the airport doors.

Those are frustrating examples for the thousands of people around the world working to eradicate polio. The fight has come a long way, but it is far from over. And while many involved in the effort say we may detect the final naturally occurring case of polio this year, getting to that point — and ensuring that the disease remains gone — will continue to require money, hard work, and the support of Rotarians around the world. 

Here are the steps needed to ensure polio is truly gone forever:

One of the most important aspects of the fight to eradicate polio is detection. This requires continuous surveillance that is complicated and costly. Polio surveillance consists of two parts. First, doctors and community health workers monitor children for acute flaccid paralysis. The second part of the process involves local authorities collecting samples from sewage systems or in places that don’t have adequate sanitation facilities, including rivers or bodies of water near a large group of residents.

Ninety percent of people infected with the virus show no symptoms, and those who do usually have mild symptoms such as fever, fatigue, and headaches. Only one in every 200 cases of the illness results in paralysis, which means that for every child who is paralyzed, several hundred are carrying the disease and may not show it.

And not every case of paralysis is caused by polio. Other viruses that can cause the polio-like symptoms known as acute flaccid paralysis include Japanese encephalitis, West Nile, and Zika. To determine if a patient has polio, health workers must collect two stool specimens 14 days apart and send them to a lab for testing. 

To find the patients who don’t present symptoms or don’t make it to a clinic, Rotary and its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) — composed of the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UNICEF, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — have set up environmental sampling sites in the areas that are most susceptible to the disease. 

Fifteen to 20 countries are still at high risk despite having eradicated the illness. Because the poliovirus is most easily detected, and most easily contracted, through stool, researchers take samples from sewage systems and, in places that don’t have sewer infrastructure, from rivers and open gutters.

GPEI has developed a network of 145 laboratories around the world that can identify the disease, and Rotary has played a leading role in supporting these facilities. 

But regular environmental surveillance is “logistically not so easy to do and it’s relatively expensive. It adds a considerable burden to the labs to process the sewage samples,” says Stephen Cochi, senior adviser to the director, Global Immunization Division, at the CDC. “It costs real money to keep that network operational, and this lab network is the most highly sophisticated, state-of-the-art infectious-disease network in the world. Rotarians should be proud of that — it’s the No. 1 network, bar none.” 

As part of this system of labs, Rotary has helped fund small, sophisticated local laboratories to track genetic variations of the disease. All viruses mutate to confuse the human immune system, but the poliovirus is notorious for doing so at a rapid rate. 

One of these labs allowed Brazilian authorities to trace the virus at São Paulo airport to Equatorial Guinea more than 6,400 km away.

Vigilance is key to successful surveillance, says Michel Zaffran, director of polio eradication at WHO. “This is a hidden cost to the program that people don’t realize is absolutely necessary to maintain,” he said. 

The GPEI is providing surveillance in about 72 countries, RI President John Germ said at Rotary’s World Polio Day event on 24 October 2016. “It’s an expensive fight,” he said.........

Read the full article by Ryan Hyland and Erin Biba

Empowering women and girls in Afghanistan

Growing up as a young girl in the peaceful village of Qala-e-Malakh in Afghanistan, I was part of a loving family with ten brothers and sisters. We were happy, but little did we know that our lives would soon face devastation as the Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1979. I was frightened and scared for my life and for the lives of my loved ones. Every time I heard shots or explosions, I trembled at the thought of losing a family member.

In the face of war, we were forced to flee our home, leaving everything behind to head towards refugee camps in Pakistan. A long journey awaited us as we traveled through mountains without much food or water, with small children and my mother who was eight months pregnant at the time. We arrived to the camps safely where I spent the next six years of my life. My life had been turned upside down. Growing up, I always had aspirations and dreams to be educated, and hoped for the opportunity to pursue them. My six years in the camp did not give me that opportunity, but I tried to learn what I could from my brothers’ books.

