President’s Comment – 9 Apr 17

8,000 kilometers to peace

Rotary members in a small town of Nova Scotia, Canada, took action to bring two families from war-torn Syria to their country, where the refugees are starting a new life.

By Ryan Hyland Produced by Andrew Chudzinski

Alchehade grabbed the children and ran into the night and the choking smoke and dust. A neighbor helped her carry her three-year-old twin boys, Mounzer and Kaiss; another drove the pickup truck they all clambered into. Over the next several days, as bombs continued to fall, the family – including daughters Kawthar, age six, and Roukia, a baby – took refuge in a nearby forest, sleeping under the trees as Sultanah tried to figure out their next move.

In neighboring Lebanon, Sultanah’s husband, Mazen, frantically tried to contact his wife. For years, Mazen had shuttled back and forth across the border every few weeks to do construction work on high-rise buildings in Beirut. While the jobs provided an income for his family, he says, the separation was hard. But their situation had just gotten much harder. 

With the Syrian civil war now engulfing his village, Mazen couldn’t return. And it would be four months before his wife and children could cross into Lebanon. 

Eventually, the family was reunited. They were alive. But they were refugees, seeking asylum in any country that would take them, hoping to get far away from the violence that had driven them, along with millions of other Syrians, into foreign lands.

The Alchehade family registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees  (UNHCR), the agency responsible for resettling Syrian refugees, and waited. They were still in Lebanon nearly three years later.

Meanwhile, 8,000 kilometers away, Rotarians in the small town of Amherst, Nova Scotia, were watching images of Syrian refugees on television and looking for ways to help.

  1. The Alchehade children love singing the alphabet song, which they quickly learned from English tutors. 
    Mazen Alchehade, who works for a landscaping company, walks his 6-year-old daughter, Kawthar, to her bus stop before school. 

     
    Mazen and Sultanah Alchehade are building a new life for their children in Nova Scotia after being forced to flee their home during Syria’s violent civil war.  More than 11 million people have been displaced since the conflict began in 2011. 

    Sultanah Alchehade and her husband, Mazan, wanted to live in a smaller community like they did in Syria so they chose Amherst instead of Toronto or Montreal. 

    A new culture 

In September 2015, members of the Rotary Club of Amherst were thinking about their next international project. Over the years, the group has helped build and equip a school in South Africa, provided educational materials to students in the Bahamas, and raised funds for disaster-stricken areas around the world, but their thoughts turned to Syria as the plight of refugees dominated the news.

“We as Rotarians couldn’t ignore what we were watching each and every day,” says Ron Wilson, a semiretired civil engineer. “Families dying while making their journey to Europe or other places. Families desperately trying to flee war and, sadly, their homes. The heart-wrenching images were the impetus for our club to do something.”

Ann Sharpe had joined Rotary specifically to get involved with projects to help refugees. In May 2014, she had attended the wedding of some friends in Turkey, which has taken in nearly 3 million Syrian refugees since 2011, more than any other country. While in Istanbul, Sharpe saw refugee children on the streets begging for food or money. 

 

Why host a Rotary Peace Fellow?

Masao Mizuno meets with a Rotary Peace Fellow.

By Masao Mizuno, Rotary Club of Ageo West, Japan

Hosting a Peace Fellow substantially changed my life in Rotary. Since joining Rotary, I have been running a company that imports industrial tools, mostly from Israel and Europe, so I am familiar with talking to people from other countries.

My initial purpose for joining Rotary was to make local friends and expand my network. However, I began to think about peace more seriously after running a joint venture with an Israeli company. After seven years in my club, I took a position on our club’s Rotary Foundation committee, and heard about the Rotary Peace Fellowship program. Getting involved seemed like the right thing to do.

I met many Peace Fellows in May of 2015 as part of a cross-cultural trip I joined. The students were so similar to the people I work with internationally, so it took only a few seconds to make friends with them. Most of the Peace Fellows are well experienced in both studying and travelling. When I talk to them, I feel relaxed and encouraged. Additionally, I have had many chances to meet with family members and friends of Peace Fellows as a Rotary Foundation committee member during the last two years.

I have been enjoying the time I get to spend with Peace Fellows and I appreciate the opportunity to support  these enthusiastic young students.

By volunteering as host counselors, Rotary members share culture and build friendships with Peace Fellows. Learn more about the Rotary Peace Centers.

 

President’s Comment – 2 Apr 17

The Rotary Clubs of NSW Police Officer of the year and Emergency Services Community Awards

Our Club can nominate a police officer or emergency services officer to be considered for these awards. Just email me if you think you know someone who we should nominate.

