Rotary-supported story contest gives Tacoma youth a voice

The first-ever Tacoma Ocean Fest Youth Story Contest invited youth to write about the ocean and what it means to them.

By Rosemary Ponnekanti

At first, Hope was reluctant. She was on the verge of flunking school through poor attendance. But when Kathleen Figetakis, literacy chair at Tacoma Sunrise Rotary, Washington, USA, asked the Tacoma senior for one little favor – to put up posters in her school for the Tacoma Ocean Fest Youth Story Contest – Hope agreed. Six months later, she had not only won second prize in the contest, but she also graduated from high school – and helped the inaugural contest to be a wave of success. Continue reading

Empowering women in Colombian prisons

Exercise class.

Charlie Ruth Castro leads an exercise class for inmates.

Charlie Ruth Castro

By Charlie Ruth Castro, Rotary E-Club of Sogamoso Global, Colombia

I had to go to prison to understand how education for innovation is the path for empowering millions of Latin American and Caribbean women economically. I’ve never committed a crime; I belong to that group of people who believe education is the most sophisticated tool we have to opening any door.

In 2016, I founded MujeresConDerechos.org with the idea of reminding society that all girls and all women are powerful. For this reason, I have dedicated myself to gathering the most influential leaders through summits, marches, and a television program. The attention and support I have received has been converted into generating innovative programs for girls and women most in need. Continue reading

What Fairwold is saying about Interact

Fairwold Interact members and advisors.

By Steve Bass, Fairwold Interact Club advisor

Fairwold Academy serves children that need emotional support from throughout the area of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. The opportunities we are able to provide these students are amazing. Our members have designed and sold tree certificates to raise money to purchase and plant thousands of trees in our local nature preserves. Our original recycling project, Plastic Planet Savers, won a sustainability award at Temple University’s EarthFest celebration a few years ago. And  the club has earned the Presidential Citation from Rotary International each of the past three years. 

But better than all of that is what they say about how Interact is shaping their lives. Here is just a sampling: Continue reading

What a Rotary club can do with even a little bit of money

Burton at well

Joi Burton takes a drink from a new well during a trip to Kenya. A grant project between District 5790 and Homa Bay, Kenya, provided the well.

By Joi Burton, International Service Chair for District 6170 and member of the Rotary Club of North Garland County, Arkansas, USA

I have always had a dream of going to Africa. Soon after I joined Rotary in 1991, I noticed an article in The Rotarian that a Rotary club from Eugene, Oregon, was going to Kenya to work on some projects. They were inviting people to go with them, and when I contacted them they accepted my offer. We visited several Rotary projects and a Rotary Club in Nairobi. That was the beginning of a long and productive relationship between my club at the time, Arlington South, Texas, and the people of Kenya that demonstrated the impact even a small club can have through the magic that is Rotary. Continue reading

Driving a junk car across Europe for charity

Niemann's and junk car

Konrad Niemann, left, and his son by the junk car they used in the Carbage Run. The car was auctioned off, and combined with funds raised by the run, to benefit the Salberghaus, a home for children.

By Konrad Niemann, President of the Rotary Club of München-Münchner Freiheit, Germany

In February, my son and I were driving in Germany when we began passing a bunch of strange-looking cars on the highway. We discovered they were part of a road rally called the Carbage Run, that is essentially a five-day road trip across Europe in a junk car. For the past 10 years, participants have paid about €350 (about $400) to take part in the event, originating in the Netherlands, with cars that must be more than 18 years old and worth less than €500 ($560). Looking at all these junk cars, my son and I thought “what a funny idea for a father-son activity.” Continue reading

Rotary Youth Exchange: key to global citizenship

Marie and classmates

Marie Tornquist and her Brazilian classmates during her Rotary Youth Exchange

By Marie Tornquist, former Rotary Youth Exchange student from Minnesota, USA, to Brazil

On the first day of my Rotary Youth Exchange orientation in a Minneapolis suburb, I remember being confused about the nationality of my country officer. She kept referring to herself as Brazilian, saying things like, “In Brazil we eat a lot of rice and beans,” and, “We (Brazilians) are very open people.” She also referred to her Brazilian host families as “my brother, Eduardo,” “my nieces and nephews,” etc. I wondered if she had somehow been placed with a host family that was a distant relative. After a while I realized that ever since her exchange, she has continued to identify with the Brazilian culture while at the same time living in the U.S. and maintaining her identity as an American. Continue reading

How to make literacy fun

A Surabaya ludruk

A scene from the Rotaract Club of Darmo Raya’s ludruk, a type of theater native to Surabaya.

By Alma Dhiafira, president of the Rotaract Club of Darmo Raya, Surabaya, Indonesia

During my year as president of my Rotaract club, we decided to put on a ludruk. It is a type of theater from East Java that includes music, jokes, and drama performed in the Surabaya dialect.

We’ve done a ludruk once before, working with our partner Rotary Club of Surabaja-Darmo. But I was particularly excited this time because we would be spreading the message that literacy is fun. Continue reading

To The Gambia and back: Our Dutch adventure

The Dutch Rotarians took 11 cars to The Gambia

The Dutch Rotarians took 11 cars to The Gambia, which were auctioned off to support women’s education.

By Tineke Ruijter, Rotary Club of Zwijndrecht, The Netherlands

Our adventure started on 21 October 2017. Rally teams of six Dutch Rotary clubs, accompanied by five independent supporting teams, departed from Zwijndrecht in the Netherlands for a challenging 7,500 km (4,600 mile) journey to The Gambia, where we arrived on 11 November. The trip passed through Belgium, France, Spain, Morocco, Mauritania, and Senegal, through dessert areas and sometimes accompanied by local guides for security reasons.

The 11 cars that took us to The Gambia were sponsored and auctioned at final destination. The result: $50,000 to be donated to a Dutch Rotary initiative called  “School Plan Gambia,” which enables young women to attend school up to and including university. Continue reading

Literacy center dedicated to Pakistan Rotarian

Children at their school in Jhang, Pakistan, before the project provided new chairs, blackboard, and books.

By Michelle Tanner, past president Rotary Club of Matamata, New Zealand

A random Facebook message with an invitation to present at a Rotary polio conference in Lahore in 2014 was the start of an amazing journey that took me from rural New Zealand to Pakistan and culminated in a project to improve the education of children of garbage pickers in Jhang, Pakistan. Continue reading

My return to Minneapolis after 7 years

Rotary Scholar Anna Ueda with Rotarians in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

By Anna Ueda, 2010-11 Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholar

On Thanksgiving week in November 2017, I visited Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, where I was accredited as a Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholar seven years ago. This short trip brought me so many precious moments in reconnecting with amazing people that I had met through Rotary, that I had to share them. Continue reading