Energize communities through project fairs

By Ellina Kushnir, RI Programs staff

With PDG Rosa Marina Zeaya

With PDG Rosa Marina Zelaya at the opening of the February 2015 Uniendo America Project Fair in Managua, Nicaragua

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to attend the Uniendo America Project Fair, an annual event hosted by Districts 4240 and 4250. The three day fair celebrates Rotary’s commitment to humanitarian service with the host districts’ clubs showcasing their projects to international counterparts. Project fairs are unique opportunities for international visitors to experience the local culture and learn about existing assets and challenges faced by the region’s communities while facilitating international partnerships between Rotary members.

Exhibitors discussion their club projects with international Rotarian visitors

Exhibitors discussion their club projects with international Rotarian visitors

40 exhibitors and more than 100 international visitors participated in the 2015 Uniendo America Project Fair, hosted in Managua, Nicaragua. The long weekend was filled with reunions between old friends, insightful presentations about humanitarian projects, and productive meetings outlining opportunities for long-term international partnerships. Returning visitors arranged site visits to projects their clubs had previously supported and many first-time visitors organized service projects in partnership with local clubs while in Nicaragua. The hosts also arranged cultural shows and dinners to ensure visitors got a true taste of Managua.

Rotary and Rotaract project exhibitors from Leon, Nicaragua

Rotary and Rotaract project exhibitors from Leon, Nicaragua

Project fairs provide life-changing opportunities for participants to learn about the host region, immerse themselves in a different culture, connect with local clubs in need of partners, and build lifelong friendships.

No two project fairs are alike. The annual Uniendo America, Europe, and West Africa fairs are hosted in a different country every year as project exhibitors come from multiple countries and the events strive to give visitors an opportunity to learn about new communities throughout the host regions. Alternatively, the Ecuador Project Fair is annually hosted in Quito, a convenient gathering location for the district’s exhibitors and a great opportunity to strengthen the district’s international relationships from year to year.

Consider attending one of these project fairs to broaden your horizons and support a new international project:


How will you Be a Gift to the World this year?

T1516-ENBy Ellina Kushnir, RI Programs staff

RI President K.R. Ravindran challenges us to use our gifts – talents, knowledge, abilities, and efforts – to make a genuine impact through fellowship and service activities. Through our Rotary network, we have access to many resources to plan projects using our skills, expertise, and passions to improve communities near and far.

Showcase how your club or district supports communities:

  • Through a Rotary grant, the Rotary Club of Santa Maria, Philippines, is working with the Rotary Community Corps of Pulong Buhangin 2 and other partners to provide safe water and sanitation for a community within the Santa Maria Bulacan municipality.
  • BELThe Rotary Club of Udaipur Udai, India, partnered with a cooperating organization to provide computer literacy classes to older residents. The Rotaract Club of Aishwarya volunteered as teachers during the trainings which covered topics including scheduling appointments, making reservations, and paying bills online. The Rotary club members provide students with ongoing consultation after completing the courses.
  • The Rotary Club of Santurce, Puerto Rico, collaborated on a Rotary Friendship Exchange with the Rotary Club of Port of Spain West, Trinidad and Tobago, to build fellowship and friendship and explore international service opportunities. The visiting team from Puerto Rico visited several projects, engaged in fellowship, and met the club’s sponsored Interact Club and RCC. They will host their new friends from Trinidad and Tobago later this year.
  • VocServiceThe Rotary Club of Irvine, USA, teamed up with the Irvine Valley College to host an interview workshop and mock interviews with college students. Students were interviewed by a panel of three Rotarians and then received feedback to improve their interviewing skills.

