RI President's Window

9 October–15 OctoberEvanston, IL

Reconnect Week is an opportunity for you to invite Rotary alumni in your community to join you in a celebration or special event that will help strengthen their bond with Rotary. - RI President John Germ in Facebook

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

Giving Tuesday Winners Announced

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

Rotary honors Dr.Sadako Ogata with the 2016-17 Rotary Alumni Global Service Award.

Congratulations to Dr.Sadako Ogata, the former High Commissioner for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, for being awarded the 2016-17 Rotary Alumni Global Service Award by Rotary International. She was a Rotary Foundation scholar in 1951-52 and has since dedicated her life to helping others on an international scale.

John Germ declares Sam Owori president-nominee

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

Bill Huntley Endowment funds the first Rotary Peace Fellow

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

Rotary Peace Fellows win resources from "10 for 10th Competition"

'Pakistan and Afghanistan, the last frontiers in the 100-year war on polio'

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

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

Rotary Delegation Visits Pakistan, headed by International Chair Polio Plus Committee

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

TRF Trustee Chair Ray Klinginsmith and incoming Chair Kalyan Banerjee speakes about the direction and long-term vision of the Foundation

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Rotary: Making A Difference

Some years ago, a new acquaintance asked me what should have been a simple question:

“What is Rotary?” I opened my mouth to reply and then stopped short with the realization that I simply did not know where to begin. The problem wasn’t that I didn’t know what Rotary was. The problem was that Rotary was — and is — too large and complex to easily define. We are a member-based organization, a club-based organization, and a servicebased organization; we are local, regional, and international; we are community members, businesspeople and professionals, working and retired, active in nearly every country in the world. Every one of our 1.2 million members has a unique set of goals, experiences, and priorities; every one of us has a unique understanding of Rotary.

To me, Rotary is defined not by who we are, but by what we do — by the potential that Rotary gives us, and the ways we realize that potential in meaningful and lasting service. Rotary has been around for a long time: 112 years. In some ways, we’ve changed tremendously, as we’ve grown, matured, and adapted to the changing

needs of our members and communities. In our fundamentals, however, we remain the same: an organization of people with the desire — and through Rotary, the ability — to make a difference in our communities, and the world. We answer the question “What is Rotary?” with our actions, by making a difference through our service.

As an organization, we recognize how important it is that the world understand what Rotary is, and what we do. At the same time, we know that it is more important than ever to allow our clubs to define Rotary service for themselves. As Rotarians, we have more flexibility than ever to decide how we want our clubs to meet, work, and grow. We’re focused more than ever on making sure that Rotary reflects the people it serves, with more women and a more diverse membership. And we’re working hard to ensure that Rotary remains the world’s pre-eminent volunteer service organization, by emphasizing long-term planning, sustainable service, and continuity in leadership on every level.

In 2017-18, we will answer the question “What is Rotary?” with the theme Rotary: Making a Difference. However each of us chooses to serve, we do it because we know our service makes a difference in the lives of others. Whether we are building a new playground or a new school, improving medical care or sanitation, training conflict mediators or midwives, we know that the work we do will change people’s lives — in ways large and small — for the better. Whatever motivation each of us had for joining Rotary, it is the satisfaction we find in Rotary that causes us to remain, the satisfaction of knowing that week by week, year by year, we are part of Rotary: Making a Difference.

Ian H.S. Riseley

President, Rotary International, 2017-18

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

Rotary International President-elect Ian H.S. Riseley made the case on Monday that protecting the environment and curbing climate change are essential to Rotary’s goal of sustainable service.

Riseley, a member of the Rotary Club of Sandringham, Victoria, Australia, unveiled the 2017-18 presidential theme, Rotary: Making a Difference, to incoming district governors at Rotary’s International Assembly in San Diego, California, USA.

Environmental degradation and global climate change are serious threats to everyone, Riseley said. “They are having a disproportionate impact on those who are most vulnerable, those to whom Rotary has the greatest responsibility. Yet environmental issues rarely register on the Rotary agenda,” he said.

Environmental degradation is one of the major threats listed by the UN’s High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Change.

Riseley added, “The time is long past when environmental sustainability can be dismissed as not Rotary’s concern. It is, and must be, everyone’s concern.”

The president-elect challenged every Rotary club to make a difference by planting a tree for each of its members between the start of the Rotary year on 1 July and Earth Day on 22 April 2018. Trees remove carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the air, which slows global warming.

“It is my hope that the result of that effort will be far greater than the environmental benefit that those 1.2 million new trees will bring,” Riseley said. “I believe the greater result will be a Rotary that recognizes our responsibility not only to the people on our planet, but to the planet itself.”

Securing Rotary’s future

In his address to the 2017-18 class of district governors, Riseley also urged clubs to improve their gender balance and lower the average age of their members.

Only 22 percent of Rotary’s members are women, up from 13 percent 10 years ago. At that rate, Riseley said, it will take another three decades for Rotary to achieve gender parity.

“Three decades is far too long to wait to achieve a Rotary that reflects the world in which we live. We need to make it a priority now,” he said.

