Ethical dilemma: what would you do?

As your club’s vocational service chair, you have been engaging young professionals through mentorship initiatives and career counseling projects. You would like more of your fellow club members to participate in these initiatives since many of the mentees are starting off in their careers and you want to introduce them to Rotary and all it offers. You would like to see the young professionals join your club, but have received feedback that they cannot attend your club’s meetings because of the cost and inconvenient time.

You propose to your club leadership that they should change the location, time, and introduce a reduced cost option to attract young professionals. The youth have mentioned that they like to meet with one another at a local bar, so you suggest your club starts meetings at this location instead where drinks and food are optional making it more affordable for the prospective members. Your club leadership is opposed to this idea; they believe it will drive away current members who are not comfortable in that setting. You believe these changes will help attract young professionals to join your club while helping members get more engaged with youth.

What would you do?


If you would like to submit an ethical dilemma for discussion, email us at

Reflections from the field: intensive disaster relief courses inspire service

By Luke Addison, member of the Rotaract Club of University of Winchester, England and Rotaract Multi-District Contact for RIBI

I first heard about ShelterBox in 2013. I had just become the President of the University of Winchester Rotaract Club and was working with several friends to get the group involved in local and international projects. We were, and are still to this day, very lucky to have the support of the Winchester Rotary Club in all that we do. Their club allowed our members to engage with their projects and therefore create some great connections. There was a particular Rotarian who had spoken with me about ShelterBox and the work they did and suggested we raise funds for them. In just a few days we were at Winchester University at 7:00 AM putting up a ShelterBox tent and then standing alongside it for several hours.

In the past few years since working closer with Rotaract and Rotary on an international level, as well as being involved in many diverse projects and with many organisations across the globe, my interests and drive for what I want to achieve sit very much in the humanitarian sector.

One morning I received an email inviting me to the three-day Understanding ShelterBox Operations course, and there was no way I could turn this down. I replied without hesitation and several weeks later, found myself packing a bag and booking a ten-hour coach journey to Truro! After arriving at the ShelterBox Headquarters, I was extremely early and one of the team members must have taken pity on me and invited me in from the cold. The course didn’t begin until noon, but I was met by Alex Youlten and several other staff who offered to show me around and gave me a great introduction to ShelterBox. Along the tour, we were invited into an actual operations meeting which was taking place in a board room and involved the whole team looking at where ShelterBoxes and other ShelterBox aid were currently being deployed, and also talking much about international affairs of the world… I was hooked and I hadn’t even started the course yet!

After meeting the rest of the course participants, we boarded a minibus and headed towards the training camp. We opened with a briefing about the organisation and then went straight into setting up three tents outside. These would be our accommodations for the next few nights!

The three days of the course were a fascinating combination of problem-solving activities, treks, team-building games and even critical thinking within a classroom. The last part surprised me because although I was expecting to hear more about what they did, I hadn’t fully appreciated exactly what it is they do. By this I mean, we looked deeply into human psychology and how people react in a disaster while also looking at ethical and moral dilemmas and the level of strength and compassion needed to operate effectively.

We even learnt how the organisation’s fundraising department worked and had a great presentation from Richard Lee, Director of Fundraising and Communications. Again, it was a side I was not expecting to see, but was so clearly effective as it had everyone in the room suggesting ways to help.

ShelterBox and Rotary share the same humanitarian aims, and have been linked by common goals and ethics for more than sixteen years now. The two organisations have formed a durable international project partnership which grows in scale and sophistication with every year. It is quite unique in international aid. Obviously this includes Rotaractors too, whose youthful energy, compassion and local knowledge are harnessed in so many ShelterBox deployments and disaster responses.

We were treated with so much respect and I felt so valued as an “outsider”; I’m grateful to have been invited to this course but given so much whilst on it. I could feel my place within ShelterBox already forming!  I have never met a single other charity that would invite you to their headquarters, show you around everything, let you sit in a real operations meeting, then take you to the training ground and give you three days of training on what they actually do. It was genuinely one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had and I would absolutely encourage everyone to go and take part in the course and learn about the many ways your club can work with ShelterBox.

I am so grateful and look forward to working with ShelterBox again!



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.


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.