2017 Presidential Peace Conference – Celebrate Rotary’s continued commitment to Peace

By Past District Governor Rudy Westervelt, Conference Program Chair, and Past RI Director Robert Stuart, Conference Chair

Dear friends,

Join RI President John Germ and us in Atlanta on 9 and 10 June, immediately preceding the RI Convention, for the 2017 Presidential Peace Conference hosted at the Georgia World Congress Center.  The conference will discuss some of our world’s most pressing challenges and highlight solutions to address the root causes of conflict.

The opening session kicks off on Friday, 9 June, at 13:00 with an impactful keynote address by Dr.  Bernice A. King, Chief Executive Officer of The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change and the youngest daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King.

Nearly 100 experts will speak on twenty-four breakout sessions over the two-day event. Attendees will select breakouts from six tracks representing a variety of topics including, but not limited to, disputes over natural resources, the refugee crisis in Syria and the Middle East, addressing illegal labor and sexual exploitation, strategies to address cyberbullying, and discussing the media’s role in perpetuating instability or advocating for peace. Each session will offer opportunities to engage with panelists and fellow participants.

Friday evening will conclude with a cash-bar reception and networking opportunities, and the conference resumes on Saturday morning with keynote remarks delivered by a special guest.

Join us to learn from experts from the Rotary family, non-profit leaders, policy makers, educators, representatives from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Foundation, Carter Center, Global Prosperity and Peace Initiative, Institute for Economics and Peace; Duke/UNC Peace Center, and much more. Gain inspiration from heroic members of the global community dedicating their lives to make lasting improvements for millions around our planet.

Space is limited and filling up quickly – register today! Take home solutions to address concerns within your own community and join us in working together to create positive change around the globe.

We look forward to seeing y’all in Atlanta!


2017 Presidential Conference: Celebrating our Commitment to Peace

2017 Presidential Conference: Celebrating our Commitment to Peace

By John Germ, Rotary International President, 2016-17

Dear Friends,

It is my pleasure to invite you to attend the 2017 Presidential Peace Conference on 9-10 June 2017, taking place in Atlanta immediately before the RI Convention. This special event will celebrate our work to address the underlying causes of conflict and our success in making peace a priority. We’ll hear from inspirational speakers and look ahead to opportunities to continue our steadfast commitment to peace.

johngermThe program will include internationally recognized keynote speakers, breakout sessions, and networking events that explore Rotary’s commitment to peace. The event is open to the entire Rotary family and guests. Registration for the Presidential Peace Conference is US $126.50 and space is limited.  Learn more about the Conference and register online.

I hope you’ll join me in Atlanta to celebrate our accomplishments and recommit our dedicated efforts to Rotary Serving Humanity.



Early-registration rates for the RI Convention end after 15 December. Take advantage of the early-bird prices and register today for the Peace Conference and Convention.

Doctors’ Fellowship aims to empower albino community in Tanzania

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

Albino FamilyThree years ago I was on the island of Ukerewe in Tanzania leading a Rotary project when I heard a child had been abducted and murdered. The child was an albino and was targeted by traditional healers. I was in utter disbelief when I discovered traditional healers, sometimes called witch doctors, target albinos to use their body parts in ritual practices, which they claim bring wealth and good luck. The Tanzanian government banned witch doctors in January 2015. Since then more than 200 witch doctors and traditional healers have been arrested, but many people with albinism still live under the threat of death.

People with albinism lack melanin pigment in their skin and appear to have “white” skin. They have sensitivity to ultraviolet radiation and are at risk of developing skin cancer and significant sight problems. The Rotarian Doctors’ Fellowship is supporting a campaign in Tanzania to help this marginalized and discriminated community claim their rightful place in the society and live without fear. Our project addresses many interconnected challenges – reducing stigma through village seminars, vocational training and improving eye care.

ROTARIAN WITH AN ALBINOAs a cancer specialist, my initial interest was to help this high risk group receive better treatment for skin cancer. Skin cancer is not a lethal disease and is easily preventable. I soon realized that improving skin cancer care was important, but will have little effect until other complex social issues are addressed. Through village education and peace building efforts, we sought to help persuade communities with high incidences of violence against people with albinism to abandon old beliefs and myths.