Noting that 103 of the 539 incoming governors are women, Riseley said they are the type of women we need in Rotary, “leaders who will help Rotary connect with, and represent, and better serve, all of the members of all our communities.”

Riseley also believes it is imperative that clubs find ways to attract and engage younger members. Today only 5 percent of reported members are under 40, and a majority of members are over 60, Riseley told the audience.

“Consider what Rotary stands to look like 10 or 20 years from now if we don’t get very serious, very soon, about bringing in younger members,” Riseley said.

Clubs will make a difference this year through their own decisions, said Riseley, but it will take teamwork on a global scale to move Rotary forward and secure its future.

“We know that we can do more together than we could ever hope to do alone,” he told incoming governors. “I ask you to keep that spirit of teamwork and cooperation always in your minds and to take it back with you to your districts.”

Incoming district governors look forward to making a difference

RI President-elect Ian H.S. Riseley urged incoming district leaders to seek gender and age parity and protect the environment in announcing the 2017-18 presidential theme Rotary: Making a Difference. “We know that we can do more together than we could ever do alone. I ask you to keep that spirit of teamwork and cooperation always in your minds and to take it back with you to your districts.”

We caught up with incoming district governors after the theme was announced to get their thoughts, and see how they planned to make a difference in their leadership year.

Harriette F. Verwey, Rotary Club of Leiden-AM, the Netherlands, (District 1600): “This is a theme I can work with. We all can make a real difference in the world. The gender and age issues are things I can do a lot with. It gives me fire.
We are going to work more intensely with Rotaract and alumni to help them understand our experience and the work we do.”


Suresh Mathew, Rotary Club of Trivandrum Central, India, (District 3211): “It’s a beautiful theme. Making a difference is what Rotary is meant for. I appreciated that he said our work needs to be sustainable through our community.
We are going to work on a pet project for agricultural protection. We want to work on eliminating pesticides from our crops and farming. We are also initiating a project for safe sound to reduce noise pollution.”

Nancy Clowes Leonhardt, West Little Rock, Arkansas, USA (District 6150): “Isn’t this what Rotary is all about? I see us making a difference in our communities, our states, countries, and world.
In my district, we are working on literacy, not just for children but for adults. Everybody needs to learn to read and right. Fourteen percent of adults in Arkansas don’t know how to read or write above a fifth grade level. That’s how I hope we can make a difference.”

Alan Hudson, Rotary Club of Hereford Wye Valley, England, (District 1100): “I was actually moved to tears. We can get a little cynical about the message changing each year. For the first time, I feel this message is easy to understand and easy to put into practice. I’m going to visit all my clubs and tell them they can make a difference in any way they want. It’s up to each club, the small differences they make in their community make a big difference in the district.”

Valerio Borzacchini, Rotary Club of Ascoli Piceno, Italy (District 2090): “The theme puts us in a good place to move forward. I liked the teamwork part of his speech. I want all our districts in Italy to work together.
A lot of our districts and clubs will be working to rebuild the communities that were destroyed by the earthquake last year. We are going to support survivors and create infrastructure for the small businesses. We are united in this.”

- Ryan Hyland, Rotary editorial staff in Rotary Voices

6 key numbers in the fight to end polio

We are close to eradicating a human disease for only the second time in history. A global public-private partnership has reduced the poliovirus caseload by 99.9% over the last 30 years, but there’s still plenty of work to do.

Even before we reach that milestone, the knowledge and infrastructure built to fight polio is being repurposed to take on other global challenges.

3 countries where polio is still endemic

Fewer than 40 children were paralysed by polio in 2016, the lowest number in history. This is a dramatic decrease from the estimated 350,000 cases per year in 125 countries that the world saw in 1985 - the year that Rotary International initiated a worldwide effort to eradicate this terrible disease.

In 1988, Rotary was joined in the effort by WHO, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, UNICEF (and more recently the Gates Foundation) to create the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI).

Today the virus is limited to a few areas in just three countries – Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.

In response, Nigeria intensified surveillance activities to pinpoint where the virus is circulating.

In Pakistan, innovative tactics are being used to focus polio immunization drives. Health workers are trained in the use of cellphone data reporting, which allows real-time recording of immunization coverage and public health surveys of populations.

In Afghanistan, the program continues to adapt in order to reach the maximum number of children possible despite a volatile security situation.

155: the number of countries involved in largest coordinated vaccine switch in history

There are three different strains of the poliovirus. Once a strain is eliminated (type 2 was officially eradicated in September 2015), we have to match our vaccines to the remaining strains to protect children globally.

This transition is a massive undertaking, requiring significant funding and coordination to accomplish global health feats that have never been attempted.

To give you a sense of scale, the largest and fastest globally coordinated vaccine switch in history (to target poliovirus types 1 and 3) was successfully conducted over two weeks in April 2016, with 155 countries taking part.

$60 billion: the cost of infectious disease epidemics per year

The spread of infectious diseases is consistently among the world’s top 10 risks in terms of impact. The eradication of polio will mean no child will ever be paralyzed by this debilitating disease again. However, we must use the knowledge and infrastructure built up over many years by the GPEI to take on other global health threats.

