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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

The Atlanta Convention

Presidential Peace Conference

$1.2 billion pledge to end polio

The power of one - A light on the issue of modern slavery at the Atlanta Convention

Winners of The Rotarian photo contest announced

Rotary Foundation named World's Outstanding Foundation for 2016

Sustainable projects earn top Rotaract honors

What makes a great global grant project

President Germ looks back on a productive year

Time to finish the job of eradicating polio - Paul Martin, former PM of Canada.

RIPE Ian Riseley on attracting new members, building strong clubs, and forming friendships that last

Rotary International to receive the Annual Bill Foege Global Health Award

What does it take to eradicate a disease? Just ask India.

 

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

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

Surgeons from India bring relief to underserved patients in Rwanda

Reasons to Love Rotary Right Now - The Rotarian staff

Rotary's 31-year struggle to wipe out polio

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

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

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

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

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Rotary International 2017 Trafficking Panel

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Ian Riseley, RI President 2017 - 18

Understanding the recent vaccine derived polio outbreaks in Syria and Congo

Outbreaks of vaccine-derived polio have been reported this month in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Syria, according to the World Health Organization.

At least 17 cases were identified in Syria and at least four in Congo. In both countries, health officials are working with the Global Polio Eradication Initiative to respond immediately to the outbreaks with supplementary immunization activities and field investigations.

To prevent the virus from spreading further, investigations and immunizations are also being strengthened in neighboring countries, the World Health Organization said.

Despite the new cases, the push to eradicate polio is stronger than ever, with fewer cases reported so far this year than ever before. It also got a boost last week at the Rotary International Convention in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, where donors pledged $1.2 billion for the effort. 

Vaccine-derived cases are rare, and they differ from wild cases. Here’s what you need to know to understand these outbreaks.

Q: What are the two kinds of polio cases?

A: Wild cases of polio are caused by poliovirus that is circulating naturally in the environment. 

Vaccine-derived polioviruses are extremely rare and exist under specific circumstances. Oral polio vaccine contains live virus that is weakened so that it will prompt the body’s immune response without causing paralysis. The vaccine is ingested, and the weakened virus replicates in the child’s gut and is then excreted. In areas with poor sanitation, this excreted vaccine virus can spread to other children. This can actually be good because it then immunizes them. When the strain no longer finds susceptible children, it dies out.

The problem occurs in areas of low vaccination coverage. There, such vaccine-derived strains of the virus can continue to circulate as long as they continue to find unvaccinated or otherwise susceptible children. While they continue to circulate, they mutate. Eventually, if they are allowed to circulate long enough — at least 12 months — they can mutate into strains that are strong enough to cause paralysis.

Q: Is the vaccine safe?

A: Yes. The oral polio vaccine has reduced the number of polio cases by 99.9 percent since 1988. The risk posed by wild poliovirus is far greater than the risk of an outbreak caused by circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus. Once wild polioviruses have been eradicated, use of oral vaccine will be stopped. 

Q: Are vaccine-derived cases common?

Health workers work diligently to monitor children and test sewage samples for the polio virus.

Photo by Miriam Doan

A: Polio cases caused by circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus are extremely rare. Wild poliovirus remains the far greater risk. Nevertheless, because of the small risk of vaccine-derived outbreaks, use of oral vaccine will be stopped when wild polioviruses have been eradicated. 

Q: Are wild cases common?

A: Wild poliovirus occurs only in the countries where polio remains endemic: Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan. Only six cases of polio caused by the wild virus have been reported so far in 2017. That’s the lowest number of polio cases in history, with fewer cases reported in fewer areas of fewer countries than ever before.

Q: How are polio cases detected? 

A: Polio surveillance has two parts: Doctors and health workers monitor children for the virus, and authorities test sewage samples from sewer systems or elsewhere, in areas that don’t have adequate sanitation facilities.

The detection of these most recent cases demonstrates that polio surveillance systems are functioning in both countries.

Q: What is the science behind the vaccines?

A: There are two types of vaccine: oral and inactivated-virus. The original oral vaccine protected against types 1, 2, and 3 of the virus.

Type 2 wild poliovirus was eradicated in 1999 so the current vaccine contains only type 1 and type 3. This allows it to provide quicker and better protection against the two remaining types. The inactivated-virus vaccine, administered by injection, contains virus that is dead. Because the virus is dead, the vaccine cannot cause polio outbreaks. 