In 1986, I boarded a plane to meet my fiancé, who was a medical student in the United States who I had met in the refugee camp in Pakistan. My trip brought me to Muncie, Indiana, and I was blessed with the opportunity that I had always wanted. I was finally able to pursue my education, completing a GED and continuing on to receive an art degree from Ball State University. As my life has moved on from my home in Qala-e-Malakh and the refugee camps, I never forgot about the girls I left behind who have the same dreams as I did.

My husband and I continued to travel back to the refugee camps in Pakistan every year, with medicine and other humanitarian supplies. In 2002, with the support of family and friends, we established AWAKEN (Afghan Women and Kids Education & Necessities) to provide educational opportunities, vocational training, and healthcare services to the people of Afghanistan, especially the women and children.

As part of AWAKEN, we offered a vocational training program where we traveled from village to village and rented a room conveniently located near women’s homes. We conducted a six-month course teaching women basic hygiene, reading, writing, and sewing. At the end of the course, all women received a sewing machine and kit so they could become self-sufficient.

There were also no opportunities for education in my hometown of Qala-e-Malakh. In 2004, AWAKEN established a school for children grades K-12. The school now has more than 1200 students enrolled.

Most villages in Afghanistan do not have access to any sort of healthcare. In 2008, we built the Behsood Health Clinic which provides over 500 families access to basic treatments such as vaccines, birth control, etc. The clinic sees more than 180 patients daily.

Recently, AWAKEN partnered with the Rotary Club of Muncie Sunrise (United States) and the Rotary Club of Jalalabad (Afghanistan) to establish a Saheli Center. The center will open near the current AWAKEN clinic and school providing literacy, nutrition, and reproductive health classes. The center will also provide vocational education, including but not limited to computers and tailoring expanding upon AWAKEN’s efforts.

One of my biggest dreams was to open a birthing center in the village. AWAKEN created a birthing center to provide prenatal and postnatal care. With the support of partnering Rotary clubs, we will expand our efforts by conducted Family Planning Workshops taught by medical professionals from the Rotary Club of Jalalabad and the AWAKEN clinic staff. Birth attendants will also conduct small workshops on pre-natal nutrition, birthing practices and infant nutrition, including breast feeding for those receiving pre-natal care. Small packages of infant care supplies provided by the Rotary clubs will be given to women who complete all the classes.

I was once a little girl in Afghanistan with limited opportunities, and am blessed to have the life I enjoy today. Unfortunately, people living in impoverished countries do not have access to the opportunities and resources that I do now. Together we can make a difference in the lives of many women and children in Afghanistan, so that they can awaken to a brighter future with opportunities for continuing their education and becoming self-sufficient!


- Bibi Bahrami, member of the Rotary Club of Muncie and founder of AWAKEN  in Rotary Service Connections

Blog Posts

Trustee Chair's Message - April 2017

Posted by Sunil K Zachariah on March 30, 2017 at 7:52am

RI President's Message - April 2017

Posted by Sunil K Zachariah on March 30, 2017 at 7:43am

Preserving Forests and Water

Posted by Rekha Shetty on March 28, 2017 at 2:10pm

www.eflashonline.org is an initiative of Rotary Club of Kalamassery,  R I District 3201, India. Since 1999, eFlash spreads Rotary news and stories online to members from over 100 countries. 

Founder Editor: PDG Sunil K Zachariah

This community operates in accordance with Rotary International policy, but is not an agency of, nor is it controlled by Rotary International


My mom was a Polio Pioneer

Since joining Rotary in 2011, I have been impressed by its commitment to eradicating polio from the world through its End Polio Now campaign. That said, polio never resonated with me as a significant cause.

I was generally aware of polio’s impact throughout history: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the March of Dimes, iron lungs, and the polio panic here in the United States. But it wasn’t personal to me; it was something of the previous generation, abstract, to which I had no emotional investment.

And then my mom went and showed me how wrong I was.

A couple of weeks ago she handed me a small piece of cardboard and said “Since you’re in Rotary and its always talking about polio, I thought you might want this.” The cardboard was my mother’s “Polio Pioneer” card, marking her as one of hundreds of thousands of children throughout the United States who, in the summer of 1954, participated in the largest clinical trial ever conducted.

