For outgoing District Governor Ingrid Neitsch (RC of Edmonton West), the District Changeover held on June 27 was an opportunity to reflect on the previous 12 months and highlight the many achievements of 2018-2019.
For incoming District Governor Tracey Vavrek (RC of Grande Prairie After Five), it was a chance to set the agenda for the next Rotary year.
Before passing the title of District Governor to Tracey, Ingrid described her “fabulous adventure” to approximately 200 Rotarians from across the District who were in attendance at the Chateau Louis Conference Centre in Edmonton.
“It has been my honour and privilege to lead and represent this District,” she said. “Our theme was ‘Be the Inspiration!’ I set out to inspire our members, and our members inspired me! The commitment and passion that I witnessed first-hand is unforgettable.”
Of her visits to the 57 clubs in our District, she said, “I thoroughly enjoyed the many community tours and community events, some of which were unique.”
Ingrid recalled that a year earlier, at the June 2018 changeover event, she had presented her vision and plan for 2018-2019. “I explained our District planning process and the integrated Strategic Plan. I announced a new direction and initiative and outlined important goals I wanted our District to accomplish.”
Becoming a Peacebuilder District
The major goal for this past year was to be recognized as a Peacebuilder District by Rotary International, for which a donation of US$25,000 to support RI’s Peace Centres was a key criteria. The support for this initiative exceeded Ingrid’s expectations.
“I am absolutely thrilled by the support from our clubs, individuals and District. YES! We achieved Peacebuilder status — for TWO years!”
“Peace Centres provide an opportunity for individuals who have been sponsored and strenuously vetted by a Rotary District, to be chosen to attend a three-month peace certificate or a two-year master’s program in peace and conflict resolution, all paid for by Rotary.”
Menasha Nikhanj from Edmonton is currently enrolled in the three-month professional certificate program at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand.
Ingrid promises that achieving a Peacebuider District is just the beginning. “We will continue to develop peace building activities and sessions during this next year,” she says.
“As a result of our new collaborative work with our educational institutions, the University of Alberta and Concordia University hosted an open-to-the public peace building session which was well received. Another project is planned for next year.”
RI will also maintain its focus on peace building. “At the Peace Symposium in Hamburg (held in connection with 2019 RI Convention), senior Rotary leaders announced that steps are being taken to have Rotary become a world leader in peace building,” Ingrid said.
Goals set, goals achieved
The year saw the establishment of several new clubs, including a new Interact Club at W.P. Wagner High School (sponsored by the Rotary Club of Edmonton Strathcona); the Rotaract Club of Concordia University (sponsored by Edmonton Northeast); a satellite club of the Rotary Club of Dawson Creek) in Chetwynd, B.C.; and the YEG Passport Club (sponsored by Edmonton Whyte Avenue).
In addition, two existing clubs in Whitehorse, YT became part of our District on July 1.
Ingrid congratulated the TRF team, led by chair Wayne Kauffman (RC of Edmonton Riverview), for its efforts to create awareness of the foundation’s good work.
“All the funds donated support projects by our clubs around the world, in the form of grants.”
Related to public image, Ingrid noted that the District “created a communications plan to develop and improve our public image in our District and the community.”
In part, this was achieved through Ingrid’s posts to the District Facebook page, increased social media engagement, articles on the District blog, Rotary International District 5370 News and a District newsletter.
“Inspire, our District newsletter, went to each District member, not just the presidents, so everyone received the same information at the same time,” she said.
“We made a concentrated effort to expand community awareness of Rotary. Presentations were made to several community groups and we began a collaborative project with the University of Alberta, which will expand next Rotary year.
“We had significant coverage of Rotary stories in the capital region newspapers in print and online, and in community papers around the District.”
Shifting to youth programs, Ingrid said, “We have outstanding opportunities for our youth to participate in many activities, such as the RYLA, RYLE, RYPEN programs.
“We did a lot of work to ensure that our youth exchange program is directly aligned and compliant with Rotary International guidelines, with everyone involved with our youth programs having a mandatory security check.”
DG Tracey lays out her plans for 2019-2020
Following Ingrid’s summary of 2018-2019, it was Tracey’s turn to reveal her vision for 2019-2020.
“It is an honour to stand before you as your governor for 2019-20. I am humbled to step into the shoes of Ingrid and others, and also appreciate the support of each of you through this Rotary journey,” she said.
Throughout her presentation, Tracey emphasized that the world needs Rotary and Rotarians.
“People identify Rotary for our service, our dedication to make change for others, and for our commitment to eradicate polio,” she said.
“You have stepped up to make your communities a better place. You tackle problems and find solutions for tough issues. You explore ideas and share a vision to make life better for others. Your passion, drive and desire to make a difference inspires me,” she said.
“When people of all ages, cultures and demographics invest time and money into something, it is with organizations that do good in the world. People commit to a cause, not an organization.”
Rotary: 114 years-old and still strong
Tracey believes that there are reasons why Rotary continues to be relevant.
“Rotary is 114 years old and has stood the test of time due to its values, objectives and service, both locally and globally, plus for our dedication to eradicating polio.”
She noted that RI has adapted to changing times, which is in contrast to other organizations that have failed to do so. She cited Kodak as a company which resisted change and as result has lost the leadership position it once occupied.
“For Rotary to stay relevant, we at the club and District level must focus on our culture and adapting to the needs of our members,” Tracey said.
“Culture is how people feel when they are part of something that is important to them. Culture is created and is the base of moving from good to great. Culture is an environment of welcoming, inclusiveness, diversity; where people feel a sense of belonging, feel valued. And (it) is a place built on trust. We serve together in many ways with the common goal—to make a difference for others—and when we do this, we build relationships and connect with people of like interest.”
Tracey said that the 2019-2020 theme, “Rotary Connects the World,” means that, “We share values and follow the four-way test, we collectively take action for a better world and we are doing this together,” she said.
“Rotary provides us with the means and opportunities to connect with the world and each other. Rotary connects us to people who need our help, and through Rotary we are connected globally through countless projects and programs.”
People of Action together creating positive change
Tracey asked the Rotarians in the audience to image a world without Rotary: “Imagine what would happen to polio if we stopped now. Imagine the people who would go hungry in our own communities or around the world. Imagine the children who would not have the extra support to reach their dreams. The children of today and of tomorrow need Rotary.
“RI has given us the tools to be successful and has provided flexibility to do things differently with meeting structure and attendance, and (it) encourages us to invite our families to be part of our journey.
“When you see the difference we have made for children, families and communities around the world by our commitment, we know we have changed lives. We have given others opportunities and most of all, we have given people hope.
“And that’s Rotary. People of action who come together to make positive change in themselves and around the world.”
Tracey concluded her presentation by encouraging Rotarians to register for the District 5370 People of Action Conference in Grande Prairie October 3-5, 2019.
“This is your conference and a place to connect, grow and to be inspired.”