- Ryan Hyland and Teresa Schmedding in www.rotary.org

Rotary’s new Virtual Reality film debuts at international convention

More than 3,000 people watched the debut of Rotary International’s new virtual reality film, “One Small Act,” Tuesday at one of the largest simultaneous viewings of a VR film.

The film follows the journey of a child whose world has been torn apart by conflict and supports the causes Rotary champions — including polio eradication and peacebuilding. The story evoked strong emotions and sensations from the crowd. 

Angus Frazer, of Quirindi, Australia, was among the thousands who registered for the event, which was a part of Rotary International Convention in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. 

“The film was great. A bit shocking; I didn’t really know what to expect from it but it was really cool,” he said. “I think the film’s message will open up the world a bit, to make people realize there are terrible things happening and there are people trying to help - Rotary being one of the main groups doing that.”

For some, it was their first experience with VR.

“One of the scenes is on a balcony, so you can look down and see the alley,” says Brenda Fernandez-Lango, of Covina Sunrise, California, USA. “I’m scared of heights and my body reacted because I was up on the balcony.”

Virtual reality allows people “see the magic of Rotary firsthand,” said RI President John Germ.

Attendees are eager to share the film when they return home.

“This will definitely have a positive effect on people,” says Angela Ofili, of Lagos, Nigeria. “Rotary has evolved, and that goes a long way toward having an impact in other people’s lives.”

“One Small Act” isn’t Rotary’s first VR film. “I Dream of an Empty Ward,” which premiered on World Polio Day last year, takes viewers to India to follow Alokita, a young woman paralyzed by polio as a child.

The film is available for viewing on Rotary’s VR app, which is available for Android and Apple products.

- Teresa Schmedding and Sallyann Price in www.rotary.org

Bill Gates outlines final push to end polio

Bill Gates, speaking on 12 June at the Rotary International Convention, highlighted the extraordinary progress that’s been made toward a polio-free world, along with challenges ahead. 

Speaking at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, Gates reminded the audience of more than 22,000 attendees, who were given LED bracelets to wear, that the effort must continue and be strengthened before polio cases can be reduced to zero. 

Calling the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) the “single most ambitious public health effort the world has ever undertaken,” Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, reviewed the historic milestones of the fight. 

At each achievement, including regions of the world being declared polio-free, sections of the arena were lit up by the LED bracelets, making the attendees a part of the presentation. 

Gates thanked Rotary for being the catalyst and visionary partner for ending the paralyzing disease worldwide. “Rotary laid the foundation with its unwavering sense of purpose and its belief that anything is possible if you put your mind and body to it,” he said. 

Since the GPEI effort began, polio cases have dropped a staggering 99.9 percent, from nearly 350,000 cases a year to only five cases reported this year, a record low. The virus has been eliminated in all but three countries: Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan. 

Gates noted that more than 16 million people who would otherwise have been paralyzed by polio are walking today. “The scale of this effort is phenomenal,” he added. 

"Polio is the thing I spend the most time on. Every day I look at my email to see if we have a new case," Gates said. "I'm very inspired to be a part of this. I'm also very humbled."

John Cena, WWE Superstar, actor, and Rotary polio ambassador, emceed the pledging moment at the general session and applauded Rotary for its determination. "You were the trailblazers who wanted to prove to the world that this insurmountable task could be done," Cena said.

Earlier in the day, leaders from countries all over the world joined Gates and Rotary in pledging new money toward filling the $1.5 billion gap in the funding that the GPEI estimates is needed to achieve eradication. Rotary announced that it is increasing its annual fundraising goal to $50 million. Since the Gates Foundation and Rotary began working together in 2007, the two organizations have raised nearly $1.5 billion for polio eradication efforts. 

Gates, who said his top priority for the last decade has been ending polio, acknowledged that challenges still lie ahead, especially in areas of conflict where polio remains endemic. “One of the toughest things to do is reach all the children who need the polio vaccine,” he said. “This is especially hard in conflict areas, because it is so difficult to build trust with all sides.”

But Gates also noted that Afghanistan, which still has areas of conflict, is nearly free of the virus. “That’s because the people running the [polio] program have helped build understanding that the only way to get rid of polio is to rise above political, religious, and social divisions.”

With fewer cases now than ever before, the surveillance and detection of the virus becomes more difficult. “To stop the virus completely, we have to know where it’s hiding,” said Gates. 

