Rotary International Convention Brings World Problem-Solvers Together

By Tom Schneider

Most of us think of Rotary as service clubs that do good things for local projects, which is true. There are thousands of clubs doing many thousands of local projects for the common good in almost 200 countries around the world. These clubs are embedded into the fabric of the communities they serve and respect a variety of social and political opinions. “Service above Self” is Rotary’s motto.

Rotary Presentation
Rotary International Convention Brings World Problem-Solvers Together
Tue, Jun 20, 12:30pm
Hotel Misión
Salida a Querétaro 1
Info: SMA 415 112 3413
US 925 476 8117
Free
Meeting in English

Each year, Rotary has its annual international convention in a different country. Between 30,000 and 50,000 Rotarians attend from every part of the globe. This year’s convention in Atlanta was special because it celebrated 100 years since the Rotary Foundation was formed. While the RF was formed with $26.50, it is today one of the largest private foundations in the world, donating more than USD$3 billion internationally over the past 100 years for life-changing, sustainable projects.

The scope of this convention was literally thousands of acres of small booths, exhibiting  everything from small water projects in Kenya, to plans to plant 1.2 million trees all over the world, to the coordination of efforts to clean up Lake Erie. There was a dizzying array of worthy projects hoping to interest clubs in various parts of the world to become partners.

Most impressive, however, were the Rotarians themselves. There were people from Africa in full suits of colorful flowered fabrics with elaborate head dresses; groups from the Middle East with traditional desert dress; Asians with luxurious fine saris; indigenous peoples; and thousands of Russian, European, Latin, and North American men and women. The world was, very literally, represented.

Bill Gates spoke inspiringly about his vision. There were also seminars over the three days with experts in water and sanitation, peace in action, education of women and children, and the teaching of financial literacy to the rural poor, to name a few.

Rotary’s Presidential Peace Conference happens every other year in conjunction with the RI convention, and many of the 1,000 Rotary Peace Fellows attended this year, including San Miguel’s Wendy Coulson. The Peace Fellows shared their on-the-ground, front-line peace project experiences and the differences those are making in the world, including here in San Miguel.

I met Amparo Buendia, MD, in the Friendship Tent. She is leading a project in Colombia to teach forgiveness to the women and children of the 50-year FARC insurgency that recently came to an end. The project is called “Training Women and Children to be Peacemakers.” Truly inspirational!

I also enjoyed hearing about the work of Nonviolent Peaceforce and Unarmed Civilian Protection Monitors. The NVP has professionally prepared unarmed civilians who are deployed into conflict zones to prevent or reduce violence. They live and work in communities within conflict zones alongside local people. The Nonviolent Peaceforce was nominated for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize. Unlike traditional military peacekeeping, this is done without the use of weapons. Initial studies by the United Nations show the Unarmed Civilian Protection methods are a more effective and less expensive option to armed protection. The United Nations is considering a major training expansion not only to save money but also to amplify its peacekeeping mission.

The most important things that happens in a huge RI convention are the lifelong friendships formed and the ideas exchanged at the coffee breaks or meal events. I don’t ever think I understood what Rotary actually was until I went to a Rotary International Convention.

Rotary is where neighbors, friends, and problem-solvers share ideas, join leaders, and take action to create lasting change. For more information, contact President Nate Fultz at nwfultz@yahoo.com, see RotarySMAMidday.org, and come to Rotary Tuesday, June 20, at 12:30pm at Hotel Misión, Salida a Querétaro 1, when I will be sharing more about the amazing problem-solving strength of local, state, national, and international Rotarians.

 

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