Rotarian Action Groups: How can they help make your project more impactful?

By RAG4Clubfoot, a Rotarian Action Group

Every three minutes a child is born with clubfoot. That’s nearly 200,000 children each year. Thousands of these children around the world are forced to live with this deformity that limits their mobility, ability to walk to school, play with their friends, and eventually work.

RAG4Clubfoot has a simple mission: to support timely Ponseti Method treatment and appropriate care for all children born with clubfoot. The Ponseti Method was developed at the University of Iowa, USA, by Dr. Ignacio Ponseti. The method is nearly 100% effective when used properly by a trained healthcare provider and is considered the gold standard for clubfoot treatment.

082We aim to connect Rotarians with partners that provide expertise on Ponseti Method and to establish a national clubfoot program with the goal of local sustainability. Our group works with Ponseti International Association (PIA) at the University of Iowa to provide guidance and technical expertise on Rotary-supported Ponseti Method training activities, educational materials, and other clubfoot related activities. PIA also provides assistance on monitoring and evaluation of training programs and the quality of care provided at newly formed clinics.

Our Rotarian Action Group, in collaboration with PIA staff, coordinates webinars for host and international sponsors focused on writing global grants and training on what is expected from both partners throughout the grant process. We assisted Districts 4420 (Brazil) and 6000 (Iowa, USA) on a recently approved global grant application for a two-year Vocational Training Team (VTT). The goal of the project is to train 65 orthopedic surgeons and to develop a sustainable national clubfoot program.

Throughout the grant process, we provided:

Connection opportunities

  • We connected host Rotarians with our partners at the Ponseti International Association (PIA). PIA is a professional organization that can identify qualified Ponseti Method in-country and international trainers.
  • After they had briefly met during the Sao Paulo International Convention in June 2015, we formally introduced an interested district governor from D5300 to the project’s primary host contact. District 5300 went on to contribute District Designated Funds (DDF) to the project.

Access to experts

  • Through our partners, we connected the primary contacts with experts to assist on drafting the grant proposal. Experts helped detail the specific objectives of the Ponseti Method training, the training curriculum, explaining how the goals would be met and the sustainability related to long-term outcomes.


  • We promoted the project on the RAG4Clubfoot Facebook page, through our newsletter, and established a project page on our website. This dedicated page provides details on the project as it progresses.

We will continue to support and promote this project, and other similar projects in hopes of inspiring all Rotary members to get involved and take action to provide care for all children born with clubfoot. Contact us to get started on a similar project!


January is Rotary Vocational Service Month! Lend your expertise to empower Rotary members to make their service projects more impactful by joining a Rotarian Action Group. Rotarian Action Groups (RAGs) are autonomous groups of Rotarians, family members, program participants and alumni who are experts in a particular field. Group members share their expertise by collaborating with clubs and districts on service projects. View a list of all action groups and contact the one you’re interested in joining.

Ethical dilemma: what would you do?

After moving to a new town, you join a newly formed Rotary club as one of its charter member. During the club’s second year, the president-elect brings her partner as a guest to many of the meetings. The president-elect, displeased with the club’s web and digital media coordinator, confers with the club’s board to make her partner an honorary member so he can oversee the club’s digital content without becoming an official member.

Since the incoming club president’s partner has openly expressed his lack of interest in joining Rotary, you speak with a member of the board, saying that the naming of honorary members should not be used in this way. The board member explains that in this case the granting of the honorary membership was a strategic decision, made with the expectation that the current web and digital media coordinator would resign from the club. You are shocked to learn of the club’s interest in removing a member in good standing and contact your district governor to express your concerns. The governor isn’t shocked by the action and confirms that the club has the authority to make this decision.

What would you do?


Would you like to submit an ethical dilemma for discussion? Email us:

What makes a Rotaract project outstanding?

By Molly Friend, Rotary Programs for Young Leaders Staff

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 Outstand
ing 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.

Do you know of a Rotaract Outstanding Project? Submit a Outstanding Project Awards nomination by 1 February . To learn more about the projects referenced in this blog read about last year’s awardees.

How my first trip to Africa changed my life

By Shapreka Clarke, President of Rotaract Club of Eleuthera in the Bahamas

After eighteen hours of flying from the Bahamas, I finally arrived in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, on 19 October, 2016, to participate in the 11th West Africa Project Fair.  As I stepped foot on 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.

img_7080Through 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.  While in Port Harcourt, we participated in the project fair and community service projects which included visiting a community health clinic which provided free medications and a local school where we handed out back packs to students.  We visited historic sites and tried lots and lots of local food.

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 underserved 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.