This year, I went back to evaluate the campaign and our efforts. Our local partner, the Mennonite Central Committee of Tanzania (MCC), had conducted more than 40 village education meetings engaging 2,000 villagers.  At the review meeting, I met with 16 village leaders and heard their plans of action. There had been a dramatic change in their perception about albinism and a sense of determination that they did not want the good names of their villages to be tarnished by attacks on people with albinism.

Then I witnessed something that had never happened before. I heard a joint presentation by a traditional healer and person with albinism. As a result of the year-long peace building efforts, traditional healers and people with albinism had formed an alliance called CHATAS to openly fight against albinism myths.

They called for action to bring to justice those who propagated abhorrent views. The leader of CHATAS, a traditional healer himself said, “We – the traditional healers – condemn and disown those who bring disgrace to our profession. We hope they would be debarred from practicing healing. Albinos are people just like us.”

This type of collaboration was unimaginable a year ago. The village education meetings and peace building program were funded by Rotary and implemented by our partners – MCC and Albino Peace Makers. Rotary helped make this miracle happen.

Through the Fellowship’s network of contacts, I have been able to share my experience with colleagues all around the world and thus highlight the plight of people with albinism.  The project has attracted support from seven Rotary districts and a number of organizations. I was even invited to share my experience with delegates at the Rotary International Presidential Conference on Disease Prevention and Treatment in Cannes.

PEOPLE LIKE US1Helping people with albinism is one of many projects supported by the Fellowship of Rotarian Doctors. The Fellowship offers for Rotarians, their family members, and program participants and alumni a unique opportunity to bring their vocation into service, change lives and make friends. The group shares a vision for supporting and promoting global health improvements, an enthusiasm for making advancements through volunteering, and a strong commitment to support local and international healthcare initiatives. For more information, contact me.



Promoting peace between countries

By Kristin Brown, Rotary Service Connections Manager

Past District Governor Anton (Toni) Polsterer is passionate about peace. His district includes Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) and part of Austria, and he’s seen firsthand the role that Inter-Country Committees (ICCs) can play in promoting peace between countries, or between different ethnic groups within the same country. He’s also seen what the Rotary Foundation can do through grants for large-scale, sustainable projects.

So last year, at a conference on “Building Peace with Rotary” at UNESCO, Polsterer issued a challenge: he would contribute USD 10,000 to the Rotary Foundation for an international project in Peace and Conflict Prevention/Resolution. The USD 10,000 cash contribution will receive a 50% match by the World Fund, making his gift worth USD 15,000. A number of worthy proposals were submitted and Polsterer announced two projects will split the gift once the grants are finalized and approved by The Rotary Foundation.

One project plans to bring a Vocational Training Team and hold a five day International Training Institute for women peace builders from different countries. Polsterer hopes to see new ICCs emerge in the region as a result of this peace building project. The other brings together children from different ethnic groups and uses music therapy and the process of composing, scripting, designing and performing an original work to heal conflict-induced psycho social wounds and bridge differences among cultural and religious groups.

If you are attending the Rotary International Convention in Korea, participate in the Inter-Country Committees and the $10K Peace Project Challenge breakout session on Tuesday, 31 May from 13:00 – 14:30 to learn more.



Peace Corps partnership seeks to enhance project capacity

Rotary PeaceCorps_lockup




By Ellina Kushnir, RI Staff and Scott Kumis, Peace Corps Partnership Manager

Last year, Rotary International and Peace Corps, formalized a service partnership to help enhance our club and district service activities locally and around the world.

Peace Corps sends U.S. citizens abroad to help tackle the most pressing needs around the world while promoting better international understanding of culture and enhancing global awareness. Peace Corps Volunteers live and work alongside the people they support for a period of two or more years and concentrate efforts to create sustainable change that lives on long after their period of in-country service. Peace Corps currently has volunteers in more than 60 countries and concentrates on the following sectors: education, health, community economic development, environment, youth in development, and agriculture.