A network of 146 labs worldwide tests about 200,000 stool samples for the poliovirus every year; 99.9 percent of them are negative. But that tiny percentage of positive results will help health officials focus immunization activities to prevent the virus from spreading. In addition, in countries where polio remains endemic, 125 environmental detection sites test sewage, because the poliovirus can survive in sewage for a short time. 

Innovations inspired by polio eradication efforts can now have wide-ranging benefits for other global health campaigns, Gates said. Techniques like community mapping, disease surveillance, and expanding the role of health workers will help health authorities detect and contain other infectious diseases, like Ebola. 

“That is what is so exciting about Rotary’s 30-year fight,” Gates told the crowd. “You are not only eradicating one of the worst diseases in history. You are also helping the poorest countries provide citizens with better health and a better future.”

- Ryan Hyland and Teresa Schmedding in www.rotary.org

In defense of children: Ashton Kutcher and Rotary address the global scourge of human trafficking

Actor and philanthropist Ashton Kutcher took the stage today at the Rotary International Convention in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, to address a major human rights issue: human trafficking and modern-day slavery.

Kutcher, who rose to fame in the early 2000s with a series of hit film and television roles, is co-founder of Thorn: Digital Defenders of Children, an organization that combats human trafficking and the conditions that enable it. Trafficking in humans takes many forms but includes forced labor and sex slavery. It is among the world’s largest illicit trades, with many of the transactions happening online.

“As a young man coming up in the public school system in the United States, I thought slavery was done, a thing of the past," Kutcher said. "When I realized this was happening – happening even right here in Atlanta, a hotbed for trafficking as a travel hub – I was floored, and set out to learn as much as I could about it.” 

Thorn specifically works to address sexual exploitation and the proliferation of child pornography online. By exploring and supporting new digital strategies for identifying victims, deterring predators, and disrupting platforms, Thorn helps lead the global conversation on trafficking – a conversation that’s continuing at Rotary’s annual convention.

More than 40,000 people, including Rotary members, partners, and friends from 175 countries and territories, have gathered in Atlanta this week to exchange ideas on how they can work together to improve lives in their communities.

Kutcher joined other prominent voices for a panel discussion on trafficking and how communities can combat it. Gary Haugen spoke about his work as CEO of International Justice Mission, a nonprofit that aims to strengthen local law enforcement and support survivors of trafficking.

Also at the panel, U.S. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee discussed the legislative framework that allows traffickers to thrive in plain sight, and survivor Rebecca Bender offered moving testimony about the abuse she endured in the United States.

Recognizing the role that vast global networks like Rotary play in sustainable social change, Kutcher encouraged attendees to join the fight.

“There’s an inbound pipeline to trafficking," Kutcher said, "and that is vulnerability and poverty,” two issues that Rotary addresses through humanitarian projects and partnerships. Kutcher cited the example of the foster care system in the U.S. “Kids going into this system don’t have someone in their lives that loves them, which makes them vulnerable to someone who reaches out and shows them that attention. That’s how traffickers get in.”

Haugen pointed out that Rotary is already connecting with vulnerable groups, building relationships, and improving lives.

“What’s clear is this issue is everywhere around the world,” Haugen said. “There are survivors like Rebecca back home in your neighborhood and your country. Educate, serve survivors, and encourage local law enforcement, and Rotary can change this in our lifetimes.”

- Sallyann Price in www.rotary.org

Rotary world gathers in Atlanta to celebrate 100 years

Everyone you meet here this week, no matter how different they look, no matter where they’re from and what language they speak—everyone here is a part of your Rotary family. So don’t be shy. You might just find yourself a new friend, or your club a new partner. It all starts with a smile, and a hello—from one Rotarian, to another.

John F. Germ   
Rotary International president

Rotary’s biggest get-together of the year is underway. More than 40,000 members from 174 countries have gathered in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, to renew friendships, find inspiration, and celebrate The Rotary Foundation’s 100 years of Doing Good in the World.

The Rotary Foundation Centennial bell, whose resounding clang marked the convention’s official start, was handcrafted in Italy by the Marinelli brothers.

The 2017 Rotary Convention’s opening ceremony took place Sunday at the Georgia World Congress Center, and included the presentation of the centennial bell. This special bell was forged at a 1,000-year-old foundry in Agnone, Italy, in honor of the Foundation’s centennial. The presentation marked the start of a five-day centennial celebration, which includes a book signing, a photo exhibit, and an enormous birthday party.