Support club and district initiatives:

  • The Rotary Club of Benin Metropolitan, Nigeria, seeks an international partner to assist with their initiative to provide safe drinking water for the 5,000 residents of the Obazagbon and Ugieghudu communities.
  • IDEASThe Rotary Club of Kharkiv Multinational, Ukraine, is seeking partners to assist with a camp program for local youth. Children who are refugees from nearby conflict areas, part of military families or face tough life situation will participate in the program which includes fun outings and activities along with a targeted curriculum to help participants adapt and socialize given their backgrounds and traumatic experiences.
  • The Rotary Club of Sorocaba-Sul, Brazil, seeks partners to help build a playground for children with physical disabilities. The project will create safe place in the city for recreation, rehabilitation and physical education for children with disabilities. The park will also offer opportunities for children to socialize with their peers

Visit Rotary.org for many more resources to help you with your club or district project. Remember, the 2015-16 Presidential Citation will recognize clubs that achieve an array of accomplishments intended to make Rotary stronger, more effective at delivering service, and more widely known and respected by the general public. Encourage your clubs to focus on the Humanitarian Service goals listed in the Presidential Citation brochure.


Annual European project fair helps bridge the west and the east

By Leonardo de Angelis, Member of the Rotary Club of Ravenna, Italy, and Multi-Club Workshop Coordinator

ImageModeled similar to project fairs, the Multi-Club Workshop (MCW) is an annual event where international Rotarians, relatives and friends meet to promote the implementation of international humanitarian projects. Hosted in a different city every year, the first few days of the workshop are dedicated to planning international humanitarian initiatives while the rest of the event focuses on cultural immersion, site seeing, and building fellowship.

The 9th MCW will be hosted in St. Petersburg, Russia, from 2 to 9 September. An optional group trip to Moscow will follow the workshop. During times of tension between the West and the East, we hope meeting in Russia will help us continue to serve as catalysts for advancing peace, strengthening international relationships, and promoting good will. Through this event, we hope to bring better understanding and friendship between two parts of the world that are pivotal to global advancement within our six areas of focus. Join us for this life-changing experience that will build relationships across country lines resulting in better humanitarian projects and greater global awareness and understanding.

Since the first Multi-Club Workshop was hosted in Stockholm, Sweden, in September 2007 , many Rotarians and their partners and friends from around Europe have met in Bari, Riga, Ravenna, Malmö, Manfredonia, Belgrade and Ischia. Between the eight previous workshops, we have welcomed 516 participants, 188 clubs, and 66 districts to our community.

Thanks to these meetings, the MCW community has supported 25 Rotarian-led projects totaling US $1,130,000. Here’s an example of just some of the efforts we have made possible with the help of global grants:

  • Ohrid, Macedonia: provided medical equipment to the Ohrid Hospital’s pediatric ward
  • Mirandola, Italy: provided equipment and training to ten classes at the recently rebuilt “Luosi” Intstitute following the 2012 earthquake
  • Bagamoyo District, Tanzania: provided equipment and training to the Health Centre of Pande Village

Together we have improved the lives of thousands of people. We hope you join us in September.


Ethical dilemma discussion: what would you do?

Your club commits to covering airfare for a local high school student embarking on a yearlong Rotary Youth Exchange. Club members form three committees, each responsible for hosting a fundraising event to collect money that will pay for the student’s round trip international airfare. The first two events raise the targeted amount, but bad weather forces your club to cancel the third committee’s event, scheduled a week before the student’s flight must be booked. As a result, that committee requests that all club members split the remaining amount needed for the ticket purchase. You, along with a handful of other club members, are uncomfortable with this request.

What do you do?

Wine enthusiasts address food insecurity in Portugal

By Conrad C. Heede, Past District Governor of District 5790 and President of the Rotarian Wine Appreciation Fellowship

RWAF members enjoying a wine dinner in Portugal.

RWAF members enjoying a wine dinner in Portugal.

Every year, the Rotarian Wine Appreciation Fellowship (RWAF) members plan exciting wine-related events at the annual RI Conventions. Claire Larson, a member of the Rotary e-Club Porches International and an avid wine aficionado and collector, volunteered to plan our Fellowships’ activities at the 2013 RI Convention in Lisbon, Portugal. Through her connections to the local wine trade, Claire set up seven events including nightly wine dinners at different venues, two cooking courses and a wine tour of the Douro Valley.

