Tracey Vavrek reflects on her first six months as District Governor

Six months into the role and after having visited all 60 clubs, District Governor Tracey Vavrek is feeling proud to be part of Rotary District 5370.

“I am honoured to represent District 5370, especially after what we’ve experienced in our travels, seeing the impact that members are making,” Tracey says.

Reaching all 60 clubs required Tracey and Vince to drive 32,000 km in their Toyota Highlander, nicked named Amelia Kind Heart. There were also flights to visit the two clubs in Whitehorse, which became part of our District on July 1, 2019.

0080_t.sedore-photography-aug2018-1.jpg“We’ve had the opportunity to meet close to 2,000 individuals,” Tracey says. “All our members have such a beautiful spirit of family, connectedness, friendship and feeling they can to do so much for others.”

Tracey found that no matter their size, Rotary clubs across the District are making a difference in their communities.

“We have clubs with maybe 20 or 25 members and they are the strength of the community,” she says. “They’re on the ground, working really hard together and partnering with a variety of organizations and municipalities to help ensure the communities they live in are extremely strong and have what’s needed.”

Apart from club visits, there have been other highlights. Topping the list has been the opportunity to induct new Rotarians.

“At many clubs, we have inducted new members into the Rotary family. It has been very humbling to see their excitement, their energy and their passion and to know that they are there to make a difference for others,” Tracey says.

Tracey encourages Rotarians to invite others to join Rotary, “because the world and our communities need more Rotary and we need more members to help us do more.”

Screen Shot 2019-10-13 at 12.48.47 PMAnother highlight was the Pints for Polio initiative to raise funds to help eradicate polio.

“I’m extremely proud of our members’ dedication to our Pints for Polio initiative. The majority, if not all, clubs have done something in support of ending polio.” Tracey says.

“We know the importance of a hard push right now, so this extra work that our clubs are doing has been absolutely tremendous.”

The People of Action District Conference, held in Grande Prairie in October, was successful both financially and in terms of the enthusiasm of participants.

With 560 registrations, including 135 first-time attendees, it was the District’s largest conference ever. “Following the conference, many Rotarians spoke to us about different things that they grabbed from the conference that they were utilizing themselves and within their clubs.”

Screen Shot 2018-10-23 at 11.19.17 PMThe next District Conference, Vision 2020, will be held at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Edmonton, September 17-19, 2020. Click here for more information and to register.

For this year, there have been a number of changes to how the District board operates. 

The Services portfolio has been divided into two positions, one focused on community service and the other on international service.

“Having two different directors allows the board to have equal opportunity to reflect on our support for international projects and the amazing work clubs do within their communities,” Tracey says. “It gives us double the capacity to do tremendous service work locally, as well as internationally.” 

Alexis Ksiazkiewicz (RC of Edmonton) is the Community Services Director and Al Pierog (RC of Edmonton South), the director for International Services.

“They’re a conduit to our Rotary clubs,” Tracey says. “They are knowledge centres and they are advocates. They can support clubs to partner, to work together. It could be funding. It could be travel. It could be service together.”

Another recent change was to invite Yvone Joubert (Grant MacEwan Rotaract Club) to join the board as a non-voting young leader representative.

“One of the things that was really important to me through all of my training was continuing to have a voice, and not just a voice but the expertise, the thoughts, the wisdom, the perspective of our young leaders,” Tracey says.

Screen Shot 2019-06-25 at 9.58.52 AMYvone was one of 65 Rotaractors from around the world invited to join District Governors-Elect during their training at the Rotary International Assembly held in San Diego in January 2019.

“This highlighted to me even more the importance to be inclusive as a District. We should reflect diversity at the board table,” Tracey says. “Having Yvone there gives us another perspective.”

Another change was the creation of a Finance Committee, led by treasurer Maureen Liviniuk (RC of Edmonton Mayfield). 

This committee will “facilitate transparency, accountability, financial controls, compliance and best practices to meet Rotary International’s Code of Policies and ensure proper stewardship of our District resources,” Tracey says.