The NSW Police Officer of the year details are in this link – rotary-2017-flyer-a5-2up

Details of the NSW Emergency Services Community Awards are in the flyer below:

 

From Rotary Scholar to Peace Corps

Please note the organisation KIVA that may be an avenue for our Club to achieve a positive presence for Rotary and assist individuals that we select to achieve their goals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Jasmine Segall, former Rotary global grant scholar

I have heard a variety of interesting stories about why the rural Costa Rican town I live in as a Peace Corps volunteer is called Monterrey. My favorite is the literal translation: “King of the Grass,” explained by a wizened elderly gentleman as the place his family settled to farm cattle because of its nutritious vegetation. On a good day, I can get a clear view of the Arenal Volcano and see the lush farmland that stretches endlessly below. The view is breathtaking. It truly is a green kingdom.

My path to becoming a “loyal subject” of Monterrey was influenced by a lifelong involvement in community service. I grew up participating in the Girl Scouts, 4-H, and Key Club. As an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley, I volunteered at Kiva – a nonprofit that makes small loans to empower entrepreneurs around the world.

https://www.kiva.org/

One of the highlights of my undergraduate experience was starting a student group that partnered with Kiva to offer no-interest microloans to low-income entrepreneurs in Oakland, California, USA. Our first borrower used the profits generated from her microloan to fund her son’s college education. As I am the daughter of a university professor, being able to impact someone’s life this way left a powerful impression. The experience cemented my commitment to a career in local economic development.

A Rotary global grant made possible my dream of obtaining a Master of Science in Local Economic Development at the London School of Economics. Being exposed to such a diversity of international development theories and change-makers made my time in London one of the most inspiring periods of my life. Meeting Rotarians with an incredible dedication to service at both the Berkeley Rotary Club, which sponsored my global grant, and the Sidcup Rotary Club, which hosted me in the UK, reaffirmed my commitment to dedicating my own life to service. It was actually the experience of earning a master’s degree that gave me the confidence to apply to the Peace Corps.

Jasmine Segall, center, at a rally to defend children’s rights.

I have been serving as a Peace Corps Community Economic Development volunteer for almost a year now, and my primary focus is promoting women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship. Examples of some projects I work on include helping a small women’s group plan a sewing business and partnering with Grameen Bank to offer business coaching to female microloan borrowers.

One of my best friends and co-workers here in Costa Rica is a mother of four who works as a professional clown and volunteers for the national social service organization to entertain some of the poorest children in Costa Rica. Her life story is incredible. For someone who struggles to feed her children as a single mother, her passion for helping other children both humbles and inspires me.

Rotary has left a profound impression on me, as will my time as a Peace Corps volunteer. I can only hope that the next step will be similarly rewarding.

Read the Rotary-Peace Corps partnership fact sheet for collaboration opportunities for clubs and districts. If you’re attending the 2017 Rotary Convention in Atlanta, visit the Peace Corps booth in the House of Friendship and attend a Rotary-Peace Corps breakout session to learn more about the partnership. Email rotary.service@rotary.org if you have any questions.

Rotarian Returned Peace Corps Volunteers are invited to District 5450’s Rotary-Peace Corps workshop on 4 August 2017 in Denver, Colorado, USA. Contact Charlie Hunt or Steve Werner for more information and to register for the workshop.

President’s Comment – 26 Mar 17

Hi All – some good ideas here?

Meet my vibrant club

Members of the Seoul Young Leaders Satellite Club in Seoul, Korea.

S. David Chang

By S. David Chang, Rotary Club of Seoul, Korea

Our club, The Rotary Club of Seoul, was established in 1927 as the first club in Korea. We are unique in that our members are multinational and our official language is English. Like most other clubs, our challenges were: diminishing membership; inability to attract younger people; lack of community service; and uninteresting meetings sinking motivation and enthusiasm.

In recent years, our club board decided to transform our club with several new initiatives. We decided to form a satellite club for English speaking young leaders in Seoul between age 19-35. The group got started with Ray Chetti as its first leader, and we were successful in recruiting 65 young leaders. During the first year, this “Seoul Young Leaders Satellite Club” conducted 38 fundraising and community service events, raising over $7,000. Now with new co-presidents (Sayel Cortes & Haein An), the club is focusing on helping single mothers without support.

Another exciting thing we did was to create a “convertible membership program” for busy people of age 36-55 to pay only half of our annual fee and come only a couple of times per month.

We also decided to lower the barriers for new members. We got rid of the clerk and lowered the annual dues and made our meetings more interesting. Now, every month, we have one formal lunch meeting, one community service event, one informal fellowship night, and one cultural or outside activity to engage new friends.

By cutting down operational expenses enough to give a $100 contribution to The Rotary Foundation for every member, we became the only 100% Foundation Giving Club within our district. During the first year of our transformation, we increased our membership from 38 to 125 including 65 young leaders. We wiped out almost all district awards and restored our club image and reputation. It is important to create a challenging vision with stretching goals, but it is more important to sustain that momentum for several years. We are lucky to have club leaders like Andrew Lee, Marc DeVastale, Sugar Han, and many others who really care for Rotary and our club.

Rotary is all about service and friendship; and we must continue to be creative to make it enjoyable and meaningful.

Learn more about the new club flexibility measures