In appreciation for all her work to plan these events, the Fellowship decided to undertake a humanitarian project in the Algarve, Claire’s home base. Immediately, Claire announced food security was her local community’s greatest challenge. I found it hard to believe that parts of Portugal experienced food insecurity and shortages. In 2013, the economy in the Algarve was extremely unstable. Claire’s club at the time, Rotary Club of Estoi Palace International, was supporting the all-volunteer Food Bank of Algarve and could not provide enough food for the growing demand. The food bank could only distribute the food that was delivered to them and had trouble securing fresh produce and products without a refrigerated vehicle to collect excess food from stores and farms in surrounding areas.

The Rotarian Wine Appreciation Fellowship put together a USD $53,000 Matching Grant to purchase a fully-equipped refrigerated food truck, complete with 300 heavy duty plastic food baskets. The grant was funded almost entirely by RWAF members from five countries with assistance from the Grapevine Rotary Club, Texas, USA. (Matching Grants have since been phased out; learn more about Foundation grants at www.rotary.org/grant.)

RWAF members model the new truck.

RWAF members model the new truck.

The vehicle was officially presented to the Food Bank at their Faro warehouse several months later.  The project was well-promoted by local and national press, radio and TV network coverage and the Food Bank formally accepted the keys to the vehicle and presented a short video message thanking our Rotary Fellowship for this project.

Almost 25,000 people receive monthly food parcels from the Food Bank of Algarve. Thousands of people in the Algarve now have access to more food and healthier fresh produce options. The vehicle is now also used to redistribute produce to a second warehouse in Portimão, about 50 miles away.

The Rotarian Wine Appreciation Fellowship includes more than 3,800 members in 62 countries. The group strives to educate Rotarians on how to best enjoy wine and properly pair wine and food while meeting friends with a mutual love for wine from all over the world. The group also heavily emphasized involvement in local and international humanitarian projects to help make this world a better place.


Rotary Friendship Exchange lays foundation for international service partnerships

By Camille Ronzio, member of Rotary Club of Eugene Southtowne, OR, USA, and District 5110 Rotary Friendship Exchange Chair

I never thought Rotary International winning second place in the December 2013 United Miles contest would have a personal connection to my life. Using a portion of the awarded miles, Rotary District 5110 (USA) won the opportunity to offer free round trip tickets to four Rotarians from our district to embark on a service-oriented Rotary Friendship Exchange (RFE). I had the opportunity to lead this team – a mixed group of young faces and experienced travelers, some new to the RFE program and some program veterans.

Flag exchangeWorking with RFE district chair Alexandre Iote from District 2241 (Romania and Moldova), we planned an exchange introducing RFE to two new areas in his district. Our plans included a joint service project as well as many cultural and fellowship experiences that would introduce us to the countries’ amazingly resilient, generous and warm people.

CultureOn the May exchange in Romania and Moldova, we saw two countries trying to restore their roads, buildings, economies and town squares. We also saw commonalities that unite us as Rotarians: the desire to build good will and friendships, and the commitment to service. Reflecting back on the experience, team member Ted Stevens said “the trip expanded our knowledge in countless ways,” and Tyson Woodard remarked that “it was truly an educational and awe-inspiring adventure.”

Here is a glimpse of our exchange:

When we arrived in Timisoara, Romania, we were met by group of young, vibrant Rotarians who incorporate the whole family into Rotary: Rotakids, Interact, Rotaract, and spouses – they even have a band made up of Rotarians and their family members. What a memorable first night!

We partnered on a number of service with our various hosts throughout District 2241:

  • PlaygroundOur team collected funds to help revive a dated playground located near apartment complexes housing young families. We gained many ideas for future projects as we talked with a young man who was rescued from an unsafe environment as a child and now manages a house for abandoned children.
  • We met with a Rotarian who built Deborah’s House, a safe haven Shoe projectfor young women who are victims of trafficking or abuse. I will never forget the conversation with the young girl practicing her English who proudly showed me her room, or the smiles and hugs our team received when we gave each girl a new pair of shoes. These are just the beginnings of longer-term projects!
  • Onward in the city of Sighetu Marmatiei, Romania, local Rotarians met us in a hotel and restaurant owned by a club member. We Traditionwere greeted with homemade sour cherry liquor, music and dancing! Here we met Gabriela Rosus, a Rotarian who took time away from her job to organize our stay and show us around. She runs a non-governmental organization which moves children from orphanages to foster homes. We met her special-needs children who wore big smiles and lived in a loving environment. We saw how she utilizes every resource she has.