Of course, no year would be complete for a District Governor without a few challenges, which for Tracey has meant dealing with a number of resignations.

In the fall, Director of Administrative Services Donna Nichol (RC of Edmonton Northeast) and Youth Director Tamara Larson (RC of Edmonton Whyte Avenue) resigned. 

These resignations have provided an opportunity to step back and look at what is required.

“We’re in the midst of looking at what the future looks like for our District and what are the right positions to have in place to support the District.

“We asking, ‘What are these pieces of the admin that are really important to go forward? What do we need for the future?’ Same for the youth services. ‘What’s best for our District to ensure that we continue all the great work that has been started?’

“In the interim, we’ve got some good people that are providing support and resources to all the different aspects of these portfolios, while we are very focused on ensuring that when we go forward, it’s going to be with even stronger portfolios.”

The other resignation was that of office manager Rene Cavanagh after more than 11 years in the role. She left to become the community and volunteer engagement co-ordinator for Habitat for Humanity.

“We recognize the work that Rene has contributed to us. She helped us form what we are today,” Tracey says. “Rene was very instrumental in helping to build our District from all levels.”

Recruitment to fill this position began in December and Tracey expects to have hired a new office manager early in 2020.

As the second half of her term as District Governor begins, Tracey looks forward to revisiting and working with some clubs and to being with three clubs as they celebrate significant anniversaries.

“We look forward to helping the Rotary Club of The Battlefords celebrate their 100th anniversary,” Tracey says. “We also have the Rotary Club of Yellowknife that’s going to be celebrating their 50th anniversary and the Rotary Club of Edmonton South will be celebrating their 70th anniversary.”

Another highlight of 2020 will be the Integrity Awards ceremony, to be hosted by the Edmonton-area clubs on March 18. 

“We’re very excited to join and participate and to recognize the individuals at that event.”

Even though there is much still to look forward to, the lasting memories for Tracey will be the club visits.

“We have experienced some tremendous culture in all of the clubs. The clubs are very strong. We see the friendship. We see the caring. We see the drive and each club has its own identity. Each club has developed their own culture to be strong, to be exciting,” Tracey says.

“That has been a really tremendous experience, to see the variety, to see the different ways that people support each other, but to also see the ways that they come together and are very dedicated to service. That was new for me; to understand how unique each club was. 

“It has really helped me appreciate even more the work and the impact of what a Rotary club really represents.”

Vision 2020: A virtual committee plans a terrestrial District Conference to be hosted by a virtual Rotary club

Vision 2020 Logo w dateWhat happened two weeks ago in a meeting room at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Edmonton had never happened before and may never happen again.

A group of Rotarians who have been working toward for same goal for months, despite many having not met each other in person, came together for their first face-to-face meeting. 

Nearly a year after the committee planning the Vision 2020 District 5370 Conference was established, its members were all in the same room for the first time.

The Vision 2020 Conference will be held at the DoubleTree September 17-19, 2020. Register by Halloween to save $25 by taking advantage of the early-bird rate.

Screen Shot 2019-10-21 at 9.51.45 AMThe full registration is $425, but until October 31, you will only pay $400.

Thanks to sponsorship from the Edmonton Community Foundation, there is a reduced registration rate to Interact and Rotaract members.

Before their October 8 gathering, all of the committee’s monthly planning meetings had been online.

That is fitting because the Vision 2020 conference will be hosted by the Rotary E-club of Canada One, which conducts its weekly meetings on line, as the home club of the District 5370 Governor-elect.

For 2020-2021, Jim Ferguson will be the first e-club member anywhere in the Rotary world to serve as a District Governor, which means that Canada One will be the first e-club to host a district conference.

“I contacted Rotary International to ask if we are the first e-club to host a District conference,” say conference chair and Past District Governor Elly Contreras (E-club of Canada One). “They confirmed that we are.”

