Fostering peace through Rotary Friendship Exchange

By Daniel Dumitras, Rotary Club of Timisoara Ripensis, Romania, and participant in a Rotary Friendship Exchange visit to District 5110, USA

I love watching movies. Through movies, you can meet new people, places, and learn new facts. One of my favorite quotes comes from the movie Casablanca: “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”.  I felt like I was living in a real-life movie when our district hosted the Rotary Friendship Exchange team from District 5110 (Oregon, USA) in 2015. You can talk about real, beautiful and profound friendship when you talk about people like Camille, Susie, Amanda, Laurie, Marylyn, Emily, Jim, Don, Ted, Davis, Tyson and Rick.

I’ve learned that Rotary’s founding pillar Service Above Self is impossible without friendship because “We are not alone… “(Did I mention I also like music?) We are an organization of more than 1.2 million members. Our goal of service unites us, but our friendships make it possible to achieve our goals.

Being someone’s friend means first understanding and accepting him and second sharing similar values. When we were planning our reciprocal visit to Oregon, I mentioned we will first visit New York City before arriving in Oregon. Somebody replied that I will be a little disappointed because Oregon isn’t as big and grand as New York, but I was steadfast: I said our friendships with the Rotarians from Oregon are big, my friends are big with big hearts and big characters. I place my experiences above my expectations. And after all what really matter are people and I’m sure our visit in Oregon will be the final lesson for us about being a truly Rotarian.

In May 2015, District 2241 (Romanio/Moldova) spent two fantastic weeks hosting a Rotary Friendship Exchange team from District 5110 (Oregon, USA). We traveled together, we showed our country, we showed our lifestyle, we showed our history, but more importantly, we show some of our service activities and worked together on a project. We combined fun and friendship to help the community. As Rotarians, we hold the ingredients to that magical recipe. The exchange was a mixture of fun, common activities and getting to know new people and a new culture. We fostered greater awareness of ourselves and our new friends, exchanged values and beliefs, and opened ourselves to new opinions, perspectives, and ideas. We were joined by Rotaractors, Interactors and Rotakids. Rotakids is a Rotarian-sponsored program for children between seven and 12 years of age. I’m very proud that even though we have five Rotary clubs, four Rotaract clubs, and three Interact clubs in Timisoara, we jointly sponsor one Rotakids club. We take pride in jointly fostering a love for Rotary’s values from a young age.

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During our August 2015 visit, our hosts in Eugene treated us to many local staples. We visited a local winery and tasted some of Oregon’s wonderful wines.  We experienced an American baseball game. We were interviewed on a local radio station, participated in karaoke at a 1950’s style diner, and enjoyed hikes and Oregon’s beautiful beaches. One of our team members brought paintings she had painted to raise money for basic education and literacy projects for youth in Eugene and in Moldova.  We also worked on a Habitat for Humanity project where we helped local Rotarians build a home in Eugene.

Even though I have many scenes to add to my memories of this trip, the lasting most important memories will always be the people I met and the lasting friendships I have made!

We have agreed to do another exchange between our two districts in 2017 to give more people an opportunity to be a part of this great program.


Peace fellows dig in to Rotary’s areas of focus

Originally featured in the February Rotarian Magazine

The Rotary Peace Centers program is Rotary’s long-term response to conflict. Rotary Peace Fellows work to address today’s most pressing global issues, including their work in Rotary’s six areas of focus. Read their stories and see how investing in the peace fellowships pays lasting dividends.

Saving mothers and children, fighting disease

Adrien Lokangaka grew up in a small village in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  He lacked many things–but when he needed it, he had medicine. What does public health have to do with peace? Everything, Lokangaka says: “Congo is a country that has been devastated by war. People need not only the end of war, but they also want to be free from the consequences of war, and one of those is bad health. I am helping to improve health outcomes among the population, so that they may be at peace with themselves.”