Dramatic progress on improving children’s health beyond polio is already underway – resulting in a decreasing number of children dying from other preventable diseases in countries with strong polio infrastructure. Polio drops are now often delivered alongside essential services including nutrition support, primary health care and other vaccines.

By identifying the overlap between what the polio programme has to offer and country-level priorities for strengthening health systems, we can make a lasting difference to global health overall, and significantly reduce the gap in the impact of infectious diseases between middle income and poorer countries.


20 million: the number of volunteers participating

Since the GPEI was launched in 1988, Rotary and other volunteers have raised funds, built awareness, and advocated for their national governments to support polio eradication.

A volunteer can administer the two drops of oral polio vaccine to a child, and participate in National Immunization Days, which attempt to vaccinate every child under five years of age in endemic or at-risk countries. Millions of health workers are also helping us reach children who have never before been vaccinated.

$1.5 billion: the amount needed to eradicate polio

This may sound expensive, but, in the words of Dr. Jonas Salk, who invented the first effective polio vaccine, “which is more important, the human value of the dollar, or the dollar value of the human?”

Funding has already contributed to many important successes of our programme. In 2016, Rotary funded the work of 52,676 vaccinators and 2528 supervisors in Iraq to keep up strong immunization coverage. Investments made to polio eradication are also contributing to future health goals by documenting the knowledge, lessons learned and assets of the programme.

Funds also make possible the programme’s extensive surveillance and laboratory network to tell us where polio does (and does not) exist – a painstaking task given only one in 200 cases of polio results in paralysis. This network is already instrumental for taking on public health challenges beyond polio, such as Ebola.

While we undoubtedly still have work to do and funds to raise, we are confident in the good work of our volunteers and members to get us to our goal of eradication. Read and be inspired by their stories and successes here – a world free from polio is certainly within our reach.

4: the factor by which health savings exceed the cost of polio eradication

Immunization as a public health investment is incredibly good value. Every dollar spent on vaccinations in the US saves $3 in direct healthcare costs and $10 societally. A polio-free world will reap financial savings and reduce healthcare costs by up to $50 billion through 2035. In fact, we’ve already saved $27 billion since the GPEI was launched, and low-income countries account for 85% of the savings, not to mention the immeasurable alleviation of human suffering.

Conversely, if we allow polio to spread again, it would cost upwards of $35 billionmore in treatment expenses and economic losses, so it’s a no-brainer that we have to commit all our resources to finish the job once and for all.

- RI General Secretary John Hewko in World Economic Forum.

Images Courtesy: Rotary International

Rotary is now Teaching the Teachers

On Carolyn Johnson’s second visit to the central highlands of Guatemala, she met a first-grade teacher who made a shocking confession. Before taking part in the Guatemala Literacy Project, the teacher was convinced that her students could not learn to read.

“She said ‘We were willing to go through the program because it was a day out of class and you gave us books and you provided us with a nice lunch, but we knew that you were crazy,’ ” says Johnson, a Rotarian who helped design the curriculum for the project and now serves as a technical adviser for the Guatemala Literacy Project

Students in Nepal develop critical-thinking skills by taking part in fun and creative activities led by their teachers.

Photo courtesy Nepal Teacher Training Innovations 

That teacher and more than a hundred of her colleagues each received several in-classroom coaching sessions over eight months. They learned how to replace rote memorization drills and repetition of words on a blackboard with exercises that engage their students in critical thinking.

“She went on to tell me excitedly how 45 of her 50 students were moving on to second grade because they had learned to read,” Johnson says. “The program has made believers out of 90 percent of the teachers we have worked with. They are excited about being teachers again, and they go into their classrooms believing they can make a difference.”

After decades of investing in literacy projects, experts have realized that simply getting children into the classroom — either by removing attendance barriers or providing supplies — is not enough. Before students can succeed, the quality of the teaching in that classroom needs to improve.

Learning outcomes over enrollment

Rotary projects like the Guatemala Literacy Project and Nepal Teacher Training Innovations (NTTI) in Nepal are leading the effort to advance childhood reading by empowering teachers to teach better. 

Rotary, the United Nations, USAID, and other organizations are shifting their focus to helping teachers plan lessons that ensure students will actually learn. The entire effort is part of a larger goal to reduce extreme poverty, because knowing how to read and write increases a person’s earning potential and ability to build a better life.

Quentin Wodon, a lead economist at the World Bank, has studied education projects both from a professional standpoint and as a member of the Rotary Club of Capitol Hill (Washington, DC), U.S.A. Wodon agrees that teachers are critical to any attempt to improve learning.

“The best way to enable children to learn is to think broadly about teacher policies,” says Wodon. Training is one of eight key goals set by the World Bank, along with setting clear expectations for teachers, attracting the best candidates, matching teacher skills with student needs, having strong principals to lead teachers, monitoring, providing ongoing support, and motivating teachers to perform.

Wodon’s club is working with the Rotary Club of Kathmandu, Nepal, to support NTTI and the nongovernmental organization PHASE in transforming classrooms where students are silent, passive learners into centers of active learning.