For most of us born after 1954, I suspect the idea of hundreds of thousands of parents across the nation volunteering their children to test an unproven vaccine for polio is a bit mind blowing. After all, today when we hear about vaccines it is usually in the context of parents asserting the right to not vaccinate their children due to personal or religious beliefs. Yet imagine a public so overwhelmingly fearful of a disease that it offered up its children to try to stop it. Little wonder so many born before 1954 understand the need to eradicate polio, and why Rotary has embraced this as its signature cause.

Today, parents worldwide offer up their children to be vaccinated not just out of fear of polio, but with the hope that the vaccine tested by the “Polio Pioneers” in 1954 will save their children today, allowing future generations to live ignorant of polio’s long shadow. And through Rotary, every dollar contributed, every mile walked, and every teddy bear purchased goes to support that hope.

As with anything, the cause or position to which we have a personal commitment is often the one we support most strongly. Personal connections make abstract issues into important concerns, but we cannot limit ourselves to trying to understand or supporting only those concerns to which we have a connection. The key, it seems, to understanding other’s concerns and (equally importantly) helping others understand yours is to tell stories.* It is not enough to share objective data or historical fact – both are important, but not entirely compelling on their own. Advocacy, through story-telling, can bridge the gap between data and engagement.

So with this, I share a story I never knew I had. Thanks to my mom, I better understand why Rotary is so focused on polio and why so many see its eradication as being so important. This further cements my admiration of, and commitment to, Rotary and the great Rotarians worldwide who work so diligently to make our world a better place.


*Grateful acknowledgment to Shirley-Pat Chamberlain, a fellow Rotarian from British Columbia, who presented this thesis at the 2017 NorthEast PETS.

Richard J. Fox, Rotary Club of Charlotte-Shelburne, Vermont, USA in Rotary Voices

Why host a Rotary Peace Fellow?

Hosting a Peace Fellow substantially changed my life in Rotary. Since joining Rotary, I have been running a company that imports industrial tools, mostly from Israel and Europe, so I am familiar with talking to people from other countries.

My initial purpose for joining Rotary was to make local friends and expand my network. However, I began to think about peace more seriously after running a joint venture with an Israeli company. After seven years in my club, I took a position on our club’s Rotary Foundation committee, and heard about the Rotary Peace Fellowship program. Getting involved seemed like the right thing to do.

I met many Peace Fellows in May of 2015 as part of a cross-cultural trip I joined. The students were so similar to the people I work with internationally, so it took only a few seconds to make friends with them. Most of the Peace Fellows are well experienced in both studying and travelling. When I talk to them, I feel relaxed and encouraged. Additionally, I have had many chances to meet with family members and friends of Peace Fellows as a Rotary Foundation committee member during the last two years.

I have been enjoying the time I get to spend with Peace Fellows and I appreciate the opportunity to support  these enthusiastic young students.

Masao Mizuno, Rotary Club of Ageo West, Japan in Rotary Voices

Adapted with permission from the ICU Rotary Peace Center newsletter (February 2017)

Changing the world is possible, through Rotary

I knew little about Rotary eight years ago when my former high school counselor encouraged me to apply for an Ambassadorial Scholarship. He was retired, but still active in Rotary, and knew a master’s was my next step. At the time, I had just graduated from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and knew I needed to go to graduate school. But where and how?

Through a Google search, I learned Rotary was an international service organization. Intrigued, I applied for the scholarship and made it to the district interview, where I was asked what I wanted to do, really do. The question took me by surprise. Unsure how to answer, I stuttered that I hoped to change the world someday. I remember looking at the floor thinking, how far-fetched.

Less than a week later, I received the call that I had been selected. What if, I wondered, my acceptance had to do with wanting to “change the world” someday?

The University of Saint Andrews was my graduate school home. I pursued Terrorism Studies in hopes of better understanding the phenomenon that was killing so many, so often. In spring, two faculty members took me and a dozen classmates to the Middle East to see the context of that particular enduring conflict for ourselves. It was crushing.