Growing local economies

After her Rotary Peace Fellowship, Summer Lewis took a job in Oaxaca, Mexico, as the international program coordinator for Coffee Kids, a nonprofit that works with coffee-farming communities in Latin America. In January 2015, she co-founded True Roots Consulting to foster social responsibility programs. “My real interest was in preventing conflicts by addressing the root of the problem, such as when people can’t meet their basic needs and resort to violent measures or to migration. People ask how one little project in one little community makes a difference. But you can’t think of it like that. … Think about all the Rotary clubs carrying out projects in communities. Now you’re talking about changing the world.”

Providing clean water

Growing up on his family’s farm in Lusaka, Zambia, Muyatwa Sitali understood the power of water in his own life. But it wasn’t until Sitali began his Rotary Peace Fellowship that he came to realize the profound and far-reaching need for clean water globally. “Too often, the cause of the conflict was the result of inequality,” Sitali notes. “Providing water and sanitation may not guarantee peace, but it reduces the chance of grievance that leads to armed conflicts.”  After his fellowship ended, Sitali was a consultant for the World Bank and now for UNICEF. He has teamed up with Rotarians to provide basic resources to communities recovering from violence.


Growing up in India, Sachin Rane dreamed of being a police officer like his father and grandfather. Rane became a Mumbai police officer in 1991. In 2013, Rane was selected for a short-term Rotary Peace Fellowship at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. There, he studied international human rights law, security sector reform, theories of neutrality, racial discrimination, and the importance of neutral third-party intervention in conflicts. That year, Rane put what he learned into practice when he was selected to be a crime investigation officer at the UN Headquarters in Juba, South Sudan, a new nation still suffering from decades of civil war. “After the training I received in the Rotary peace course, I have become more people-oriented rather than a rigid law enforcer,” he says. “I try to study the causes that lead to an incident.”

Supporting education

Rabia Raja founded Sunshine Consulting Welfare Organization, a Pakistan-based nonprofit that brings educational resources to the country’s rural schools. “Education is something that cannot be taken away; it’s a part of you as long as you are alive — you don’t lose it. You only add to it.”



Join my quest for peace

By Past District Governor Anton Polsterer, District 1910; Past Chair of Inter-Country Committees worldwide

I want to share my experience in a multi country district afflicted by war, specifically civil war, and how Rotarians and Rotary clubs can help reestablish mutual understanding and goodwill. Our efforts can help heal the wounds caused by political and civil unrest by creating a climate, which renders future conflicts difficult and hopefully impossible.

I joined Rotary in Vienna in 1986 and transferred to the Rotary Club of Moscow while working in Russia from 1989-92. Later, after moving back to Austria, I became District Governor for Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Hungary, Slovenia and Austria. After years of war and totalitarian government rule, these communities longed for freedom and peace.

Our district had 130 clubs with more than 5000 Rotarians. We represented five different nationalities and languages. Croatia and Bosnia were heavily hurt by the Yugoslav civil war in the 1990s: Bosnia and Herzegovina had a pre-war population of 4.5 million people including Orthodox Serbians, Catholic Croatians and Bosnian Moslems. During the war, close to two million people, almost 50% of the population was displaced within their own country to create “ethnic” regions. From the very beginning, we have aimed for ethnic diversity in our clubs, which wasn’t easy after all the displacement.

The real breakthrough came with the Rotary Club of Mostar (Bosnia), chartered in 2002. The club started many projects in the spirit of tolerance and ultimately succeeded in reuniting Rotarians from both the Croatian and the Moslem side of a town divided by bloody conflict and physically separated by the Neretva River. The rebuilding of the old stone bridge, which was destroyed during the war in order to separate the town’s population into Croatians and Bosnian Moslems became an important symbol of reuniting the two ethnic groups. Rotarians from the Mostar club were instrumental in coordinating and overseeing the project, and eventually organizing the bridge reopening ceremony. In 2004, the opening of the bridge became a symbol of unity and a national symbol of peace.

Experience in our district has shown that inter-country meetings and projects not only lead to better understanding between Rotarians but can also act as a catalyst for clubs within a country with a longstanding history of internal conflict. It became clear to me that I had to work with Inter-Country Committees (ICC) whose vision is peace for all countries in the world. ICCs aim to implement bilateral projects with a focus on peace building. To form an Inter-Country Committee between two countries, clubs and districts partner in each of the countries, to get to know each other better and create an environment of common understanding and mutual empathy.