Unlike other recent District conferences, all of Vision 2020 will occur under one roof, with presentations, meals and entertainment scheduled for a banquet room only steps from the elevators that connect the meeting area with guest rooms.

The DoubleTree is offering a special conference rate to Rotarians, with a free upgrade for the first 20 people who book at the hotel.

The House of Friendship—rebranded as an “exhibition hall” for this conference—will be located directly across the foyer from the meeting room.

In addition to commercial displays, the exhibition hall will include a project fair. This will be an opportunity for Rotary, Interact and Rotaract clubs to showcase club projects, connect with fellow Rotarians, share ideas, learn, inspire and celebrate our successes. 

There will be a nominal fee of $50 per booth for Rotary clubs. Commercial displayers will pay $250.

PDG Judy Brown (E-Club of Canada One) is responsible for organizing the exhibition hall and project fair.

A booth application form is available on the Vision 2020 website. Inquiries can be sent to: Vision2020hof@gmail.com

Besides its virtual meetings, another difference in this conference’s approach to planning is the increased participation of Rotarians from other clubs in the conference committee. While the involvement of Rotarians from several clubs in conference planning is not unusual, the number of clubs represented this year is greater than in previous years. At least 12 clubs have members on the committee. 

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Members of the Vision 2020 Planning Committee at the 2019 People of Action District Conference in Grande Prairie. Left to right, conference chair PDG Elly Contreras (E-club of Canada One), Tammy Waugh (E-club), PDG Betty Screpnek (RC of Edmonton Glenora), Ramiro Contreras (E-club), Jocelyne Ferguson (RC of Athabasca) and DGE Jim Ferguson (E-club)

Including members of other clubs was not part of the initial plans, according to the committee chair.

“It just happened that way,” Elly says. “At the Changeover Event in June 2019, people came to Jim to offer to help. We have involved people from other clubs because many people want to be involved.”

Others, such as District Youth Chair Tamara Larson (RC of Edmonton Whyte Avenue) were invited to join the committee because of their expertise. 

“We needed someone for the youth committee. Rather than approach someone in our club, I approached Tamara.”

Elly sees benefits flowing from the involvement of Rotarians from across the District. 

“This may make this more of a District conference, than just a conference organized by a club for the District,” she says.

She also notes that the committee includes Past District Governors, who hosted previous District Conferences, and two future governors.

“Because Past District Governors have the experience, you don’t have to tell them what to do,” Elly says.

“This is also an opportunity to learn how it’s done. District Governor Nominee Donna Barrett (RC of Edmonton Sunrise) approached us, saying, ‘I have to do this next year, so I want to learn how it’s done.’ ”

Jocelyne Ferguson (RC of Athabasca) is leading the team that is planning social events, including a reception for Rotarians when they register Thursday evening, a Governor’s Ball on Saturday and a return of Rotary’s Got Talent after a 10-year absence from District conferences.

This could be your chance to highlight your vocal, instrumental, juggling or comedic talents. Learn how you can become part of Rotary’s Got Talent on the Vision 2020 website.

PDG Ross Tyson (RC of Edmonton Northeast) chairs the committee responsible for securing speakers for the conference, which will include:

  • Canadian Olympic gold medalist Beckie Scott, who now chairs the World Anti-Doping Agency. She will speak about integrity in sports and in life.
  • Dr. Chris Brauer, a highly regarded and sought-after world expert on the technologies of the future.
  • Rotarian Alan Mallory, who will speak of the extreme challenges he and his family endured while attempting to scale Mount Everest and how that experience has changed his life forever.
  • Amy Smith, who spent two years studying the social and cultural dynamics of development, at the University of Queensland in Australia, as a Rotary Global Grant Scholar.
  • Infectious disease expert Dr. Mark Joffe, who has studied the impact of the polio epidemic in Edmonton in the 1950s.
  • Norma Ascencio, a young woman who grew up in poverty with her family in the hills of Colima, Mexico, with little hope for a future until she was given an opportunity by Project Amigo to go to school. Through her ambition and hard work, she graduated as a lawyer.