“Improving teaching methods is not an easy task, but programs like this are making inroads,” says Wodon.

For  example, before taking part in the NTTI program, one teacher relied heavily on memorization, having her students copy words off the blackboard. After training, the teacher made her lesson on animate and inanimate objects more interactive, says Ashley Hager, NTTI’s director. The teacher asked children to point to objects and describe how they were different. She then listed the differences on the board and paired students up to discuss them. As a final exercise, the class went outside to find examples in nature.

One student approached the teacher with a live ant in her hand and inquired, “This is an animate object, yes?” The teacher agreed. The child then squashed the ant and asked, “Is it still an animate object now?” Caught by surprise, the teacher asked the rest of the students what they thought, and a lively conversation followed.

Other teachers agree that the training taught them the value of interactive teaching.

“It’s transformed my way of teaching and given me brilliant ideas to employ the best teaching practices I have learned,” says Goma Khada, who teaches fourth grade at Shrijana Higher Secondary School in Thumpakhar.

Teachers receive a certificate of completion after finishing the Nepal Teacher Training Innovations program. The program is transforming classrooms into centers of active learning, says Director Ashley Hager, front row right. Photo courtesy Nepal Teacher Training Innovations 

A model project

Another project that’s succeeding is Johnson’s Guatemala Literacy Project. The program began 20 years ago, setting up computer labs and supplying textbooks for middle school students in the western and central highlands. It has evolved to center on teacher mentoring.

Johnson, a member of the Rotary Club of Yarmouth, Maine, U.S.A., visited the region in 2006, seeking a literacy project for her district. She ended up leaving her job as a primary school principal after seeing the potential to address a deeper problem — the students’ poor reading skills.

“The primary school teacher in me realized you don’t start reading in the seventh grade. You have to start in the first grade,” Johnson says.

Teacher training is a key component of Nepal Teacher Training Innovations, which is improving the classroom experience for both students and teachers.

Over the next year, she returned to Guatemala several times, meeting with nonprofits, teachers, community members, and school administrators. She developed a curriculum based on the Concentrated Language Encounter method used widely in other parts of the world. A partnership was formed with the nonprofit Cooperative for Education (CoEd), which has a strong presence in Guatemala.

Five trainers hired by CoEd, with the help of local Rotary members, lead three two-day training sessions, usually in January, April, and July, for about 150 primary school teachers. Between those sessions, each teacher receives in-class coaching. 

The Guatemala Literacy Project still supplies textbooks and equips two computer centers where students get hands-on experience using standard business software like Windows, Word, and Excel for an hour a week. Fees collected by school administrators and managed by CoEd are used to replace books and equipment when they wear out. 

Each year, a new global grant from The Rotary Foundation extends the effort to another 40 or so primary schools and a dozen middle schools selected after meetings with community leaders, parents, teachers, and administrators. More than 480 clubs in Guatemala, the United States, Canada, Cayman Islands, England, and Japan have provided financial support. Every year, about 50 Rotary volunteers take part by delivering materials and visiting classrooms. 

After completing the training, most of the teachers continue to use what they’ve learned to enhance education in their communities.

“Does it always happen? No. But more often than not teachers continue to use the approach to learning, if not the specific model,” Johnson says........ 

Read more in Teaching the teachers by 

The Rotarian Conversation with Ban Ki-moon

Illustration by Viktor Miller Gausa

One of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s earliest memories is of fleeing with his family into the mountains during the Korean War, his village burning behind him. His father and grandfather had to forage for food in the woods; his mother gave birth to his siblings away from anything remotely resembling a health facility. “I have known hunger,” he says. “I have known war, and I have known what it means to be forced to flee conflict.”

The soldiers who came to their rescue were flying the blue flag of the United Nations. The UN provided them with food and their schools with books. And the experience sowed in Ban a belief in the transformative power of global solidarity, a belief he has spent his career working to achieve. 

A meeting with U.S. President John F. Kennedy at the White House after winning an essay-writing contest as a teenager inspired Ban to become a diplomat. He entered Korea’s foreign service in 1970, serving roles including ambassador and minister of foreign affairs and trade before being elected UN secretary-general in 2006.

Ban made polio eradication a top priority of his second five-year term. In 2012, he chaired a polio summit on the sidelines of the annual General Assembly, securing strong commitment to eradication from all the heads of state where polio is endemic as well as ministers from key donor governments, Rotary, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He has included polio messages in his briefings, during visits to polio-priority countries, and in statements at multilateral events including the General Assembly, African Union, and Group of Eight summits, and has personally participated in polio vaccination campaigns.

In 2016, Ban addressed the Rotary International Convention in Seoul and donated his $100,000 honorarium to Rotary’s End Polio Now campaign. “The ‘wind in our sails’ is Rotary International,” he now tells The Rotarian. “Thanks to its advocacy, we have been able to come within striking distance of a polio-free world. I will always be grateful to its leaders and its many volunteers on the front lines of this effort. They are truly noble humanitarians.”

