My Rotary Moment: Emine’s story

140120_alpayBy Şafak Alpay, RI director-elect and a member of the Rotary Club of Istanbul-Sisli, Turkey

About ten years ago, an ambitious literacy campaign was started in our region using the Concentrated Language Encounter (CLE) method. Like all other clubs, my club Sisli participated with great enthusiasm, running a course for women in one of Istanbul’s slum neighborhoods.

On graduation day, one young woman who was among those to receive their certificates captured everyone’s attention. She had both her lower arms missing, and as her certificate was placed under her armpit, Emine timidly asked her instructor to get the sheet of paper she kept in her pocket. It was a thank-you letter written to the person who taught her to read and write.  Continue reading

Incoming district governors excited to Light Up Rotary

140114_themelogoBy Daniela Garcia, RI editorial staff

Incoming district governors enthusiastically greeted the theme for 2014-15, Light Up Rotary, during the first plenary of the International Assembly, Rotary’s annual training event for future leaders. RI President-elect Gary C.K. Huang explained he was inspired by the teachings of Chinese philosopher Confucious who said: “It is better to light a single candle, than to sit and curse the darkness.”

I asked several of the future leaders their thoughts about the theme, moments after it had been unveiled here in San Diego, California, USA. Here is what they said: Continue reading

Twenty years of fighting polio in India

Shri K. Sankarnarayanan, governor of Maharastra, India, administers the polio vaccine to a child being held by former Trustee Ashok Mahajan.

Shri K. Sankaranarayanan, governor of Maharashtra, India, administers the polio vaccine to a child being held by former Trustee Ashok Mahajan. Looking on is the governor’s wife (left) and Rajashree Birla, who has contributed more than US$7 million for polio eradication.

By former Foundation Trustee Ashok Mahajan

Since 1993, I have been deeply involved in the polio eradication program, Rotary’s top priority, both as a member of Rotary and in various leadership positions. I have many strong memories of the challenges, triumphs and setbacks we’ve faced along the way as we pursued ending this crippling disease in my country.

One thing I will always remember is the extensive efforts we made to build goodwill and acceptance of polio immunization in the Muslim community and among religious leaders. Continue reading

Empowering families to end poverty in Peru

Villagers increased their income by learning more efficient ways to raise guinea pigs and other livestock. Photo courtesy of Willem van Immerzeel

Villagers increased their income by learning more efficient ways to raise guinea pigs and other livestock. Photo courtesy of Willem van Immerzeel

By Willem van Immerzeel, a member of the Rotary Club of Inka Cusco, Cusco, Peru

Cusco, Peru, where I live, is a touristy place. Most visitors get only a glimpse of the poverty that exists in rural areas in my country. But poverty is a very real side of Peruvian society, deeply impacting the lives of the millions engulfed in it. Widespread poverty has a destabilizing effect on society and goes a long way in explaining the extreme violence that dominated life in Peru for decades.

Since I was young, I considered it my duty to contribute to end poverty. In the early 1980s, I worked as a volunteer in Guinea Bissau, Africa, and later in Cusco. I soon discovered that projects can provide relief for some, but eradicating poverty for many requires much more. Continue reading

My Rotary hat is the ultimate travel accessory

Kate McKenzie meets a Melbourne Rotarian during her travels.

Kate McKenzie, wearing her Rotary hat, meets a fellow Rotarian in Melbourne.

By Kate McKenzie, a member of the Rotary Club of Randwick, New South Wales, Australia

Since joining Rotary, I have discovered the ultimate travel accessory, my Rotary hat. Not only does it keep the sun off my Celtic skin, but it advertises my connection to Rotary.

I currently live in Sydney with my husband, but grew up on a farm in the southern part of Western Australia. It’s one of the most isolated and beautiful parts of the world, but it’s also what inspired me to be interested in other cultures and what led me to Rotary. Continue reading

Making a difference in orphans’ lives through Interact

Zaahidali Nathu with children at the Refilwe orphanage near Johannesburg, South Africa.

Zaahidali Nathu with children at the Refilwe orphanage near Johannesburg, South Africa.

By Zaahidali Nathu, a member of the Interact Club of Hugh Boyd Secondary School, Richmond, British Columbia, Canada

This past summer, I got to go on a trip of a lifetime to an orphanage in South Africa called Refilwe.

The orphanage is in a settlement just outside of Johannesburg, South Africa. Joining me on the amazing trip were seven other Interact members from Hugh Boyd Secondary School in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada, two teachers, and four Richmond firefighters. Continue reading

How your gift to The Rotary Foundation changes lives

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Construction on a new school in Masaya, Nicaragua. Photo courtesy Leonor Fraser

Construction on a new school in Masaya, Nicaragua. Photo courtesy Leonor Fraser

By Rotary staff

Leonor Fraser and other members of her Rotary club arrived in Masaya, Nicaragua, ready to deliver shoes to the elementary schoolchildren and play with them.

It immediately became apparent that the school, located near a diesel plant, had bigger problems. The plant emitted pollutants into the air, which made the children and teachers lethargic, and the cracked building had no sanitation facilities. Fraser had difficulty breathing during her visit. Continue reading

It’s a Wonderful Life through Rotary

131230_pollardBy Bill Pollard, past governor of District 7600 (Virginia, USA), and member of the Rotary Club of Churchland, Virginia

One of my favorite things about the holiday season is watching It’s a Wonderful Life. The movie shares with us two important messages: the importance of friends and the positive impact each of us makes on the lives of others.

At the end of the movie George Bailey finds a copy of the book Tom Sawyer, a gift from his guardian angel Clarence who wrote in the book, “Remember,George: no man is a failure who has friends.” Our membership in Rotary provides us with the opportunity to make special and lasting friendships with Rotarians in our clubs, districts, and throughout the world. Continue reading

New England Rotarians bring Christmas to Lac Megantic

Rotarians deliver Christmas gifts in Lac Megantic. Photo courtesy of Marty Helman

Rotarians deliver Christmas gifts in Lac Megantic. Photo courtesy of Marty Helman

By Marty Helman, past governor of District 7780 (parts of Maine and New Hampshire, USA) 

Lac Megantic in southern Quebec made headlines for all the wrong reasons last July when a train filled with crude oil derailed in the town’s central business district. The resulting fire destroyed the town’s economic base, killed 47, and 24 local children lost one or both parents. In the wake of the disaster, Rotarians in District 7780 across the border in southern Maine and coastal New  Hampshire geared up to help.   Continue reading