By Logan Johnson, Youth Exchange and Youth Protection Promotions and Engagement Specialist at Rotary International
A few years ago, volunteers of the Rotary Youth Exchange program were sending thousands of students around the globe each year to learn new languages, discover new cultures, and become global citizens. Then COVID-19 brought almost every aspect of the program to a screeching halt. Like many other aspects of Rotary, the program found new life online with virtual exchanges, which offered a safe alternative to in-person exchanges.
But many anticipated the return of in-person exchanges, and as of May 2022 in-person exchanges were planned and are happening worldwide for the first time in over two years!
By Jennifer Scott, Rotary Club of Central Blue Mountains,New South Wales, Australia
Mongolia, a country caught between two giants – China and Russia, is a long, long way from Australia and I never planned to travel there. However, like many Rotary projects, it is through networking and circumstance that you find an opportunity to make a difference. Mine came as part of a vocational training team to Mongolia to conduct workshops to empower single fathers.
By Dean Rohrs, Rotary Foundation Trustee and past RI vice president
A few years back, I was taking part in a polio immunization field trip in northern Nigeria, vaccinating children against the disease. After a dusty trip on non-existent roads right into the northern Nigeria countryside, I was dropped off under a tree with a Rotaractor translator, one other Rotary member, and the local polio immunization team. This is an area frequented by Boko Haram and although I grew up in Africa, and am adventurous, I wasn’t sure that I would ever be found again.
By Geoffrey Diesel and Kathy Doherty, co-founders of the Racial Equity Project
The two of us met as Rotary Peace Fellows during the inaugural cohort of Peace Activators in North America. We made a commitment to provide training, education, and support to the Rotary family on the framework of Positive Peace. The initiative grew out of Rotary’s strategic partnership with the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), a global think tank dedicated to measuring Positive Peace defined as the “attitudes, institutions, and structures that uphold peaceful societies.”
Peace activators in the US were already addressing racism in this country, but the murder of George Floyd in 2020 served as catalyst for further action. In October of that year, we co-founded the Racial Equity Project (REP), a subcommittee of peace activators in North America, committed to studying ways to create a more peaceful society through antiracism.
I was a typical, energetic four-year old in South Africa, running around our house with visions of my hero, long distance runner Jan Barnard, in my head when I felt something wrong. I ran inside and told my mother, “I have a dripping tap in my chest.” This was my way of describing what I felt, my heart skipping beats now and again. My mom, Christine, pressed an ear to my chest and called our general practitioner.
That would be the last day I would run imaginary races with Barnard. I had contracted spino-bulbar polio, which destroys neurons in the brainstem causing respiratory or cardiac failure. I was given less than a 2% chance of survival. This was in 1955, during a polio epidemic in South Africa, months before the Salk Vaccine was declared safe and effective.
By Kim Dixon, Rotary Club of Raleigh Midtown, North Carolina, USA
When I served in the Peace Corps in the Republic of Georgia from 2014-2016, I engaged with the International Rotary Club of Tbilisi to support several service projects. As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer – and now a Rotary member of the Rotary Club of Raleigh Midtown – I am proud to help integrate our shared service goals as the current President of Partnering for Peace, a nonprofit that promotes and supports the formal service partnership between Rotary International and US Peace Corps.
The pandemic did not just slow down the delivery of essential health services to vulnerable populations. In many cases, it completely cut it off. On 23-24 June, health days were organized at 60 sites in Nigeria. At two sites at Ikeja, Dr. Omolola Salako, a clinical oncologist, and her team witnessed hundreds of women queueing up to get their cervical cancer screening and tests done. Salako is founder of three organizations – Sebeccly Cancer Care and Support Centre, Oncopadi Technologies and Pearl Oncology Clinic, and has spent over 16 years providing quality care and education to cancer patients in Nigeria. She recently shared her experience with Sneha Saloni, a communications specialist with the Rotary Action Group for Family Health & AIDS prevention.
By Phil and Joyce Ogden, Rotary Club of South Launceston, Tasmania, Australia
My wife Joyce and I enjoy tandem cycling. Two years ago, when I met somebody who had cycled the Nullarbor Plain in Australia, a seed was planted in the back of my mind that maybe this was a challenge for us to do in the future.
We are closer than ever to ending polio. We have reduced cases by 99.9% since 1988. With our partners, Rotary has immunized more than 2.5 billion children worldwide to end polio for good. But we’re not there yet and we can’t afford to be complacent.
By Marcos Farto, president of the Rotary Club of Marília Coroados, Brazil
As a member of Rotary for 11 years, I’ve seen how members put Service Above Self. Never has this been more evident than during the COVID-19 pandemic, when we all became aware of how vulnerable life can be and how much we depend on each other.
Many have stepped forward. And out of that need to help, a beautiful story of collaboration and partnership emerged.
By Randy Bretz, Rotary Club of Lincoln, Nebraska, USA
If you think there’s not much your local Rotary club can do to foster international relations, think again. I have some ideas for you that are relatively simple and can help establish positive relations not just among individuals but entire countries.
My club is located in downtown Lincoln, Nebraska, home of the University of Nebraska. In fact, we have four universities and colleges in Lincoln. Each semester and often during the summer, these institutions host international scholars and students. Typically, people visiting or studying at a local institution are very interested in connecting with people in the community.