During the opening session, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal welcomed Rotary to Atlanta, and RI President John F. Germ emphasized opportunities for making connections during the convention.

“I hope that, as busy as all of you are going to be, you still make time for what might just be the most important part of every convention: meeting new people, and getting to know your fellow Rotarians,” Germ said.

Indian philanthropist Rajashree Birla, chair of the Aditya Birla Centre for Community Initiatives and Rural Development named for her late husband, pledged another $1 million for Rotary’s efforts to eradicate polio. Birla has already contributed more than $7.2 million to the effort. 

Over the next four days, attendees will also hear from Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, about progress on our pledge to rid the world of polio. Ashton Kutcher, cofounder of Thorn, will be part of a panel discussion on human trafficking and the need to end modern slavery.  

Other speakers include WWE Superstar, actor, and Rotary polio ambassador John Cena and golf icon Jack Nicklaus.

Monday through Wednesday, members will have the chance to attend breakout sessions where they’ll find inspiration for new service projects, polish their leadership expertise, and learn skills for building stronger clubs. Find the complete breakout session schedule  and slides from workshops.

Fellowship is the biggest part of any Rotary Convention, and the week wouldn’t be complete without Host Organization Committee  events welcoming attendees to Atlanta, showing off the city, and giving members a chance to get together and socialize. Check the committee's site for the latest information.

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned this year, it’s that when two Rotarians get together, and start talking about service--there’s just no telling where that might lead,” said Germ. 

Follow all our convention coverage as the action happens. Find photos, videos, live blog posts, speeches, and more. And share your convention experience on social media with #Rotary17.

Highlights

Candlelight Vigil to End Slavery and Human Trafficking: Rotary members joined Atlanta residents at a candlelight vigil Saturday night to bring attention to human trafficking. The program featured Dorsey Jones, who told how she survived trafficking in metropolitan Atlanta. Participants observed a moment of silence for victims.

Walk/Run to End Polio Now: Rotary members took part in a 3K walk/run around Centennial Olympic Park Saturday morning to raise funds and awareness for Rotary’s efforts to eradicate polio from the world.

House of Friendship: The House of Friendship opened with a grand parade on Saturday morning. The bustling hall is where the Rotary world comes together to share ideas, best practices, and project successes. 

Bill Gates, keynote speaker: Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will speak about our joint effort to eradicate polio.

Panel Presentation on the End of Modern Slavery: Ashton Kutcher, cofounder of Thorn, actor, entrepreneur, tech investor, producer, and philanthropist, will lead a panel discussion with Gary Haugen, CEO of International Justice Mission, and Bob Corker, U.S. Senator. 

"One Small Act: A Virtual Reality Experience": Thousands will gather to watch Rotary’s new virtual reality film and participate in one of the largest ever simultaneous VR viewings. Rotarians will use Google’s virtual reality viewer, Cardboard, to join the extraordinary journey of a child whose world has been torn apart by conflict.

Jack Nicklaus, keynote speakerJack Nicklaus, golf icon, philanthropist, and Rotary ambassador for polio eradication, will speak about  his experience as a polio survivor.

The Rotary Foundation's 100th Birthday Party: What’s a party without cake and ice cream? Guests will enjoy both as they celebrate the Foundation’s 100th birthday. 

- Rotary International

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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

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

 
 
 

Unveiling Rotary's new public image campaign - People of Action

We are excited to reveal a new public image campaign, People of Action, at this year’s Rotary International Convention in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. As Rotarians from all over the world came to Atlanta, they are experiencing and learning about this global campaign for the first time at the convention, held at Atlanta’s Georgia World Congress Center, 10-14 June 2017.

Convention attendees are greeted by new People of Action advertisements on billboards at the airport and around the city of Atlanta. At the venue, the ads are prominently displayed in the convention halls—on the windows and banners throughout the conference center.

There’s also a full agenda to help introduce and inform Rotarians about the new campaign. During the plenary session this morning, John Smarge, Chair of the Communications Committee, showed the campaign video and talked about this campaign as an important next step in promoting awareness and understanding of Rotary, as well as the impact Rotarians make around the world.

  • Rotary’s social media team will publish the People of Action campaign on their Rotary channels in all Rotary languages.
  • There will also be two breakout sessions that will include information about the campaign. A session will run on Wednesday afternoon in Rooms B304-305: Becoming an Effective Rotary Communicator and Promoting Rotary in Your community

Whether you are attending this year’s convention or staying home, it’s a good time to start planning for how your club will use the People of Action campaign ad to promote Rotary in your community.