I zeroed in on Afghanistan with my research, marveling at the country and investigating its history of, and tendency toward, violence as a means to an end. If ever there was a country that baffled historians and social scientists, Afghanistan is it. From the Anglo-Afghan wars to the Taliban to Al Qaeda, Afghanistan remains a bit mysterious.

It took four years of independent work and international travel before I finally made it to Afghanistan as a trainer on Gender Integration and Resource Management with the U.S. government. My job was to meet incoming Coalition personnel and teach them about the overall mission, as well as the country’s political and cultural terrain.

I arrived believing in making a change, forging ahead with equal rights for women, and telling others about doing the same. Less than a month later, a young Afghan woman named Farkhunda was brutally killed by a mob in downtown Kabul. Big questions set in. Mostly I wondered if we had the right approach: What if it was all too much, too soon?

Lerch, third from left in rear. - at a round table discussion with her Coalition colleagues and women in the Afghan military.

My second job in Kabul took me from NATO headquarters into the city, where I worked with Afghan consultants to help their countrymen in the Ministries of Defense and Interior. Our team included strong Afghan women. Zahra was one of them. She demonstrated competence, courage, and commitment to rebuilding her country.

Zahra explained that she hoped to attend graduate school abroad. Like my guidance counselor before me, I told her about Rotary scholarships. Unfortunately, when we turned to Afghanistan-based Rotary groups, we found them unable to facilitate the global grant application.

As an alternative, I turned back to my hometown Rotary clubs in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, USA. Would they be willing to help Zahra? They were.

The Afghan Education Project kicked off with a small group: representatives from two Oshkosh Rotary clubs, folks from the University of Wisconsin campus in Oshkosh, and I (in Kabul). The university waived out-of-state tuition; a Rotary club provided the sponsor letter to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul; and Rotarians donated to fund the cost of Zahra’s in-state tuition for a graduate degree in Educational Leadership and Policy.

Now in her second semester, Zahra has achieved all A’s. She is gainfully employed on-campus, for which she receives free room and board and meals. She is researching more about women’s access to education in Afghanistan, specifically how ethnicity and regional cultural norms impact their access. Upon her return to Afghanistan, she plans to work in educational policy. She’d like to integrate more literacy components, diversity lessons, and tolerance best-practices into the national curriculum.

I’ve always suspected that changing the world is possible. Rotary helped change my world, then did the same for Zahra. Just as Rotary makes a difference through its global organization and local presence, so, too, will Zahra’s future leadership in Afghan education make a difference for countless young students in Kabul and beyond.

Bethany Lerch is the founding President of Rotaract Oshkosh, graduate of the University of Saint Andrews, and former Coalition Military Advisor in Kabul, Afghanistan in Rotary Voices.

For more information on the Afghan Education Project, including how to support it, visit www.able-to.org.


Visiting water-deprived communities in western Ghana - Rotary Voices

On 12 November, I led a three-member team to visit seven communities my Rotary club is responsible for as part of the multi-year Rotary-USAID International H2O Collaboration in Ghana. The aim of the collaboration is to provide water, sanitation, and hygiene infrastructure and advocacy to deprived communities.

The total journey to these seven communities – Akwaso, Samfifire, Amoada, Kyeikrom, Nkakaa, Bonuama and Anyabream – began at Takoradi and covered a distance of 800 kilometers. It is one thing to hear about communities without basic water supply and sanitation needs. Actually having been to these communities and experiencing the kind of hardships they go through is quite another.

In each community that we went, we first met with community elders to inform them of our mission, as is customary in Ghana. On the average, each community has a population of about 1,500, and 80 percent of the working population are engaged in subsistence farming.The remaining 20 percent are made up of table top food staff sellers and various handicraft artisans. Only Akwaso, which is a mining town, had access to a municipal water supply and a complement of other boreholes. The rest of the communities get their water supply from streams and ‘’Sachet Water” which basically is 500 ml normal pipe-born water packed in plastic sachets for drinking.

Assessing a community’s water situation during a recent visit.