Ban is stepping down from his position at the United Nations after a decade that saw declines in poverty and achievements in public health. But it was also a rough period for the UN, with rising violent extremism and an unprecedented population of refugees. His successor, António Guterres, former prime minister of Portugal, begins 1 January. The Rotarian’s Diana Schoberg interviewed Ban about polio, his legacy, and how Rotary and the UN can work together. “I believe the world is moving in the right direction,” he says. “I am generally hopeful.”

THE ROTARIAN: A cornerstone of your legacy will be the Paris Agreement on climate change. How were you able to rally people together about this issue?

BAN: It has been a long, hard road, but it has paid off. I went against all of my advisers by raising climate change with then-U.S. President George W. Bush in my first visit to the White House during my third week in office in 2007. He was a bit surprised – but he came on board. At the meeting in Bali where we adopted the first road map leading to the Paris agreement, the United States gave its last-minute support. President Bush confided to me at a private farewell lunch in 2009 that the U.S. delegation leader had phoned him from Bali for advice and he told her to do what I wanted.

While the outcome of the Copenhagen climate change conference in 2009 was not what we had expected, it was the start of a long road that led to the Paris Agreement. My vision to get to an agreement was based on one word: inclusion. The issue of climate is too important and too big for only governments to take on. We opened the doors of the United Nations to civil society and to the business sector. They, too, needed a seat at the table. Civil society has kept pressure on governments to act. Whether it’s the energy sector, the insurance industry, or transportation companies, they all have a role to play.

TR: What is your most unsung achievement at the UN?

BAN: I have made human rights a top priority, which is reflected across all areas of the United Nations. Human rights are integral to the Sustainable Development Goals [a set of 17 goals adopted in 2015 to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all within 15 years]. And after hearing “never again” over and over again in response to atrocity crimes, I created the Human Rights up Front initiative to prevent and respond to warning signs of looming atrocities.

I have also been proud to be the first secretary-general to speak out against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. And because I believe in leading by example, I backed up my words with full equality in terms of benefits. 

Sometimes in the world of diplomacy, “unsung” successes are destined to remain so. I have often employed quiet diplomacy, whether to ensure the release of an imprisoned journalist or convincing a leader to truly listen to the aspirations of his people. Quiet diplomacy is about letting the other party get the credit for doing the right thing. It’s not about me getting accolades.

TR: With the recent setback in polio eradication in Nigeria in mind, what is the key to ending polio?

BAN: Trust is essential. To earn and maintain trust, it is absolutely imperative that there be no politicization of polio eradication activities. Community and religious leaders are our best advocates in this effort.

The detection of wild poliovirus in Nigeria is a serious setback, but it is only a setback. The world has never been closer to eradicating polio, we have the tools and strategies that we know are effective in stopping the disease, and together we have reduced polio transmission to the lowest levels in history in just three countries worldwide. If we continue, with courage and determination, on our current trajectory, we will stop polio once and for all. Failure is not an option, and in the very near future, I believe we will deliver on Rotary’s promise of a polio-free world for all generations to come.

TR: What decision or course of action from your time as secretary-general would you change if you could?

BAN: I have made clear to the member states, and particularly to the members of the Security Council, that they work best when they are united. That is why I have felt so frustrated about the disunity in the Security Council when it comes to Syria. As I have argued, it shames us all that we as an international community have not been able to come together and halt this brutal war.  While that disunity has persisted, more than 300,000 people have died. I will keep working until my last day in office to resolve this horrific crisis, but I need the support of the member states – all of them.

TR: UN peacekeepers played a role in introducing cholera to Haiti after the devastating earthquake in that country in 2010. The epidemic has since killed 10,000 people and sickened 800,000. What can the UN do to restore trust?

BAN: It is clear that the United Nations has a moral responsibility to the victims of the cholera epidemic and for supporting Haiti in overcoming the epidemic and building sound water, sanitation, and health systems. During my own visit to the country, I made it clear that I deeply regret the terrible suffering the people of Haiti have endured as a result of the cholera epidemic.

I am working to develop a package that would provide material assistance and support to those Haitians most directly affected by cholera. These efforts must include, as a central focus, the victims of the disease and their families. The United Nations also intends to intensify its support to reduce, and ultimately end, the transmission of cholera, improve access to care and treatment, and address the longer-term issues of water, sanitation, and health systems in Haiti.

TR: The UN’s recent Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 are more numerous and seem more detailed than the Millennium Development Goals – 17 goals with multiple subpoints for each. What was the thinking behind that, and how can the UN and partners keep so many goals in focus?

BAN: I have heard the criticism that we have too many goals and they may be unwieldy.

These new goals matter because they will be the yardstick that everything between now and 2030 is judged against. These goals are far more than aspirations. They provide a guide for action in the key areas where countries will have to invest in order to move forward.

Moreover, the goals, including their subpoints, were not imposed by the United Nations bureaucrats like some forced agenda. The 17 SDGs are the product of long and detailed consultations by member states as well as the broader civil society through online portals and local meetings. We may have a big number, but the goals are a true reflection of what the world has been asking for.

TR: We are seeing globalism being rejected in many pockets. Nations are becoming less stable, and tribalism or religious sectarianism is gaining some appeal. What can the UN offer to counter these trends?