By working together with active and returned Peace Corps Volunteers, we can continue addressing Rotary’s six areas of focus while enhancing goodwill, international understanding, and building capacity to address the most pressing community concerns.

Local collaborations for sustainable development around the world

A Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) offers access to local contacts, project planning and development insights, and funding possibilities within a particular community. Involving a PCV in your project can help increase its reach, impact, and sustainability.

Peace Corps Volunteers work with nongovernmental organizations, host-country governments, and local community members to identify and address local needs. PCVs can help you identify prospective beneficiaries and work with you to find the most effective way to address a community’s needs: they can partner on a community assessment, help involve local residents, mobilize community members to oversee project implementation, assist with training, and help incorporate sustainability components so that a project thrives under the care of the local community.

Visit Peace Corps’ website for a list of countries where Peace Corps works.

Working with Returned Peace Corps Volunteers in the United States

Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs), those who have completed their in-country service and are back in the U.S., offer a wealth of service project knowledge, interesting community insights from living abroad, and often maintain strong relationships with their host communities and local partners which can include Rotary and Rotaract clubs. These links can lead to international Rotary partnerships that provide resources for projects in the host country.

If you’re located in the U.S., consider:

  • Contacting a Peace Corps Regional Recruitment Office to connect with the local RPCV alumni network in your region
  • Inviting a returned volunteer to attend your club meeting or a Rotary event.
  • Inviting a returned volunteer to make a presentation about his or her work abroad and, if applicable, about how he or she worked with local Rotary or Rotaract clubs.
  • Asking a returned volunteer to facilitate an introduction to the Rotary or Rotaract clubs with which he or she worked while abroad.
  • Inviting a returned volunteer to use his or her community development expertise to assist your club with its projects.

Read the RI-Peace Corps partnership factsheet or contact rotary.service@rotary.org with questions.

Peace Corps is celebrating their 55th Anniversary this year. Add your support to their work to improve communities by joining their Thunderclap on March 1. If your club or district has worked with an active or returned Peace Corps Volunteer, share your story using the commenting feature below.


Using the Rotary network to wage peace

By Zuhal Sharp, RI Programs Staff

Rotarian Action Groups (RAGs) are autonomous, internationally organized groups with a passion for and expertise in a specific service area. They provide assistance and support to Rotary clubs and districts in planning and implementing large-scale community development and humanitarian service projects in their respective areas of expertise, such as water, AIDs prevention, microcredit, or hearing.

In honor of February, Peace and Conflict Prevention/Resolution month, learn about the Rotarian Action Group for Peace (RAGFP), a committed group of Rotarians, Rotarians’ spouses, Rotaractors, Rotary Peace Fellows, and other Rotary program alumni dedicated to advancing world peace through education and activities related to conflict prevention and peace building. RAGFP supports and enhances the peace work of Rotarians by offering project guidance and resources. Visit RAGFP’s website and like them on Facebook for the latest updates.



Building peace in Chicago

By Past District Governor Patricia Merryweather, District Foundation Chair of District 6450 (Illinois, USA); Rotary Club of Naperville

As District Governor-elect at the 2012 International Assembly, I remember tears streamed down my face when President-elect Tanaka announced the 2012-13 Rotary theme Peace Through Service.

Fast forward to our District’s Conference in May 2012 as I wondered how we could bring peace to the streets of Chicago. A few weeks later, our district sprang into action when Heaven, a seven year old girl in Chicago was shot and killed by stray gunfire while she was out selling candy to raise money for a trip to Disney World.  A group of our District Rotarians started to talk about what we could do to create peace in Chicago. With Chicago averaging seven people shot each day and at least 10 people killed each week by gun fire, inaction was no longer an option.

That summer, we formed a Peace Partner Committee consisting of Rotarians and non-Rotary peace-focused organizations to work together and learn more about peace building by participating in each other’s peace programs.  We also participated in local initiatives such as peace building and dialogue efforts with the Chicago Police Department and various religious and community organizations.