 

Rotary City prepares to welcome Rotarians, October 3-5

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The 2019 People of Action District Conference, October 3-5, will be the result of a two-year community-wide effort, involving Rotarians from Grande Prairie’s four Rotary clubs and its Rotaract Club.

Click here to register now!

“We have been called ‘Rotary City’ here in Grande Prairie for many years, with us having so many clubs,” says conference co-chair Devon Potter (RC of Grande Prairie After Five).

Having so many Rotarians willing to help with the conference has been important says the other co-chair, Lola Wright, who is also a member of the Grande Prairie After Five club.

“We have lots of clubs here and lots of willing people and we really have tried to get committee members from all the clubs,” she says.

“We don’t really think of ourselves as so many different clubs. We meet at different times, because that’s what works for our work schedule or our personal life, but when we get to these things like the convention, we’re all just Rotarians. We really work together as a team and that’s how most of the Rotary projects in Grande Prairie work.”

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“We were fortunate to have members of the committee who had helped with the 2012 District Conference that was held here,” Devon says. “To have some of their knowledge and experience behind us was a driving force in leading Lola and me in the right direction in terms of what worked well with that conference and what didn’t.”

Lola became involved in the conference planning two years ago, when she was approached by then-District Governor Nominee Tracey Vavrek. “Of course, when they are in their planning stage, District Governors look for someone in their club to chair the conference, so Tracey asked. 

“I said I thought I could take that on, but it was a lot on my own, so we put our heads together and Tracey thought of Devon as a young, energetic gal. We asked Devon if she would co-chair and she agreed quickly, so that’s how we became a team.”

At the time she was approached, Devon was a member of both the Rotaract club and the Rotary Club of Grande Prairie After Five.

“I love working with people, I love organizing things, so that felt natural,” Devon says. “Then I asked Lola, ‘What does this entail?’ She said, ‘I have no clue, but we can figure it out together.’ That was good enough for me. I think we were up for a challenge and really balance each other well, in our personalities and how we look at different aspects of the conference.”

More than a Rotary conference

From the beginning, the conference was envisioned as more than a Rotary conference organized by members only from the District Governor’s club. It will be a community conference, with speakers and other activities that will appeal to both Rotarians and non-Rotarians.

“In Grande Prairie, we really come together, our Rotary clubs as well as many of our community partners, whether it’s business or individuals, who really have seen the impact of Rotary or wanted to personally get involved, but they just aren’t Rotarians themselves,” Devon says. 

“We didn’t want to say, ‘No, you’re not welcome to attend if you’re not a Rotarian,’ when truly they act in the Rotarian spirit. They just don’t have that name tag or that badge that shows that they are. We are all People of Action and we all deserve the chance to learn more and engage with one another and perhaps people who are not Rotarians (now) will want to be.”

Lola feels that the concept fits well with the 2019-2020 theme that “Rotary Connects the World.” 

“If that’s the motto for this year, and if we want to connect our community, then we need to have a community conference and be proud that it’s Rotary that is putting it on and creating an opportunity to connect with the whole community and with the whole District.” 

An opportunity to hear interesting speakers

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Former RI Vice President Dean Rohrs

Following that philosophy, this conference will include several speakers  whose messages will interest all attendees.

“I am really excited about the balance in speakers. We have a variety of Rotarians and non-Rotarians; happy stories, sad stories; good work in the community, some laughter, some personal growth,” Lola says. “We are quite proud that these are all Canadians, except for two. The rest are all Canadian speakers. We have really tried to keep that at the forefront. I think we have done well sourcing Canadians speakers.”

While she feels that people should attend just for the speakers, the conference will offer much more.

“People would think nothing of going to Edmonton or Calgary or Vancouver and paying good money to pay these kinds of speakers, where here they are getting a whole conference for that kind of price — a conference where the food is all included. We have an incredible band coming from Calgary for the District Governor’s Ball,” Lola says. “When they sign up, their days will be full. It’s good value for the ticket price.”

