By Anniela Carracedo, member of the Rotary Club of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, USA, and a Rotary Youth Exchange Alumna
When I decided to become a Rotary Youth Exchange student, I had no idea how much it would change my life and the lives of everyone around me.
In 2017, I was invited to the Interact Club of Valencia, Venezuela, following my parents, who joined the Rotary Club of Valencia. I joined the club because I wanted to make a difference in my local community. I had seen Venezuela go from being one of the healthiest countries in Latin America to experiencing one of the worst humanitarian and economic crises in the modern world.
By Alexander Ostrovski, a member of the Rotary Club of Dortmund-Romberge and director of the Phoenix Music Academy
Having grown up in Crimea, when it was both a part of the Soviet Union and then Ukraine, I was shocked when I saw the news of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
From 2002 to 2008, I worked professionally with the Ukrainian national chamber orchestra, and before that, spent half my life in Moscow. I studied at the Moscow Conservatory where my colleagues were Russians and Ukrainians. Our differences didn’t matter. Ours is the musical tradition of Tchaikovsky, Pushkin, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy. The brutal attacks that began 24 February trampled on this beautiful culture. In many ways, I feel personally attacked by the war.
By Helene Dudley, past president of the Rotary Club of Coconut Grove, Florida, USA
My eyes filled with tears as I attended a Zoom meeting of the Yumbe, Uganda provisional Rotary Club discussing a service project they were planning to help a nearby village. I reached out in chat to another participant of the meeting who admitted she too was tearing up. The club is not yet officially recognized by Rotary International and the women are well below the poverty line but they are already doing service projects.
By Beatrix Turner, Rotary Club of Budapest-Margitsziget, Hungary
My Rotary club wanted to do our part to help the people of Ukraine after hearing about the terrible war in their country. We were honored to be able to join three other clubs, Berlin-Gendarmenmarkt, Germany, Paris-Quai d’Orsay, France, and Milano Sud-Ovest, Italy, to coordinate an €18,000 project to collect and deliver donations to help Ukrainian refugees.
By Randy Bretz, Rotary Club of Lincoln, Nebraska, USA
A woman from Africa and her six children will soon have a new home in Lincoln, Nebraska, thanks to our Rotary club and Habitat for Humanity of Lincoln.
Construction will begin soon on the home for Martha and her children, giving them a place to live that isn’t cramped and even with a yard for the family to enjoy. Martha’s salary can only afford a two-bedroom apartment, but with the help of nearly $40,000 from our club, Habitat for Humanity will be able to construct a three-bedroom home on a lot in Lincoln that she can afford to buy.
By Oksana Havryliv, Rotaract Club of Lviv International
Before the war, I was a student in international relations at the university in Ukraine and had been pursuing a master’s degree in political science through the University of Vienna. I dreamed of becoming a diplomat and representing Ukraine. I was busy with studies, planning my life, and hanging out with friends, especially those in Rotaract. That all changed on 24 February when Russia invaded my country and the bombs began to fall.
By Ignacio Gonzalez Mendez, a member of the Rotaract Club of Oriente de Talca, Chile
I must confess, I didn’t set out to find Rotary. Rotary found me. I became involved in Rotary through a series of fortunate events which has changed the way I look at everything.
When I was 13, I volunteered for the Red Cross and that experience led me years later to create a project to establish a first-aid station in my high school. At my graduation ceremony, I was surprised with an award from the local Rotary club for my volunteer work with the Red Cross. The award was in honor of one of my teachers, who passed away unexpectedly. Receiving the award and knowing that my teacher had appreciated my efforts gave me more inspiration to keep volunteering.
By Orest Semotiuk, Chair of the Public Relations Committee of the Rotary Club of Lviv International, and a member of the District 2232 Public Relations Committee
The morning of 24 February began roughly as any normal morning would. I woke up, went for a jog, and had breakfast. While eating breakfast, however, I heard the news on the radio that Russian bombs were falling on my country, Ukraine.
I immediately called a few friends and acquaintances in other cities to find out how they were doing. Fortunately, most of them were unharmed and safe. Then in the afternoon, a TV station from Regensburg, Germany, where I had spent time during a research assignment in 2018, called me for a comment. Then more media, with an avalanche of requests, and my real work started.
By Maria Valentina Martinez Belo, Rotaract Club of Ing. Boris Walter, Venezuela
We all have different talents. It’s what makes each of us special and unique. I have always felt a strong desire to organize big events and use my creativity to help others and make them feel special. Through Rotaract, I have been able to do that, changing my life and those of the people I have been able to serve.
Editors note: Like many Rotary members, Rotary Foundation Trustee Per Høyen, a member of the Rotary Club of Aarup, Denmark, had a desire to take action in response to the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. Through the Rotary network, he and his wife learned of a 17-year-old Ukrainian refugee, Artem Ziablov, temporarily staying in Germany. In this second of two blog posts, Artem shares his journey from Ukraine to his new host family in Denmark.
By Artem Ziablov
I am a student of Karazin Kharkiv National University where I am in the first year of my studies for a bachelor’s degree in math and computer science. One week before the war started, my mother took me from Kharkiv to Irpin, a city in the Kyiv region, where I lived before my studies. On the morning of 24 February at five in the morning my mother woke me up to tell me that the war had started and that the country was under attack. I looked out the window and heard the bombs being dropped on Gostomel airport, 10 kilometers from our house. Ukrainian fighters were in the sky very close to us and Ukrainian missiles were firing at Russian troops, so it was very scary to stay there.