One of the most memorable days of the trip was World Polio Day.  Our group was joined by local Rotarians and Rotaractors as we started activities early in the morning with a 1 kilometer walk through the Port Harcourt community.  This walk gave us an opportunity to see more of the community while also raising awareness about polio.  Para soccer players also accompanied us on the walk and we attended a para Soccer game at the end of the day.  Para soccer serves as a global employment mechanism for people with disabilities.  Watching these men play soccer despite their disabilities was truly inspiring.

After the walk we visited polio immunization health centers across Port Harcourt where we administered polio immunization drops to children under five years of age.  To be able to immunize a child and help Nigeria get one step closer to eradicating polio was an amazing experience that I will never forget.

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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.

The 2017 West Africa Project Fair will be hosted in Accra, Ghana, 4-11 October 2017. For more information, visit; contact to register.

Leveraging our vocational skills to help disadvantaged youth succeed

By Quentin Wodon, Author of the Rotarian Economist Blog, President of the Rotary Club of Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and Lead Economist at the World Bank

In the Washington Metropolitan Area, the Capital City of the United States, more than 17,000 young adults ages 18 to 24 are considered disconnected from work and school. Quite a few of them live in or near Capitol Hill, which is where my Rotary club is located. These youths often come from low-income families, are not in school and are not working. They typically face multiple challenges, including homelessness, issues with the courts, or substance abuse.

These challenges prevent them from successfully transitioning into adulthood. They are a serious threat to long-term community development, not only because of the risks of violence and criminality that arise when youth do not have the tools to succeed, but also because of the sharp impact that their current challenges may have on their future ability to make a living. For a community to prosper, all youth need to be able to grow and contribute.

However, there is hope. Programs reaching out to these youths have been proven to work. Latin America Youth Center (LAYC) is one of the few  nonprofits in Washington, DC, implementing rigorous impact evaluations of its programs. LAYC was founded in 1968 and serves 4,000 individuals per year.

The organization uses an innovative approach to address the needs of youth at especially high risk. Its flagship initiative, Promotor Pathway, is a long-term, intensive, holistic case management and mentorship program. Data from a five-year evaluation suggests that the program has led to positive changes in terms of increasing school enrollment, reducing birth rates, and reducing homelessness among participating youth.

Shayna Scholnick, the Director of the Promotor Pathway program for the District, was a guest speaker at our bi-weekly meeting of the Rotary Club of Capitol Hill in late August 2016. She shared some volunteer opportunities. There are many opportunities for our club members to get involved with this type of community-based partner.

We decided to support LAYC by sharing our professional skills. As part of our pro bono initiative,  described previously on this blog, we have put together a small team of five professionals to prepare a cost-benefit analysis of LAYC’s Promotor Pathway program.

The team includes Rotarians as well as non-Rotarians. Three of us are looking at the value the program’s benefits such as school enrollment, the reduction in homelessness, and the reduction in pregnancies. The fourth member of the team is researching other similar programs and the fifth member is looking at the cost data.

Together we hope to be able to demonstrate that the program’s benefits are much larger than its costs, which would help LAYC raise more funds and expand its program nationally. In doing this work pro bono, we feel that we are in a small way contributing to community development in our area.



Your favorite stories from 2016

As we head into the new year, we’re taking a look at back at 2016. Here are your five favorite stories from this past year (based on views):

  1. Rotary offers many programs that allow you to engage with fellow members and make new connections outside your club and district. Learn how to make the most of your Rotary membership.
  2. The Rotary Club of New York hosts monthly breakfast meetings at the United Nations with UN officials and representatives of its member states. Each meeting is broadcast live for Rotary members around the world.
  3. During September, Rotary Literacy Month, we encouraged members to take action to support basic education and literacy projects.
  4. July’s ethical dilemma encouraged a discussion regarding funding and sponsorships.
  5. When disaster strikes, Rotary’s project partner ShelterBox often works closely with Rotarians to evaluate local needs and devise a plan for immediate response. Members of the Rotary family assist response teams with disaster assessments, serve as housing response team volunteers, help coordinate relief logistics, and sponsor aid.

Tell your Rotary story: add completed projects to Rotary Showcase, share on Facebook and Twitter, and submit a blog post.