BAN: This has been a period of multiple challenges – from the financial crisis to the uprisings in the Middle East, from the rise of violent extremism to renewed geopolitical competition in Europe and Asia.

In times of uncertainty, we do see a rise of politicians who prey on people’s fear, especially when it comes to the rising number of refugees and migrants. We must reject the dangerous political math that says you add votes by dividing people, and we need to stand against bigotry and xenophobia in all its forms. The United Nations has just launched a campaign against this poison. It is designed to foster communities of inclusion and mutual respect – and we call it, simply, “Together.”

This time of uncertainty has also witnessed a rise in violent extremism. While it’s of course critical to counter this extremism, we must also work hard to prevent it. I recently put together the UN Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism, which places heavy emphasis on human rights. Experience with counterterrorism measures has underscored the need to avoid stoking the fires we are trying to extinguish. To this end, civil society organizations, like Rotary, have an important part to play by promoting inclusion and dialogue between communities.

TR: What advice can you offer Rotary leaders on working with people in a diverse, multicultural, global organization?

BAN: I’m not sure that I can offer any advice to Rotary leaders. Your organization is older than the United Nations and, arguably, you have a broader representation than we do. When I had the privilege to address your members recently in Korea, I think I counted more flags in the hall than we have at the United Nations!

Since you are asking, I will share some thoughts. Every day that I have worked at the United Nations, I have combined my efforts with people from every part of the world, and that has shown me the value of having as broad a range of viewpoints as possible when dealing with the world’s problems. I found that I gain much from listening to people from cultures other than mine who approach problems and solutions differently. That intellectual diversity, whether in the UN or any other organization, is to be cherished and nourished. We all have much to gain from listening to others. No one culture holds the keys to all the solutions.

TR: How can Rotary and the UN make the most of our partnership?

BAN: Rotary and other similarly engaged civil society organizations represent the best that the world has to offer. You understand the need to get involved and participate positively in the lives of your communities and the world around us.

We now have a global agenda to build a better, more equitable, more sustainable world. I would encourage Rotary International to embrace the Sustainable Development Goals and find within them areas where we could, as partners, replicate the success of the polio eradication campaign. 

What makes a Rotaract project outstanding?

Rotaract clubs bring together people ages 18-30 to exchange ideas with leaders in the community, develop leadership and professional skills, and have fun through service. In communities worldwide, Rotary and Rotaract members work side by side to take action through service.

Every year, Rotaract clubs around the world develop innovative solutions to community challenges. Rotary annually recognizes these high-impact, sustainable projects with the Rotaract Outstanding Project Awards.

So what makes a Rotaract project outstanding?

1) Change

1Last year’s Outstanding Project Awardee, the Rotaract Club of Bugolobi in Uganda, aimed to support a rural community with the highest impact possible. Working alongside local doctors and schools, they provided everything from school supplies to comprehensive medical screenings, dental exams, and HIV screenings and prevention education. Since access to clean drinking water is one of the primary reasons children miss school, the club also dug a borehole to bring clean water to the rural community.

2) A Cause

2Rotary is dedicated to six causes that build a better world. Outstanding projects work towards one or more of these six areas of focus. For example, the Turkish Rotaract Club of Istanbul-Dolmabahçe’s outstanding project focused on Saving Mothers and Children. Their project, “Still Child”, took a stand against young women and girls who are forced into underage marriage. The Rotaract club organized conferences in rural areas where the practice is still common to break the silence on the issue and bring awareness to resulting consequences.

3) Creativity

3Look at old problems with new, unique ideas. By imagining possibilities and trying new things, great solutions emerge. The Rotaract Club of the Caduceus in India upgraded outdated disease-tracking systems by harnessing new mobile technologies. This innovative approach improved disease surveillance to study epidemiological trends in the region.

4) Collaboration

4Rotary is about bringing people together to create change; we love to see Rotaractors and Rotarians working together in service. 12 Rotaract clubs from five districts across Turkey and Russia worked with the Down Syndrome Association to organize a communication and skills training for children and adults with Down Syndrome.

5) Commitment

5Dedicated Rotaractors are fundamental to creating outstanding projects. As part of the “Ready to Succeed” project, designed by the Rotaract Club of Brimingham, USA, high school juniors and seniors were paired with Rotaract mentors in aims of better preparing the students for college. The Rotaract mentors developed these relationships over a number of years, demonstrating their commitment to helping youth enroll in college.

- Molly Friend, Rotary Programs for Young Leaders Staff in Rotary Service Connections

Blog Posts

TRustee Chair's Message - January 2017

Posted by Sunil K Zachariah on January 2, 2017 at 6:32am

RI President's Message - January 2017

Posted by Sunil K Zachariah on January 2, 2017 at 6:29am

South Asia RYLA at Chandigarh

Posted by Amrit Pal Singh Dhiman on December 31, 2016 at 7:57pm


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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

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Chris Sweeney Elected as ROTI Chair for 2017 - 19

Chris Sweeney of 121 Technology Ltd and a member of the Rotary Club of Conwy, North Wales is elected as the Chairman of ROTI (Rotary International Fellowship of Rotarians on the Internet) for 2017-2019. Congratulations Chris!