Empathy is the best vaccine against conflicts and war, and maybe even against terrorism. Today conflicts, terrorism and war continue to plague many parts of the world. Therefore I am asking you, my friends in Rotary and especially in Inter-Country Committees, to refocus our service projects on peace building.

Normal service projects like equipping a clinic or digging wells are fairly straightforward. A peace project is different. You have to invest in exploring project ideas and feasibility for both sides. It has to be acceptable for both countries. In the beginning, results are not obvious. Peace building is a lengthy process requiring time and patience. You get deeply involved without immediate positive feedback. Your highest reward will be long-term success.

To encourage and support this quest for peace, I have launched the 10k USD Challenge and Contest for the Best Bilateral Peace Project. Through the Rotary Foundation, I’m donating USD $10,000 for the best peace project. I’d like to challenge everyone to implement peace projects, which address specific concerns while incorporating cultural and ethnic values. Successful bilateral projects should create an environment encouraging both sides to remove barriers to build long-lasting peace.

Sometimes the best peace projects don’t focus on the conflict itself but rather initiate communication and cooperation between two parties. I also encourage you to go beyond the contest and find opportunities to incorporate peace components into all your service projects.



Rotary members are committed to creating a peaceful world

By Azka Asif, RI Programs Staff

Millions of people all over the world are currently displaced by armed conflict or persecution. In fact, 90% of casualties in armed conflicts are civilians, half of which are children. Through service projects and Rotary programs, the Rotary family is committed to pursuing projects that address the structural causes of conflict, including poverty, inequality, ethnic tension, lack of access to education, and unequal distribution of resources.

Rotarians train adults and young leaders to prevent and mediate conflict, and aid refugees who have fled dangerous areas. During February, Rotary Peace and Conflict Prevention/Resolution Month, we’re celebrating our commitment to build peace and mitigate conflict. Here are just a few examples of how Rotary members are working to create a peaceful world:

  • Each year Rotarians from District 5100 are involved with the Cyprus Friendship Program (CFP) which brings together Turkish-speaking Muslims and Greek-speaking Christians in Cyprus. Historically these communities have been divided by a United Nations buffer zone since 1974. CFP is a year-long peace-building and leadership training program with a four week cultural exchange component in the United States. By developing cross-cultural friendships, participants build mutual respect for each other, breaking down historical stereotypes and mistrust. Upon returning to Cyprus, these young leaders encourage their communities to embrace the idea of Greek-speaking and Turkish-speaking Cypriots living together peacefully.
  • say noIn an effort to create a welcoming environment for refugees fleeing to Germany, the Rotary Club of Altenburg’s Weltcafé (World Café) project aims to unite the local community with refugees. The cafe offers a space for Rotarians, Rotaractors and community members to get to know refugees while knitting,singing, dancing or helping them find a job. A lawyer and social worker also offer free services to participating refugees.
  • The Rotary Club of Abuja Kubwa in Nigeria aimed to raise awareness in their community about violence before, during and after general elections. During the campaign, fliers were distributed promoting the importance of peace during elections and calling on residents to follow the rules when trying to win votes.
  • Day-4_RotaractMUN-007-1024x683[1]Rotaract MUN is an annual international Model United Nations conference for youth participants from all over the world. Originally founded by the Rotaract Club of Baia Mare in Romania, the conference is held in a different city and hosted by a different Rotaract club each year. The conference aims to promote and encourage awareness, understanding, tolerance and acceptance of different people, cultures, beliefs and attitudes.

Throughout the month of February, encourage fellow Rotary members to check back here for tips, resources, and inspirational success stories to help plan club and district peace and conflict resolution projects. Add your voice to the conversation by using the blog’s commenting feature and share how your club peace and conflict resolution initiatives on Rotary Showcase.




West Africa Project Fair exhibits the power of Rotary

By Dr. John Philips, Past District Governor of District 1040 and Chairman International Fellowship of Rotarian Doctors

Natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes bring the best out of Rotarians. We roll up our sleeves, rattle tins, raise money and deliver support, care and assistance.