Cultural immersion:

  • Memorial“Merry Cemetery” – I will always remember the painted carved markers telling the story of each person buried in this cemetery. A local Rotarian told us about his father who is buried there. On this stop we also visited the prison memorial to the victims of Communism – a truly somber and moving tribute to a period of history that still affects the people of Romania.
  • A van ride took us to Suceava, Romania, where we stayed overnight. The local Rotarians arranged local folk dance entertainment, and treated us to a wonderful traditional meal, a hike, and a tour of one of the famous painted monasteries of the Bucovina region.
  • Braided breadThe next day, another van organized by Moldovan Rotarians – all women – their bilingual daughters and Rotaract members greeted us for the trip to Chisinau, Moldova. Upon arrival in the city, we were treated to the traditional welcome braided bread dipped in salt and paired with Moldovan red wine. Local music and dancing again filled the room! We visited an upcoming center dedicated to keeping local crafts, music and culture alive for young people, a project supported by several Rotarians. We bought some of their crafts and discussed ideas for supporting this effort in the  future.

Long live friendships and eye opening experiences!

TeamTeam members Don Arkell and Laurie Power said it best: “We caught glimpses of the everyday lives of our hosts and how they, through Rotary, make life better for the less privileged. We can now put faces on unfolding geopolitical events in the region with appreciation for the challenges our new friends may undertake.” You can see more pictures from our exchange on our exchange Facebook page.

We will welcome our Romanian and Moldovan hosts to District 5110 in August, and we already agreed to have another exchange between our districts in 2017. Potential team members from both districts are lining up to participate!

Learn more about Rotary Friendship Exchanges online and contact your District Rotary Friendship Exchange Chair for information about how you can get involved.

See related posts:

Celebrating our accomplishments through Rotary Days

By Ellina Kushnir, RI Programs staff

Over the past year, we expanded our impact by inviting the community to learn about our good work as we celebrated our accomplishments through a variety of community engagements. More than 400 clubs and districts around the world heeded President Gary C.K. Huang’s call to Light Up Rotary through unique Rotary Day events.

Congratulations to Rotary District 2430, Turkey, winner of the year-long video contest on their winning Rotary Day submission:

View the 12 video finalists from around the world:

District 3480, Taiwan

District 3480, Taiwan


District 4170, Mexico






Rotary, Rotaract, and Interact clubs of El Salvador

Rotary, Rotaract, and Interact clubs of El Salvador


District 2440, Turkey






District 3510, Taiwan

District 3510, Taiwan

Rotary Club of Kokura East, Japan

Rotary Club of Kokura East, Japan






Four Rotary clubs of Fort Collins

The Four Rotary clubs of Fort Collins

District 4895, Argentina

District 4895, Argentina






Rotary Club of Atibaia-Estância, Brazil

Rotary Club of Atibaia-Estância, Brazil

Rotary Club of Calapan, Philippines

Rotary Club of Calapan, Philippines






Rotary Club of Levroux-Boischaut-Champagne, France

Rotary Club of Levroux-Boischaut-Champagne, France

District 3230, India

District 3230, India







Rotary Fellowships’ annual activities support polio eradication efforts

By Ellina Kushnir, RI Programs staff

Besides organizing projects related to their hobbies and recreational activities, many Rotary Fellowships demonstrate their commitment Service Above Self by supporting Rotary’s efforts to help eradicate polio. From championships and competitions to auctions and raffles, Rotary Fellowships incorporate fundraisers into their annual activities to raise funds for the PolioPlus campaign:

MarathonersInternational Marathon Fellowship of Rotarians
Every year, the avid runners participate as a group in a renowned marathon. This past April, more than 100 Rotarians and their friends joined more than 50,000 participants to run the Paris Marathon. The Fellowship organized an entire weekend of activities from a pasta and wine evening to an evening celebrating the groups 10th anniversary in the city where it first originated. Through the run, €4,000 EUR were donated by the Fellowship to Rotary’s PolioPlus fund.