Since 2012, we’ve held our Annual Chicagoland Peace Summits every year in communities most affected by violence.  The Peace Summits are for both youth and adults and offer breakout sessions led by our Peace Partner Committee members.  In addition to the Peace Summit, this year we added a program for youth between 10 and 16 years old at the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center. The program will feature inspirational speakers and leaders who, like many of the youth at the center, have had trouble with the law.

Pam Brockman from the Chicago Little Village Rotary Club is leading a Rotary Global Peace Grant project for youth in Chicago.   The project involves several of our Peace Partners whose programs have a strong history of reducing violence among youth and increasing conflict resolution.  We knew that the programs individually were very good and offered useful tools, but we also recognized an integrated approach can help the programs reach many more people.

Approved in 2015, the global grant is being implemented at two Chicago Public Schools:  Theodore Roosevelt High School and Joyce Kilmer Elementary School.  Both schools serve low income, multi-cultural populations in which 31 languages are spoken. The project will impact nearly 2000 students and 200 teachers. We hope to train youth and teachers in practical skills to manage their stress, resolve conflict, increase cooperation, compassion and understanding, and reduce violence through the programs listed below:

  • The Youth Empowerment Seminar (YES!) will teach students how to manage their mind, negative emotions and reduce impulsivity and stress.
  • Alternatives, Inc. will teach restorative justice, peace circles and conflict resolution.
  • Play for Peace will teach noncompetitive games to increase cultural understanding, cooperation and leadership.
  • The Peace School organizes an annual International Peace Day Celebration in Chicago. We will work with them to organize 3 events to celebrate the beginning, middle and end of the project.

For the sake of all of our children and our communities, doing nothing is no longer an option.  While we know we are not the only solution to bringing peace to Chicago, we can bring many parties together and must be part of the solution.



Creating sustainable peace

By Rebecca Crall, Area of Focus Manager, Peace and Conflict Prevention/Resolution

Building sustainable peace projects requires holistic thinking and a community-driven approach.  Rotarians are uniquely positioned to foster healthy, resilient and more peaceful communities.

Violent conflict can devastate a country’s society, economy and political governance. Coordinating projects that prevent or resolve conflict requires a tailored, sensitive approach. Rotarians can play a vital role in the peace building process by galvanizing members of their communities to identify and address the underlying causes of conflict. While the types of projects Rotarians develop vary greatly, the following examples may help your club or district identify action-oriented approaches to building and sustaining peace:

Socioeconomic initiatives
As business and community leaders, the Rotary family can create initiatives designed with particular attention to fostering social capital, cooperating across conflict lines, and serving as the foundation for reintegration and reconciliation in divided communities. Some examples may include:

  • Creating business associations across former conflict lines
  • Job skills training for youth
  • Job skills training for refugees in destination countries

Youth programming
Rotarians have ample experience in programs for young leaders. Imbuing existing programs, such as after-school programs, youth camps and sports activities with non-violent curriculum can have a powerful impact, including:

  • Enhancing the peace-building knowledge and skills of young people
  • Creating a safe space for youth to express their opinions
  • Building trust between youth and authority figures or governments
  • Promoting intergenerational exchange
  • Supporting youth who are positively contributing to their communities

Media, communication and civic education

There are many community-based media and communication outlets that can help advance peace building efforts. For example, radio stations and other forms of media, broadcasted in multiple languages, seek to promote dialogue and debate on key issues. Theatre productions and puppet shows, designed and conducted by communities, have also been used for outreach education such as teaching human rights norms and values and strategies for peacefully resolving disputes. Civic education on human rights and justice can be powerful tools for integrating marginalized communities.

In any project aiming to prevent conflict and foster peace, consider:

Conflict sensitivity: Understanding conflict in the context in which it exists and being sensitive to the tensions and issues causing a dispute maximizes positive outcomes by considering local dynamics.

Community-based approaches: All community members, and especially traditionally marginalized groups, should be involved in community-level discussions and decision-making. The entire community should have access to information on the specific program or project, on decisions and selected priorities, and on the use of funds. This type of inclusivity fosters fairness, transparency and accountability, which is particularly important in conflict-affected and fragile contexts where levels of trust are low.


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.”