When a Rotarian colleague recently told me he was disappointed with the outcome of his club’s emergency assistance efforts to another country some years ago, I was not surprised. “Our results were most unimpressive. The disaster relief help we had provided was a gut reaction, unplanned, disorganized, and driven by the international community” he told me.

Historically, developed countries have often tried to impose their own solutions for challenges faced by developing countries. We can stop this through Rotary.

A few years back, I saw a large wooden box in a hospital in Tanzania. The box contained an x-ray machine donated by a North American group. The box was never opened. The hospital did not have electricity and did not know what to do with the machine.

Through the Rotary network, we have opportunities to build sound international partnerships to work on service projects outside of our immediate communities. I was privileged to meet a group of West African Rotarians in Abidjan last month at the 10th annual West Africa Project Fair. The event was created in 2005 by Rotarians from 15 West African countries to facilitate international partnerships to help address the primary challenges in the region. This year, the Fair was hosted in Cote d’Ivoire by District 9101.

The West Africa Project Fair was a unique opportunity to build international partnerships while experiencing a new culture and creating life-long friendships. We met local Rotarians and Rotaractors to learn about their priorities and talk about club and district projects in need of assistance.  More than 30 West African projects were exhibited during the Fair– all well planned and well explained.

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I was part of a group of 34 international visitors from Canada, England, Guadalupe, Mauritius, Rwanda, Turkey and the United States. We met more than 100 participants from West Africa: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Senegal. We listened to presentations from The Rotary Foundation on the new grant model and sustainability, Rotary’s project resources, Rotary’s Areas of Focus, and stewardship. We met with each project exhibitor to learn about their initiative and discuss projects in hopes of working with each of our clubs and districts back home to partner on at least one of the exhibited projects.

We toured Abidjan with our hosts, visited with the U.S. Ambassador to Cote d’Ivoire and Embassy staff, and attended a welcome reception with cultural shows.  We also participated in a Polio immunization day accompanied by Cote d’Ivoire’s Minister of Mines and Industry and the Country Director for the Center for Disease Control. We visited a Global Grant project site, met with the Prime Minister of Cote d’Ivoire and attended a dinner hosted by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Mines and Industry.

I came away proud to belong to the Rotary family and burning with a desire to do more, to make a difference. I want to say to my friend, who was “most unimpressed” by his efforts to help a developing country: it is time we rethink the way we do international projects.

We are an army of friends with bountiful expertise and experience that can be leveraged to help the community prosper. As international partners, it’s our turn to express our desire to help and then close our mouths, open our ears, and work in partnership to support our international friends.

The end result will be most thrilling.


The 2016 West Africa Project Fair will be hosted 19-26 October in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. More information about the 2016-17 project fairs will be available here throughout the coming weeks.


Building life-long friendships through Rotary Fellowships

By Past RI Vice President Serge Gouteyron, member of the Rotary Club of Valenciennes-Denain aerodrome (France) and Chair of the 2015-16 RI Rotary Fellowships Committee

The second Object of Rotary encourages Rotarians to hold high ethical standards in business and profession; to recognize the worthiness of all useful occupations; and to dignify each Rotarian’s occupation as an opportunity to serve society. Through Rotary, members from different professional and cultural backgrounds are able to combine their expertise and experiences to create a greater impact. By connecting with fellow Rotarians who share a common profession or hobby, Rotary Fellowships contribute to the promotion and advancement of Rotary worldwide. Fellowships enable Rotarians to bond with those outside of their club, district, or country. Vocationally oriented fellowships allow Rotarians to use their unique skill sets to serve their community and further their professional development while building lasting friendships.

There are currently more than 60 Rotary Fellowships covering unique topics of interests including various vocations such as lawyers, doctors, police law enforcement and more.

How can we increase our impact through Fellowships?

Dear friends, let’s extend our spirit of friendship and service spirit beyond our clubs and let’s further mutual understanding through Rotary Fellowships. We invite Rotarians whose profession is not represented among the current fellowships to create one. Vocationally-based fellowships based are quite significant as they embody the historical identity of Rotary and of its values.