The group will be running in the Budapest Marathon next October. Long and short distance runners are welcome to join.

QuiltersRotarian Fellowship of Quilters and Fiber Artists
Every year, the Quilters and Fiber Artists Fellowship displays and exchanges handmade goods donated by their members from around the world in the House of Friendship at the RI Convention. Last year at the RI Convention in Sydney, the group raised nearly $7,000.00 USD for PolioPlus.

International Fellowship of Rotarian Convention Goers
Vivid Sydney 2014
Last year at the RI Convention in Sydney, the dedicated group of convention goers hosted its annual “Rotary Reunion Banquet” where they helped raise more than $2,400 USD for the PolioPlus fund. The banquet was held aboard the “Sydney 2000” cruise ship which sailed the harbor during Vivid Sydney as it brought together hundreds of Rotarians from all over the world.

Wine Appreciation_3Rotary Wine Appreciation Fellowship
Thanks to a 2-to-1 match from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the group of wine aficionados raised $30,000 USD for the PolioPlus campaign with a raffle and auction at the 2014 RI Convention in Sydney.


Yachting enthusiasts support secure health access throughout African island communities

By Bernardo Rabassa Asenjo, member of the Rotary Club of Madrid – Puerta de Hierro, Spain, and past regional commodore of the International Yachting Fellowship of Rotarians’ Iberia chapter

International Yachting Fellowship of Rotarians

International Yachting Fellowship of Rotarians

Our group of more than 3200 members across 32 countries shares a common love for the open water and a passion for yachting. Since the International Yachting Fellowship of Rotarians first formed in 1947, we have grown to 90 fleets and we have been involved with countless voyages across the globe. Along with making life-long friends with other yachters, we’re proud to emphasize humanitarian service through our beloved hobby.

Lamu Island, located off of the coast of Kenya, is only accessible by boat. Since motorized vehicles can’t be found on the island, donkeys are the primary mode of transportation. This water-locked community is served by Lamu District Hospital, one of the best-equipped medical facilities on the Kenyan coast. The hospital also services all of the surrounding islands in the archipelago. As the only hospital for the archipelago’s 105,000 residents, the local community voiced mounting concerns to obtain a motorized ambulance boat to transport patience in need of medical assistance.

06_16_AmbulanceBoatIn the spirit of equipping communities reliant on water with needed resources, the International Yatching Fellowship of Rotarians formed a partnership with non-governmental organization Anidan to help secure the ambulatory boat. Our Fellowships’ members are working with external foundations and Rotary clubs in Spain to apply for a Rotary grant to help provide the needed medical resources for residents near Lamu to quickly and reliable access health services. The ambulatory boat will be used to quickly transport local residents to the hospital for needed medical attention. The boat will also be used to raise awareness about preventative health care and immunizations around the archipelago.

Since joining this effort, we have been worked with the local communities including the Rotary Club of Malindi, the medical staff at the Hortsmann Hospital of Lamu, and the Kenyan Fleet of the Rotary Mariners of East Africa to create an entire medical initiative for the 2015-16 Rotary year:

  • Identify prevalent local health issues particularly in children
  • Promote immunizations and secure access to medical treatment to address most wide-spread health concerns
  • Utilize the ambulatory boat to implement standardized immunizations across the different regions

This project is expected to directly benefit more than 100,000 people, the entire population of Lamu County.  Contact the International Yachting Fellowship of Rotarians for more information about their activities or this project.