 - Rotary staff in Rotary Voices

RIPE Ian H.S. Riseley closes the Rotaract preconvention

Rotary International President-Elect Ian H.S. Riseley closed the Rotaract preconvention by looking ahead... to 2017-18, which marks the 50th anniversary of Rotaract.

“Rotaractors already understand Rotary, you’re already apart of the family, you know what we do and the philosophy behind it.” He highlighted the recent Council of Legislation decision granting full Rotary membership to Rotaractors, and urged sponsor clubs to help ease the transition from one type of club to another.

“People describe Rotaract as the future of Rotary,” he told the assembled crowd. “I prefer to think of you as a very important part of the present.”

- Rotary International

UN goals are a roadmap to peace - Presidential Peace Conference, June 10

The United Nations development goals for 2030 are all about building peace and strengthening institutions, said Amina J. Mohammed, deputy secretary-general for the United Nations, at the second general session of the Presidential Peace Conference Saturday. The day’s keynote speaker, Mohammed explained how the 17 goals line up with Rotary’s six areas of focus, and are designed to build a better world.

 “Sustainable development means peace, it means security.”

Mohammed also stressed how interconnected the world has become, and how it is important to leave no one out in the process of building peace. “There are no borders anymore in this world. We are all interconnected. We must not lose sight of human stories. We have to care about everyone.”

- Rotary International

Special bell cast to ring in The Rotary Foundation’s next century

While we still need to use our fantasy to search for that hidden gateway that can launch us into the future, finding one that takes you back in history is at our reach if you happen to be at the right place, at the right time. Upon entering the large wooden door of the Marinelli Foundry in the hilltop city of Agnone, Italy, it took only a few seconds to feel like I was stepping back in time. The  scene I witnessed was one my ancestors could have observed a thousand years ago.

Four silent workers formed a circle inside a knee-high hole,  stomping the ground with their feet and a stick attached to a 10 inch round wooden base. Their motion caused finer dust to lift into the air.

It was mid-March, and while the air outside was being cooled down by the winds that swept through the snow-capped mountains, the heat inside the foundry was rising fast as the day of the casting of The Rotary Foundation Centennial Bell was approaching.

The Marinelli family has been making bells for about a thousand years and today they still do it the traditional way, by hand and fire.

The word bell derives from the ancient God of Fire known as Baal, which means “Lord or Master.” In every age and country, the bell is a universal symbol and an instrument used to communicate, notify, alarm, summon, mark the time, and call to action. For about a century, it has been used by Rotary Clubs to mark the opening of meetings and to symbolize order and discipline.

The world-famous Marinelli foundry, the only one that was granted the use of the Pontifical seal, is owned by Armando and Pasquale Marinelli, two brothers who also happen to be Rotarians. Their passion and love for Rotary has brought them to create and donate a 110 pound ornamental bell to help celebrate the Rotary Foundation Centennial. The large and shiny bronze bell resembles the one they gifted in 2005 for the Rotary International Centennial, and which is currently kept on display at Rotary’s headquarters in Evanston. This new bell, however, is embellished with a selection of images, logos, and words which tell the story of the Rotary Foundation over the past 100 years.

Thanks to all the Italian Rotary Clubs and Districts this symbolic bell was shipped overseas. It arrived right on time to take center stage at the opening ceremony of the 2017 Rotary International Convention in Atlanta to ring in the next century of doing good in the world.

-  Francesco Bruno, Communications Specialist, RI Staff in Rotary Voices

RI Director, Ms. Hendreen Dean Rohrs - RI Vice President for 2017 - 18

RI Director, Ms. Hendreen Dean Rohrs will be the 2017 - 18 Vice President of Rotary International.

Dean Rohrs is an owner and administrator at Rhide Technologies Inc., which supplies soil stabilization products for road construction. Earlier in her professional career, she was a nurse in Cape Town, South Africa, working as part of Dr. Christiaan Barnard’s heart transplant team.

From 1959 to 1990, she was active in the Red Cross in South Africa. She also has served on the board of the West End Seniors Network, and currently serves on the board of a girls’ school in Malawi.

Rohrs has been a Rotarian since 1989 and has served as Rotary coordinator, regional Rotary Foundation coordinator, and district governor.