The following stories will inspire you to join an existing group or start a new one:

Starting a fellowship requires a roster of potential members representing at least three countries and approval from the RI Board of Directors. Find more information online:


2016 Economic Development Presidential Conference to develop solutions for community growth


By Past District Governor June Webber, District 9350;  Chair of the Economic Development Presidential Conference host organizing committee

Rotary districts of Southern Africa invite Rotarians from around the world to join the dialogue on economic development on Saturday, 27 February, in Cape Town, South Africa, where Rotary’s Presidential Conference on Economic Development Conference 2016 will be hosted in the “Mother City”.

A primary goal of the Rotary Economic Development Conference 2016 is to provide solution driven guidelines that can be piloted and implemented after the conference, initially in Southern Africa, then internationally.


This one day conference,will focus on economic enablement by bringing together Rotarians, business leaders, government and representatives from the public and private sectors to explore solutions to Southern Africa’s unemployment crisis and create opportunities through strategic partnerships and project planning.

The conference will feature engaging speakers who will share successful enterprise development models, and breakaway sessions focused on developing partnerships with governments, civil society organisations, NGOs, micro-finance institutions, and corporations to create solution driven entrepreneurial support programs. Attendees will have the opportunity to network with fellow leaders and take away new ideas and strategies to put into action. Implementation of the suggested solutions discussed will be driven by a Conference Legacy Project Team to ensure that the good ideas are practically carried forward with action plans in place.

The conference will be a catalyst to maximize the resources in Rotary’s local and international networks, linking partners which operate in effective job-related economic and entrepreneurial enabling activities, with those entering the workplace, especially in small business enterprises.

Bookings are filling up fast and seating is limited to 350 conference delegates. For more information, please visit our website at

Please join the conversation to seek solutions to address the economic and entrepreneurial development on both the local and global platform. Stimulating dialogue will come from the African continent as well as from the USA, Europe and the East.



Bringing vocational service to life through club projects

By Beth Keck, member of the Rotary Club of Bentonville, AR, USA, and member of RI’s Vocational Service Committee

My club does not have a vocational service committee.  However, last year when I surveyed my colleagues, it became apparent that the concept of vocational service is deeply integrated into the fabric of our club.  My fellow club members knew that through their Rotary affiliation they were using their skills and expertise to do good in our community and the world.

For example, although at the time we did not consciously consider our club’s International Women’s Day event as a vocational service project, it is an example of an application of the concept by my club.

At the 2014 RI International Convention in Sydney, a local Women in Rotary group told my husband and me about their community International Women’s Day program.  We realized that while large employers in our area held internal celebrations, students and employees of small- and medium-sized businesses did not have access to such inspiring professional development events.  With women making up only 24 percent of our club membership, we were looking for a way to make Rotary more visible to the women in our community.  Organizing an International Women’s Day event seemed like a good approach.

Tapping the expertise of our members, and with support from area women leaders and Rotary International Directors Jennifer Jones and Mary Beth Growney-Selene, our club organized its first International Women’s Day professional development event last March.  More than 200 students, women and men from our community attended and heard five accomplished women speak about their careers and families.

This year we are hosting our second International Women’s Day event on 9 March and look forward to bringing more inspiring stories of achievement to an even larger audience in our community.

The concept of vocational service is rooted in the second Object of Rotary.  Every time my fellow club members and I say or apply the 4-Way Test, we reinforce our aspiration for high ethical standards.

By including men and women in our club from diverse professions and backgrounds, we recognize the worthiness of all useful occupations. Whether it is a lawyer from my club providing pro bono work, a financial adviser helping a low-income family get on a better financial footing, or a club committee organizing an International Women’s Day professional development event, we are using our skills, expertise and occupations to serve society.

January is Rotary’s Vocational Service Month, an ideal time to reflect on how the concept of vocational service is being woven into the fabric of each of our clubs around the world.  Post your club’s vocational service project and join the conversation in My Rotary’s discussion groups.