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Entrepreneur Mark Brand will speak at the 2019 District Conference

Devon says one speaker she is looking forward to hearing is Mark Brand. 

“He is a younger entrepreneur who came from nothing. He got to the lowest part of his life and decided he wanted to turn that around and he wanted to support others who had been in his position,” she says. 

“He wasn’t just trying to find a Band-Aid solution to homelessness and addiction and things like that. He really was trying to find a long-term solution. I am interested in what he has to say.”

Some of the other speakers lined up to speak at the Conference are Amanda Lindhout, who was abducted and held captive in Somalia for 460 days, Neil Pasricha, the best selling author of The Book of Awesome, and 2017-2018 Rotary International Vice President Dean Rohr (RC of Langley Central).

The complete list of speakers is available on the conference website.

An exciting House of Friendship

Another feature that’s prominent when Rotarians gather for conferences is the House of Friendship, and the Grande Prairie conference will be no exception.

With 14 of the 20 available booths already spoken for, Devon says, “the numbers are good and we have a range of diversity in those who are attending. A lot of the avenues of service are being represented. Different projects and groups are being represented. For the most part, it’s Rotary groups but there are some that aren’t Rotarian yet, but have projects that might coincide with Rotary,” she says. 

“We are hoping to have a youth table. We are going to have our Earlyact members as well as some of our younger community members at a table, displaying the work they are doing and selling items for charity. We are pretty excited to be able to offer that this year.”

Information about booking space in the House of Friendship is also available on the conference website.

Just over a month out from the conference, nearly 350 people have registered, which is more than half way to the total of 600 the conference committee predicts will attend. About 10 per cent of these are non-Rotarian community members.

The organizers are hoping that those who are intending to attend but haven’t registered yet, will do so soon.

“That will sure help the committee. Lots of people are saying they are going to register, but we are kind of a last-minute world for some reason. We know people are busy with vacations right now, but the sooner we know our numbers the better,” Lola says.

Special hotel rates, shuttles and a bus from Edmonton

Special conference rates at hotels in Grande Prairie will expire on September 19.

For those flying into Grande Prairie, there are shuttles to take them to their hotels. 

Shuttles have been arranged to transport participants between the hotels and the conference site at the TARA Centre, at Evergreen Park on the southern outskirts of the city.

When people register, they will be asked whether they need shuttle service from their hotel to the event centre, to help the committee with its planning. 

For Rotarians who would prefer to neither drive or fly to Grande Prairie, there will be bus transportation to and from Grande Prairie. The bus will leave Edmonton on Thursday morning, October 3, at 10:00 a.m., and return at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday morning, October 6. 

The cost is $79.00, which includes refreshments and snacks both ways.

Contact Grant Schneider if you are interested. (780) 483-1083, Cell (780) 952-2673, grant@aligrawineandspirts.com.  

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Changeover Event: A time for reflection on the past year and visualizing the year to come

 

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PDG Ingrid Neitsch pins DG Tracey Vavrek during Changeover Event on June 27

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

IMG_7170The 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

Other 2018-2019 goals related to membership, creating awareness of The Rotary Foundation (TRF), enhancing Rotary’s public image, and celebrating our youth programs.

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

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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.”

T1920EN_PMS-CShe 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.” 

This month, Highway to Mexico will deliver its 100th vehicle—plus vehicles #97-99 and 101-106

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Fire shuttle van will be the 100th vehicle to be delivered to Mazatlan through the Highway to Mexico program since 2002

Later this week, Rotarians from our District will arrive in Mazatlan with what has been designated as the 100th vehicle to be delivered to the city and the Mexican state of Sinaloa since Highway to Mexico began in 2002 with a single school bus filled with wheelchairs. 