She is a Rotary Foundation Benefactor, Major Donor, and Bequest Society member. She and her husband, Reinhold, are Paul Harris Fellows.

Attending the RI Convention (virtually)

It would be wonderful if every Rotarian could experience at least one Rotary International Convention. It is a great venue to hear from our leaders, listen to keynote speakers, learn useful information at breakout sessions, and visit with Rotary Fellowships and Action Groups in the House of Friendship. Of course, the best part of attending a convention is the opportunity to enjoy fellowship with Rotarians from all over the world.

I have been a Rotarian for 29 years and have had the privilege of attending the conventions in Los Angeles (2008) and Birmingham, England (2009). I have great memories of both. Each year, I encourage members of my club and district to attend if they are able. This year my club had four members go to Atlanta.

During the past several years, social media and the Rotary website have enabled Rotarians not able to attend a convention to experience it virtually. Every day during the Atlanta convention, I enjoyed seeing the photos and comments from my Rotary friends who were there. I especially enjoyed seeing photos of Rotarians who are friends on Facebook meeting for the first time face to face. I would also visit the Rotary website to check out the articlesphotos, and videos. I was able to enjoy the speeches by Bill Gates, Andrew Young, Jack Nicklaus, our Rotary leaders, and others. I watched the opening ceremony at the House of Friendship and the celebration of The Rotary Foundation’s 100th birthday.

Bill Pollard, (right) with his mother and incoming President Ian Riseley at a zone institute in October.

I love being a Rotarian and I cherish my Rotary friendships. I look forward to attending more conventions and I hope every Rotarian will have the opportunity to do so. But when I am not able to attend a convention, I will be there virtually thanks to the Rotary website and my Rotary friends on Facebook.

As we approach the end of the 2016-17 Rotary year, I want to congratulate my “80-year-young” mother, Joan Pollard, for having a fun and successful year serving as the president of the Rotary Club of Petersburg, Virginia, USA. In May the club celebrated its 100th anniversary.

Bill Pollard, Rotary Club of Churchland, Portsmouth, Virginia, USA, and past governor of District 7600 in Rotary Voices

The most important thing in the world

As a child, I dreamed of teaching. But it took until my junior year of college to return to that dream. My undergraduate coursework had prepared me for the content, if not the pedagogical strategies, to effectively engage and teach adolescents English – reading, listening and viewing; writing, speaking, and presenting.

I figured I would pick up the rest of what I needed in graduate school in order to be able to teach. But I had no idea it would be in New Zealand. Through the benevolence of a global grant scholarship sponsored by District 7570, I earned a Master of Teaching and Learning at the University of Canterbury in 2016.

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Compton and Sha Litten (right). Says Compton “she was my mentor teacher on my first teaching placement — a delight to work with and learn from.”

The experience of living abroad in New Zealand was both memorable and life-changing. Along with all the tramps (Kiwi lingo for hiking) in such a stunningly beautiful country, I learned to be a culturally responsive teacher. My courses and teaching placements intentionally focused on how to improve the learning experience and outcomes of students from low socio-economic backgrounds, predominately in Māori schools. Last year, I arrived quite ignorant, but ended up learning so much (“heaps,” as they say in NZ) about Māori culture, the fundamental importance of relationships in the classroom, and how to teach in a discourse of inclusion that benefits all learners.

I think my living in New Zealand achieved “the advancement of international understanding, goodwill, and peace,” which is Rotary’s fourth guiding principle. I understand a different culture; indeed, one that didn’t seem all that different on first landing.

Back in the United States, I have effectively become an ambassador for Māori tikanga. In August, I will begin my first year teaching English in an impoverished community, with a largely marginalized student body. The specific circumstances of my future students may be different from those I taught in New Zealand, but after my year there, I am so much more aware of people’s cultures and how to embrace and build on place and space in the classroom.

In teaching – and in all of life – seeking service above self, I have found one whakataukī, or Maori proverb, to ring particularly true:

He aha te mea nui o te ao? (What is the most important thing in the world?)
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata. (It is the people, it is the people, it is the people.)

As I venture into this coming school year, may people and the building of relationships be the core of my teaching, service, and love. My deepest thanks will forever extend to both the Roanoke-area and Riccarton Rotarians for your partnership and support in aiding my career as an educator.

Jessica Compton, Rotary Global Grant Scholar to New Zealand in Rotary Voices

Rotary Convention 2018

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