Why I Am a Rotarian - Sunil

Keynote Address by PDG Sunil K Zachariah on 9 Sept 2012 at the RCGF of District 3190 at Bangalore

Rotary Institute, Cochin - 2009. PDG Sunil K Zachariah welcomes the gathering

How my first trip to Africa changed my life

Rotary members and Rotaractors took part in World Polio Day activities as part of the West Africa Project Fair.After an 18-hour flight from The Bahamas, I finally arrived in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, on 19 October to participate in the 11th West Africa Project Fair. As I stepped off the plane onto African soil for the first time, I did not know the adventure that was ahead of me, the lasting friendships I would make or how my life would forever be changed. That first moment getting off the plane, I remember being very excited and a little nervous.

Through the sponsorship of the Rotary Club of Rancho Cotati in California, I was able to embark on this journey with 34 fellow Rotarians and Rotaractors from the United States and The Bahamas. The West Africa Project Fair, the primary purpose of our trip, gave our group an opportunity to discover the various projects Rotarians across Africa are undertaking. It also allowed us to form partnerships with projects we were interested in supporting.

While at the fair, I presented with Rotaractors and Rotarians from the Bahamas, California, and Yenagoa, Nigeria, about our joint Telemedicine Project. Telemedicine allows doctors from California to connect with doctors in under-served areas to consult on diagnoses and treatment plans. Despite the distance, doctors have consistent access to mentors and educational opportunities through telemedicine. Our booth raised awareness about the project and encouraged clubs across Africa to participate, while forming new partnerships with clubs in the United States.

This trip allowed me to better understand how important Rotary is in other parts of the world. I was given an opportunity to engage in field work in the local communities, create strong friendships with the West African Rotarians and Rotaractors, and participate in hands-on humanitarian and health-related work.  It was truly a life changing opportunity.

Shapreka Clarke, president of the Rotaract Club of Eleuthera, The Bahamas in Rotary Voices

Read more about Shapreka Clarke’s experience on the Rotary Service Connections blog. 


Crossing the Choluteca bridge

For the past eleven years, I have traveled to Honduras with many other Rotarians to help on numerous Rotary humanitarian projects in the southwestern part of Honduras near the Pacific Ocean and in the mountains along the Nicaraguan border.

 Choluteca, Honduras.https://rotaryinternationalblog.files.wordpress.com/2017/01/170106_honduras_shack.jpg?w=150 150w" sizes="(max-width: 280px) 100vw, 280px" width="154" height="120" />

A homestead in southwestern Honduras.

The journey there takes me from Lawrenceburg via Nashville and Atlanta to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and then down a long mountain road that connects with the Pan-American Highway that crosses this bridge. The journey is not as important as what lies on the other side of the bridge. On the other side lies my destination and that is where the adventure begins.

The United States Army Corps of Engineers built this bridge between 1935 and 1937. It is one of the few replicas of the Golden Gate Bridge that still exists, and it controls the flow of traffic from Guatemala to Panamá.

It serves as a metaphor for our work in Honduras, where we try to be a bridge between the advances and prosperity that we enjoy in the United States today and the less-advanced conditions and poverty that lies on the other of the bridge.

For me, it is like traveling back in time about 50 years. It so much reminds me of the poverty and conditions of my early childhood when some homes around us still did not have electricity. A time when we had to rely on the charity of others, when most of the clothes that we wore were used, purchased at a secondhand store, or given to us. A time when we raised most of our food, milked cows, slopped hogs, and raised chickens. A time when we were proud of the things we had and were happy and unknowing of the prosperity that many enjoyed beyond our kin.

Helping the people of Honduras have a better, healthier life is rewarding for me; it’s a way of going back and helping that young woman and child and his brothers and sisters – the young woman and siblings of my youth.

You can’t pay back all of the people who helped you become who you are, but you can pay it forward and help others – that is the reward of Rotary’s humanitarian service in our world.

Neal Beard, a member of theRotary Club of Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, USA in Rotary Voices

New Year’s resolution: Stand up and be an ambassador for Rotary

It’s a new year, and here’s something you can resolve to do for your club and for Rotary in 2017.

Think about the last time someone gave you a “word-of-mouth referral” that influenced your decision to do something. Maybe a friend shared a new favorite restaurant over Facebook, or your neighbour recommended a plumber. Or maybe it was that friendly suggestion to come along to a Rotary club meeting that got you involved in Rotary in the first place. Regardless, you probably acted on the referral, in part, because it came from someone you trust!