Inspiring others through vocational service

By Azka Asif, RI Programs Staff

Rotarians serve, empower and inspire others through vocational service by using their unique skills and expertise to address community needs and help others discover new vocational opportunities and interests. As professionals, Rotarians represent their particular field or area of expertise and hold a dual responsibility: represent their vocation within their club and exemplify the ideals of Rotary in their place of business. Check out these projects on Rotary Showcase highlighting how Rotarians contribute their expertise to the problems and needs of their communities:

  • CaptureUsing their professional experiences, Rotarians from the Rotary Club of Phoenix in Mauritius provide career counseling for students going into universities. The club also encourages their spouses and friends to provide counseling, share hands-on experience and offer advice to students pursuing higher studies to help them decide their future goals and aspirations.
  • In India, the Rotary Club of Rajkot Midtown set up rajkot midtowna vocational training center for women in their community. The center provides training in different areas such computers, sewing, beauty care, dancing, cooking, and arts. The center aims to equip women with the skills they need to gain employment. Over the past six years, the center has helped more than 6000 women find jobs.
  • The Rotary Club of Amman Capital capitalpartnered with the Elia Nuqul Foundation to conduct a leadership program with a group of 28 young scholars from around Jordan. The three day program help scholar grow professionally and
    personally while strengthening their leadership skills to ensure that they become productive members of society and successful in their business endeavors.
  • The Rotary Club Omole-Golden in Nigeria omole-goldenheld a seminar on ethics in business and governance. Professionals and youth from the community were invited to attend key note speeches and lectures from motivational guest speakers on best ethical practices.
  • The Rotary Club of Waterkloof in South Africa provides ongoing professional training to 25 caregivers working at a home for mentally challenged individuals.

How is your club and district promoting Rotary’s commitment to integrity and inspiring your community through vocational service? Add your voice to the conversation using the blog’s commenting feature below and share your club initiatives on Rotary Showcase.



2016 Presidential Conference on Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene to help address WASH concerns


By PDG Chit Lijauco, District 3820; Member of the Presidential Conference on WASH organizing committee

It’s interesting to watch how the same problem can manifest itself in different ways. Take water, for instance. As I visited different club projects when I was a district governor of District 3820, Philippines, I observed that water was a concern all over my vast district composed of urban and rural areas, mountains and islands. In urban areas, the problem was not so much water supply as its potability, cleanliness and sanitation. Within rural communities, water supply becomes more and more critical. In both situations, the health of the local community is compromised.

We have many examples of clubs addressing water, sanitation, and hygiene issues throughout our district. The town of Candelaria is mountainous, with many small communities scattered in the highlands. With an increase in population and the natural supply of water like rivers and mountain springs beginning to disappear, water supply became a serious problem.

In 2006, the Rotary Club of Candelaria organized a project to supply one mountain community with water using a tank and piping system. After completing the project through the help of a Matching Grant*, the club applied for more grants. The club has already supplied 10 communities with their respective water supply systems. (*Matching Grants have since been phased out; learn more about Foundation grants at To add sustainability components, the Rotary Club of Candelaria has sponsored a Rotary Community Corps (RCC) in each community to administer the project. The RCC collects a minimal water supply fee from every household not only to maintain the system but to fund other community projects as well, like scholarships for deserving students.

With initial financial support from Rotary and through the constant guidance and monitoring from the Rotary Club of Candelaria, 10 communities each with a school or a day care centre, now have a continuous supply of clean water, can fund their children’s education, and have the necessary financial support to address other problems in the community or start new endeavours.

Unfortunately many towns are not as lucky as Candelaria. In many communities, water is unsanitary or unavailable. As such, water-borne diseases constantly threaten the lives of people, particularly children.

To learn how to tackle these problems from fellow Rotarians and local and international Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) experts, join us at the 2016 Rotary Presidential Conference on WASH and WASH in Schools in Manila, Philippines, on 18-19 March.

The conference will bring together Rotary members and representatives from the public and private sector to explore Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene needs both locally and internationally. The event will include a project fair highlighting Rotary projects in the WASH sector and will feature engaging speakers, informative plenary sessions, and hands-on workshops.  Attendees will have the opportunity to network with fellow leaders and take away new ideas and strategies to put into action. Register today.