The International Yachting Fellowship of Rotarians consists of 197 active Rotary yachting fleets across 37 countries. The Fellowship strives to advance international understand and goodwill through cruising, yachting, racing, sailing, kayaking and other activities involving boats and boating.


Medical myths inspire fellowship and service

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

John (back row, middle) and wife Chris (back row, left) with a local family they have befriended in Ukerewe.

John (back row, middle) and wife Chris (back row, left) with a local family they have befriended in Ukerewe.

In 2009, I led a team of volunteers on a trip to the island of Ukerewe, Tanzania, where I met with the Chairman of the Ukerewe Albino Society. A slogan scribbled in black ink on the wall of his simple mud hut office caught my attention: We do not melt in the sun, we do not disappear, we live and die like normal people.

Since 2009, my wife Chris and I have visited Ukerewe, Africa’s largest island, ten times with volunteer groups to support the local community, including those with albinism. The Government of Tanzania had declared Ukerewe a safe haven for people with albinism and the island’s small albino community lives in relative safety.

Unfortunately, people with albinism living on mainland Tanzania, particularly in the Lake Victoria region, live under constant threat. Skin colour has always divided nations and communities. Recently, the absence of skin colour, an inherited condition called Albinism, has put a price tag on people’s lives and on their body parts in some regions of the globe. People with Albinism lack of melanin pigment in their skin and appear to have “white” skin, sensitivity to ultraviolet radiation and risk of developing skin cancer and significant sight problems.

While numbers vary, an estimated one in every 20,000 people has some form of albinism in North America and Europe.  In Tanzania, albinos represent one in every 1,429 births, more than in any other nation. According to Al-Shymaa Kway-Geer, an albino Member of Parliament, 6,977 documented and up to 17000 undocumented Persons with Albinism (PWA) live in Tanzania. [i]

In Tanzania, the albino community is stigmatised, exclude from education and employment, often physically assaulted and sometimes brutally murdered.  They live in fear because of widespread myths that their body parts have magical powers. It is becoming increasingly more common to seek out albino limbs; the body parts are believed to bring good luck – they can help win elections, make businesses successful and destroy enemies.

Alfred Kapole, Chairman of Ukerewe's Albino Society. Photo courtesy of John Philip

Alfred Kapole, Chairman of Ukerewe’s Albino Society. Photo courtesy of John Philip

We knew we couldn’t turn a blind eye to this terrible situation. After I presented the case for a Rotary project to the Fellowship of Rotarian Doctors, we circulated information about our plans to the wider Rotary network and received support from the USA, France, Portugal, Sweden, Geneva and India. Working with the Rotary Club of Moshi, Tanzania, as the local host club, and Mirfield Rotary Club in the UK as the international partner, we obtained a global grant to run a two year holistic project to help people with albinism in Tanzania.

The main aspects of the programme include:

Village education and peace building – Through a series of meetings at the heart of the community with high incidence of violence against PWAs, we will seek to change beliefs and myths about Albinism. Several meetings have already taken place in the Mara region and the communities’ response has exceeded all expectations. One village leader in Chitari said “We’ll not tolerate any attacks on the Albinos. They are our brothers and sisters.”

Improved Health care – We will work with local health providers to ensure PWAs have access to affordable skin cancer screenings and eye care.

Vocational training and microcredit loans– We will provide training opportunities to PWAs to improve their skills, acquire new skills, and improve their earning potential. The Musoma Rotary Club has launched a training programme and microcredit project to help PWAs. Seven groups have already been formed, each being a mixed group – albinos and nonalbinos. Our hope is that by working together, they will come to appreciate that beneath our varied external appearances we are all the same.

We strive to help a marginalized and discriminated community claim their rightful place in the society and live without fear or prejudice and ensure they ‘live and die like normal people’.

For more information about this project, contact PDG Dr. John Philip.

The International Fellowship of Rotarian Doctors consists of Rotary members, their spouses, and Rotaractors who are doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers. The group shares a vision for supporting and promoting global health improvements, an enthusiasm for making advancements through volunteerism, and a strong commitment to support local and international healthcare initiatives.


[i] International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies