Magazine article UN Chronicle

A Dialogue through Service: Making a Difference While Making Friends

Magazine article UN Chronicle

A Dialogue through Service: Making a Difference While Making Friends

Article excerpt


If we are to solve the world's major problems such as ending war and making sure everyone has enough to eat, millions of people from all over the world will need to be involved. They will need to understand the interconnectivity of all people, care about others, and maintain the highest ethical standards while they focus on solutions. In other words, we need world citizens to communicate with one another. But how are we to find and cultivate these people?

One way is being practiced by the membership of Rotary International and has been evolving and improving since 1917 when its president, Arch Klumph, suggested that they create a means "to do good in the world". Rotarians are loyal to their own communities and understand that others all around the world have similar needs and desires. The mission of Rotary International, a worldwide association of Rotary clubs, is to provide service to others, promote high ethical standards, and advance world understanding, goodwill and peace through its fellowship of business, professional, and community leaders.

Rotary encourages successful people from all over the world to work with others in order to help those less fortunate. We believe that the "development of acquaintance is an opportunity for service". (1) Our 1.2 million members in 34,000 clubs throughout 200 countries and territories all subscribe to the goal of placing "Service Above Self". We have many ongoing projects with varied target goals, like the eradication of polio from the face of the earth; the dialogue created in the formation and implementation of such projects develops friendships, and these friendships lead to practical sustainable actions.

The 73 clubs in my district practice this approach through various service opportunities. This article focuses on our international endeavours.

Rotary programmes include Youth Exchange, in which we send and receive high school students for a full school year and others for short term or summer stays with Rotarians in countries around the world. Since 1947, we have participated in International Ambassadorial Scholarships, which has sent 41,000 college and post graduate students around the globe. The purpose of these scholarships is to further international understanding and friendly relations among people of different countries and geographical areas. Within the Peace Centres programme, we are a Peace Builder District through our support for Rotary's partnership with seven major universities from around the world. We provide funding to train proven effective peace builders in various conflict resolution methods and strategies at the master's degree level. A three month professional development programme in peace and conflict resolution for mid-career professionals is also supported. Through matching grant projects, a majority of our clubs send representatives four times a year to approve and sponsor international grants, where funds raised at the local level are matched by district funds and then matched again by The Rotary Foundation. This effort more than triples our local efforts while we partner with Rotarians in the receiving countries.

Matching grant projects are founded, developed and implemented by our own members, by Rotarians in partnering countries and by recipients of our services. Examples of these projects include: a team member sponsored by the Scott Valley club, after spending five weeks on a Rotary Group Study Exchange to the Dominican Republic, wanted to assist one of the impoverished schools she had visited. Such schools do not receive any assistance from the government. With the help of the exchange team which had visited our district from the area and many e-mails, a productive relationship was established. Six projects have been completed in six years, ranging from the installation of computer classrooms, equipping a physiotherapy centre and libraries, to furnishing new beds in an orphanage. …

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