Rotary’s commitment to creating a healthier world

By Rotary Service and Engagement Staff 

Rotary members are committed to fighting and preventing diseases. In fact, 15 of our 26 Rotarian Action Groups (RAGs) are focused on disease prevention and treatment. Rotarian Action Groups help Rotary clubs and districts plan and carry out community development and humanitarian service projects. Here are a few examples of RAGs whose members are committed to applying their expertise to fighting disease:

  • The Alzheimer’s / Dementia Rotarian Action Group (ADRAG) aims to help those who face the challenge of dealing with family members and citizens that are afflicted with Alzheimer’s and/or dementia. ADRAG is involved in various projects and initiatives; they are currently working with 21 districts. Read about their work.
  • Rotarians for Family Health and AIDS Prevention (RFHA) helps clubs and districts plan and implement large scale projects that improve lives and provide access to health-related education, preventative health care, and resources for treatment. Their signature Rotary Family Health Days program promotes disease prevention and treatment by implementing a massive, annual campaign across hundreds of sites in four countries in Africa and in India that provides free health care services to thousands of people in underprivileged communities.
  • Food Plant Solutions Rotarian Action Group focuses on addressing malnutrition, hunger and food security through the use of readily available local food plants. This self-sustaining solution empowers people to understand local food plant resources and allows them to feed themselves and their families. Learn more about their work.
  • Rotarian Action Group for Diabetes assists clubs and districts on projects that provide a strong commitment to education, identification, and treatment of diabetes, especially among children in developing countries, while raising awareness of this devastating disease throughout the Rotary world. Read more.

In observance of Rotary Disease Prevention and Treatment Month in December, we encourage you to collaborate with an action group on a club or district health care project.  Download a list of all disease prevention and treatment focused action groups and make your next project more impactful.



Connecting for good at Multi-Club Workshops

By Leonardo de Angelis, Rotary Club of Ravenna (Italy), immediate past District 2072 Rotary Foundation Chair, and founder and coordinator of the Multi-Club Workshop

Since 2007, I have had the pleasure of working with Rotarian friends, new and old, to organize Multi-Club Workshops, an annual meeting where international Rotarians, relatives, and friends meet to foster intercultural dialogue, inspire each other through their humanitarian projects, and build partnership for international projects and global grants.

This year’s event was particularly special as a group of more than 60 participants descended upon beautiful Palermo, Italy, to participate in the 10th annual Multi-Club Workshop (MCW) while also celebrating the 100th anniversary of The Rotary Foundation. With heartfelt thanks to the great support of the Rotary Club of Palermo Teatro del Sole and District 2110 (Sicily & Malta), the September 2016 MCW welcomed participants from 25 clubs representing 10 districts and six countries: Bosnia & Herzegovina, Italy, Russia, Sweden, the UK, and the United States.

We were also joined by two representatives from Rotary and The Rotary Foundation, Lauren Ribant Regional Grants Officer, and Ellina Kushnir, Supervisor of Service and Engagement, who presented about resources to support and enhance projects and important considerations when applying for grant funding from TRF.

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The first two days of the event were filled with cultural immersion, exploring historic sites and eating delicious food, seeing local Rotary club projects, getting to know fellow participants and learning about their personal, professional, and Rotary lives, and engaging in fruitful discussions about resources and collaborating to maximize good.

The event culminated in a full-day workshop where we discussed strategies and resources for successful service projects and grants, learned about the many challenges facing communities around the world, and heard project proposals from eight Rotary club-led projects. The eight projects will benefit communities in Bosnia & Herzegovina, the Congo, Greece, India, Myanmar, Philippines, and the U.K. The total value of these projects is equal to US $550,000. This year, through a preferential vote, all of the participants voted to support one of the presented projects with a pooled sum of US $4,342 (EUR 4000). With a tie in votes, two projects each received US $2,171 (EUR 2,000) to support their respective goals. We’re continuing to foster the relationships we made at the event and build partnerships to support each other’s projects. Each project exhibitor is now actively seeking to connect with international partnering clubs to begin implementing the projects presented at the 10° MCW.

Over the past 10 years, 45 projects with a combined value of US $2.18 million identified partners and received support as a result of the Multi-Club Workshop. Since our first event was hosted in 2007, more than 660 Rotarians and their families have participated in the workshops. Our workshops are hosted in a different country every year, and we welcome new exhibitors seeking project support along with.

Join us next year in London, England, for our 11th annual event. The 2017 Multi-Club Workshop will take place 6-10 September. Visit our website for more information and contact me to reserve your spot at next year’s event!



Taking action against Alzheimer’s and dementia

By The Alzheimer’s/Dementia Rotarian Action Group

Nearly 45 million worldwide live with Alzheimer’s. The Alzheimer’s/Dementia Rotarian Action Group (ADRAG) is a collection of Rotarians and Rotaractors dedicated to supporting the Rotary family and our communities. We aim to help those who face the challenge of dealing with family members and citizens that are afflicted with Alzheimer’s and/or dementia.

This challenge is very real.  Some call it the silver tsunami—the wave of men and women living longer than previous generations.  Yet our communities and nations are not ready to face the rising tide of those suffering from these diseases.  Today, one in eight older Americans has Alzheimer’s, and the risk of developing the disease doubles every five years after the age of 65. We started the Alzheimer’s / Dementia Rotarian Action Group (ADRAG) to help address this challenge.