At Anyabream, the community’s only access for household water is a contaminated stream, and people rely on sachet water transported from the bigger towns for drinking. At one of the eight households we spoke with, we learned they spend an average of 200 Ghanaian Cedi (about US$46) on drinking water and cooking. This community, as well as the others, did not have any proper toilet facilities. “When you wake up in the morning you have to go somewhere in the bush to attend to nature’s call,” said Mr. Mensah one of the elders we spoke to.

It was only in Akwaso that we saw a community toilet, and toilets in some of the households, mostly because of the bauxite mining activity in the town. Throughout our conversations with various households, we learned they were willing to contribute as much as 50 Ghanaian Cedi (about US$11) per household as their contribution towards the WASH project we intend to undertake.

Through the collaboration, 103,000 people in 155 communities will benefit over the five-year life of the project by receiving access to clean water and basic sanitation.

Learn more about the Rotary-USAID International H2O Collaboration

From Rotary Scholar to Peace Corps

I have heard a variety of interesting stories about why the rural Costa Rican town I live in as a Peace Corps volunteer is called Monterrey. My favorite is the literal translation: “King of the Grass,” explained by a wizened elderly gentleman as the place his family settled to farm cattle because of its nutritious vegetation. On a good day, I can get a clear view of the Arenal Volcano and see the lush farmland that stretches endlessly below. The view is breathtaking. It truly is a green kingdom.

My path to becoming a “loyal subject” of Monterrey was influenced by a lifelong involvement in community service. I grew up participating in the Girl Scouts, 4-H, and Key Club. As an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley, I volunteered at Kiva – a nonprofit that makes small loans to empower entrepreneurs around the world.

One of the highlights of my undergraduate experience was starting a student group that partnered with Kiva to offer no-interest microloans to low-income entrepreneurs in Oakland, California, USA. Our first borrower used the profits generated from her microloan to fund her son’s college education. As I am the daughter of a university professor, being able to impact someone’s life this way left a powerful impression. The experience cemented my commitment to a career in local economic development.

A Rotary global grant made possible my dream of obtaining a Master of Science in Local Economic Development at the London School of Economics. Being exposed to such a diversity of international development theories and change-makers made my time in London one of the most inspiring periods of my life. Meeting Rotarians with an incredible dedication to service at both the Berkeley Rotary Club, which sponsored my global grant, and the Sidcup Rotary Club, which hosted me in the UK, reaffirmed my commitment to dedicating my own life to service. It was actually the experience of earning a master’s degree that gave me the confidence to apply to the Peace Corps.

Jasmine Segall, center, at a rally to defend children’s rights.

I have been serving as a Peace Corps Community Economic Development volunteer for almost a year now, and my primary focus is promoting women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship. Examples of some projects I work on include helping a small women’s group plan a sewing business and partnering with Grameen Bank to offer business coaching to female microloan borrowers.

One of my best friends and co-workers here in Costa Rica is a mother of four who works as a professional clown and volunteers for the national social service organization to entertain some of the poorest children in Costa Rica. Her life story is incredible. For someone who struggles to feed her children as a single mother, her passion for helping other children both humbles and inspires me.

Rotary has left a profound impression on me, as will my time as a Peace Corps volunteer. I can only hope that the next step will be similarly rewarding.

- Jasmine Segall, former Rotary global grant scholar in Rotary Voices

Rotary Convention 2017

Seoul Convention Digest

Join Fellow Rotarians in Atlanta for the 2017 Rotary Convention and the 100th anniversary of the Rotary Foundation. 

Important deadlines

6 June 2016: Last day for special centennial discount ($265 Rotarians/$70 Rotaractors)
15 December 2016: Last day for early-registration discount ($340 Rotarians/$70 Rotaractors)
31 March 2017: Last day for preregistration discount ($415 Rotarians/$100 Rotaractors)
14 June 2017: Last day for online registration ($490 Rotarians/$130 Rotaractors)


2016-17 RI President John F. Germ invites you to Atlanta

Future Rotary International Conventions

2018: 24-27June, Toronto, Canada

2019: 1-5 June, Hamburg, Germany

2020: 7-10 June,Honolulu, USA

2021: 13-16 June, Taipei, Taiwan

2022: 5-8 June, Texas, USA.

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