Vehicle number 100—a former hotel shuttle that has been repurposed to become a fire support shuttle—is one of 10 vehicles in this year’s convoy, which left Grande Prairie on March 29.

“I think it an incredible achievement to keep this project sustainable and to keep people involved and to be able to raise the funds we require to do this, year after year,” says Felix Seiler (Rotary Club of Grande Prairie-Swan City), who is making his 12th or 13th trip to Mexico.

This year’s convoy, which was described in a recent article by Edmonton Journal columnist Nick Lees, and also in an interview on CBC’s Radio Active, includes two fire trucks, four ambulances, three school buses and the fire support shuttle, bringing the total number of vehicles delivered since the program began to 106.

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Loading wheelchairs from Alberta Health Services

Eighty-five per cent of the vehicles delivered by Highway to Mexico are still in service. 

Knowing that the residents of this part of Mexico have better access to emergency transportation and fire protection because of this program is a source of pride for the Rotarians who have been part of Highway to Mexico over the years.

“You can’t miss it. You see the Rotary name on these vehicles whenever they pass by,” Felix says.

“You get immediate gratification when you realize each of these vehicles will be in use for years to come.” 

The Highway to Mexico was recognized with the Gilbert Paterson Award for International Service during the District changeover event on June 11, 2018.

Several awards for international, community and youth services will be presented at this year’s changeover event on Thursday, June 27, at the Chateau Louis Hotel in Edmonton. The deadline for submitting entries for the 2018-2019 awards is May 15.

The vehicles come from various sources. The fire shuttle vehicle was donated by the hotel where it formerly served as a hotel shuttle. The two fire trucks were purchased at auctions by Rotary clubs. 

IMG_1292Two ambulances were part of eight obtained from Alberta Health Services, while another was donated by an oilfield ambulance service. The school buses were purchased from school systems through sealed bids. Other vehicles were purchased by individuals in order to donate them to the project.

Once they obtain vehicles, Rotary clubs arrange to have them refurbished. In addition to the Swan City club, other clubs involved in this year’s Highway to Mexico include the Rotary Clubs of Grande Prairie, Grande Prairie After Five, Peace River, Edson and Edmonton Riverview.

Several other clubs have participated in the project in previous years.

Getting these vehicles to Mexico required a great deal of organization, which began long before they left Grande Prairie.

“It is almost like on ongoing project,” Felix says. “We are already in the process of collecting vehicles for next year.  Six months out, we begin to do paperwork with our Mexican colleagues. It’s very time-consuming.”

Each of this year’s 20 drivers—two for each vehicle—received a detailed itinerary for the 5,000 km journey, identifying everything from the order in which the vehicles will travel (“All vehicles will travel in the same position in the convoy until we reach Mazatlan”) and speed at which they will travel (“The convoy should travel around 95-100 km per hour, depending on the slowest vehicle in the convoy”), to where the convoy will stop to refuel and where the drivers will sleep each night.

There is also advice on crossing the two borders they will encounter.

“Crossing the U.S. border is not as much of a challenge as it once was,” Felix says, explaining all the necessary paperwork is in place before the journey begins.

Entering Mexico at Nogales can be a different story. 

“Every year, it’s a new experience. Crossing the Mexican border can take from two to 14 hours,” Felix says.

“We usually have a pool (US$10 each) on how long it will take to cross the border. The winner is usually responsible for beer at a later date.”

Rotarians from Mexican clubs meet the convey each year at the border for the final segment of the journey.

Referring to these Rotarians, Felix says, “We have made lots of good personal friends over the years.”

While the Canadian Rotary clubs obtain the vehicles, Mexican Rotarians decide where they will go.

“They go through an application process. The organizations requesting vehicles need to prove that they have the resources necessary to keep the vehicles on the road.”

Once they reach Mazatlan, the Canadians will park the vehicles and head to their hotel in the Golden Zone, before participating in activities over the next few days organized by local Rotarians.

Then it will be time to fly home to begin preparations for the 2020 version of Highway to Mexico.