If you’re passionate about Rotary like I am, I encourage you this year to become an ambassador for your own club — and more importantly for Rotary — by using your “word-of-mouth refNNew erral” power. Here are a few things you can do:

  1. Be Active online and offline. Being active online means posting, commenting, and sharing positive Rotary stories via social media. It’s that simple. Being active offline means you’ll need to be able to have meaningful and interesting conversations about Rotary and who we are and what we do to anyone and everyone.
  2. Wear the Rotary Brand. Wear the Rotary logo on your hat, wear your club shirt or Rotary lapel pin out in public, or change your Facebook profile picture to the Rotary logo for a week. You never know who you will run into or who will see it and the conversations that may be sparked by seeing you wearing some great Rotary apparel.
  3. Tweet. Share with your Twitter followers information about your clubs upcoming events, retweet Rotary International, and tweet about your own personal involvement with Rotary.
  4. Invite a Friend. Next time you are planning to volunteer at one of your club service projects or attend your club meeting, invite a friend along and/or alternatively invite them to like your Rotary club Facebook page.
  5. Share on Facebook. Go beyond just liking your Rotary Club’s or the Rotary International Facebook page and share posts from these pages.  Sharing a Facebook post from your clubs or other Rotary page’s will enable your friends to learn about Rotary and what Rotary is doing in the community.
  6. Tell People. Tell your family, your work colleagues, your Facebook friends, or anyone you meet, about your involvement with Rotary. Talk about your recent involvement with a club service project. Perhaps they never knew of your involvement and were always interested in learning more about Rotary.

Your support as a Rotary ambassador helps your club and the larger organization maximize their reach and increase awareness of the good we are doing in the world! By spreading the word, you may attract participants to things like Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) and Youth Exchangeraise funds for your projects, increase your online presence, and most importantly recruit members into your club.

So STAND UP in 2017 and make yourself an ambassador for Rotary.

Evan Burrell, Rotary Club of Turramurra, New South Wales, Australia in Rotary Voices

Our top 5 stories of 2016 - Rotary Voices

The Rotary Club of Alanya International, Turkey, with confetti and cake.

As the year draws to a close, we recap our top five stories of the year (based on number of views):

  • You might think Michael Bucca, a 32-year-old member of a Rotary Club in New Jersey, might try and modernize his club’s way of doing things. But Bucca shares why he feels Rotary’s trademark practice of drawing professionals together for face to face meetings has much to offer younger perople. Read What 30-Somethings need to know about Rotary.
  • How did your club celebration Rotary’s anniversary on 23 February? More than 25 clubs shared images of their celebration. See the slideshow.
  • The Council on Legislation in April passed progressive new measures that allow clubs greater flexibility in tailoring their structure to meet the needs of their members. Read General Secretary John Hewko’s blog post on What defines a Rotary club.
  • Evan Burrell, a frequent blog contributor and member of the Rotary Club of Turramura, New South Wales, Australia, muses on how clubs can reach young professionals. It may seem like young members are as elusive to catch as Pokémon, Burrell writes, but with the right strategy and awareness, it’s not that difficult at all. Discover his six tips in Where are all the young members?
  • One of the changes allowed by the Council is for members of Rotaract to become a member of Rotary at the same time. Read about Alexandria Ritchie’s experience.

- Rotary Voices staff in Rotary Voices

5 reasons to make a year-end gift to The Rotary Foundation

There’s still time to make your year-end gift to The Rotary Foundation. Here are a few ways that your support is helping to change lives all over the world:

Growing local economies: In the Esmeraldas Province of Ecuador, Rotary members have teamed up with a microfinance organization to provide small loans to poor women, teaching them to sew and bake so they can start or expand businesses. Global grant funds provide seed money for microloans and buy sewing and baking equipment for a training center where the women learn vocational skills and basic business management. Learn more about the project.

Educating childrenIn partnership with Head Start in Puerto Rico, a Rotary sponsored project is stimulating young children’s minds by using a tactile method for learning the sounds of letters. Using play, the Souns program motivates young children to become early readers and writers. Designed specifically for children from birth to five years — the time when research tells us that learning language and literacy skills is most effective — the project has reached 50,000 children. Grants from The Rotary Foundation purchase materials, and Rotary volunteers train local residents, who then train the teachers at the project sites. Help fund Rotary’s education efforts.

Fighting disease: Rotary members in California, USA, and Sinkor, Monrovia, Liberia, are using Foundation grant money to train health care workers in techniques to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV and to improve their ability to diagnose and treat infected women. The success of the project is measured in lives saved. Read more about the vocational training team’s efforts.

Promoting peace: Rotary’s most significant effort to promote peace is the Rotary Peace Centers program, established in 2002. Each year, the program trains some of the world’s most dedicated and brightest professionals, preparing them to promote national and international cooperation and to resolve conflict. They include graduates of a two-year master’s degree program and a three-month professional certificate program at Rotary’s partner universities. Watch a video highlighting Rotary Peace Fellows at work.

Ending polioThanks to you, we are closer than ever to ending polio. We have reduced cases by 99.9 percent since 1988, and with our partners, have immunized more than 2.5 billion children worldwide. To end polio for good, we need to reach every last child in Afghanistan and Pakistan, stop the newly detected outbreak in Nigeria, and protect the progress made in polio-free parts of the world. Eradicating polio is an achievable goal that will be known as one of the greatest achievements in history. And thanks to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is matching every dollar two to one, your donation works even harder. Learn more about our work to end polio.

- Rotary Voices staff 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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