ADRAG is involved in various projects and initiatives; we are currently working with 21 districts on related projects. We encourage you to get in touch with us to learn more and take action. Below are some examples of our work:

Supporting research

Two thirds of those impacted with Alzheimer’s / dementia are women. A woman at the age of 65 faces almost twice the risk of developing Alzheimer’s in her lifetime as a man of the same age. Yet, very little is known or understood about why women are at a higher risk.

Dr. Rudy Tanzi, a leading researching from Harvard and the Massachusetts General Hospital is working to find a cure for Alzheimer’s. In collaboration with the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, Dr. Tanzi has agreed to help determine why women are at a higher risk.  ADRAG advised on this project and helped connect the Rotary Club of Martha’s Vineyard in the United States with the Rotary Club of Toronto in Canada to partner on a global grant for the research project.

Organizing a fun meeting space

ADRAG advised on the Memory Café project providing social support for people with dementia. The café offers a meeting place to gather for refreshments, conversation, music, movies, and entertainment. The Massachusetts Council on Aging provided a grant and the town provided a site with volunteers from the community. Since the project began in July 2016, we’ve had three meetings with 25 participants per meeting!

Creating friendlier communities

The initiative to create dementia-friendly communities was first created by Rotarians Tony Parker and Geri Parlby of RIBI’s Rotarians Easing Problems of Dementia (REPoD). By creating dementia-friendly communities, we increase awareness and understanding of the disease in the business, social and physical environments in which we all live.

The initiative first started in the town of Tavistock in England where social isolation was one of the biggest concern facing those with dementia. Research showed that people living with dementia and their care givers had three priorities: to feel safe and not embarrassed, to continue enjoying things they had always done, and to feel like they still belonged to the local community. Initiatives such as creating community sensory gardens, briefing social organisations such as churches and golf clubs on dementia, and encouraging dementia-friendly outdoor activities such as walking and photography were launched. More than 500 people in the town have received ‘dementia-friendly’ training and over 30 businesses and social groups are recognised as being dementia-friendly.

ADRAG hopes to expand this project to the USA. An estimated 120,000 people in Massachusetts alone lives with Alzheimer’s, and the number is expected to grow as the population grows older. We hope to reach as many people as we can in collaboration with Rotary clubs in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

ADRAG aim to leverage members’ experience, resources and the Rotary network to support and promote Alzheimer’s and dementia-related projects of all sizes at the local club, district, and international level by providing a global platform for collaboration, education, and support. Visit  to access resources, become a member, or request assistance.

Make new friends around the world

By Zuhal Sharp, Rotary Service and Engagement Staff

The International Fellowship of Draughts Playing Rotarians Rotary Fellowships provide a great way to make new friends around the world and enhance your Rotary experience. Currently there are more than 70 Rotary Fellowships. These are autonomous internationally organized groups of Rotarians, family members, program participants, and alumni who share a common passion.

As we wrap up the 2016 calendar year, we wanted to share some new fellowships that were recently recognized by the RI Board of Directors:

                        • Whisk(e)y Drinking Rotarians and Members (DRAM) offers opportunities to learn about Whisk(e)y, food pairings and other topics related to the appreciation of all whiskies produced worldwide. Visit their website or contact chair Terry Moore.
                        • The International Fellowship of Draughts Playing Rotarians fosters friendship among those who enjoy playing the game of draughts (checkers). The group plans to organize individual matches and team tournaments. They encourage Rotaractors and Interactors to join to develop skills that are useful in academic pursuits. Contact chair Bola Oyebade.
                        • Ethics Fellowship of Rotarians connects Rotarians interested in ethics; promotes ethics in all personal and professional interactions and in future generations. Join their group on Facebook or contact chair Sergio Levy.
                        • Table Tennis Fellowship of Rotarians attracts those interested in table tennis. Follow their Facebook page or contact chair Saadet Garan.
                        • The Russian Culture Worldwide Fellowship aims to connect those interested in Russian culture to promote cultural understanding, Russian literature, music, architecture, ballet, and support the study of Russian language. Contact chair Arthur Eckstein for more information.
                        • The International Fellowship of Rotarian Military Veterans will connect Veterans from all over the world and support Rotary’s Peace and Conflict Prevention/Resolution efforts.  Visit their website, or contact chair James C. Holloman.
                        • The Fellowship of Rotarian Genealogists (FORG) unites Rotarians with an interest in family history and genealogy. The group plans to exchange ideas on genealogical research, assist fellow Rotarians in their research, and promote understanding and peace through the demonstration of how people are part of a global family. Follow their  Facebook page or contact chair Lawrence Tristram. 

View a complete list of Rotary Fellowships or form a new one today!