Becoming a Rotary Peacebuilder District during 2018-19 tops list of goals for Incoming District Governor

 

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2018-19 DG Ingrid Neitsch describes her Peacebuilding District goal during the Changeover Event on June 11

During of her year as District Governor, Ingrid Neitsch (RC of Edmonton West) hopes to see our District designated as a Peacebuilder District by Rotary International.

“One of my most important goals that inspires me is to establish a new incentive and direction in our District to become a recognized Rotary Peacebuilder District by March 31, 2019,” Ingrid told 120 Rotarians who attended the District Changeover Event on June 11, at the Chateau Louis Hotel and Convention Centre in Edmonton.

“One of Rotary International’s objectives pertains to peace and conflict resolution. This resonates with me and I believe that Rotarians have the infrastructure, the influence and the capabilities to lead the world in peace building initiatives,” she said.

Becoming a Peacebuilder District requires a minimum donation of US$25,000 to support Rotary Peace Centers, which are located at universities in six different countries, including Chulalongkorn University in Thailand, where John Lamming, the most recent Rotary Peace Fellow from District 5370, completed a professional development certificate in 2013.

Another Rotary Peace Fellowship application endorsed by District 5370 is awaiting approval by The Rotary Foundation.

TRF also recently supported two other students with Rotary Global Grant Scholarships. Meghan Casey completed a master’s degree in human rights and international migration at the University of Kent’s Brussels School of International Studies, and Amy Smith is currently studying at the University of Queensland, in Australia, towards a master’s degree in development practices.

Ingrid will officially become District Governor on July 1, succeeding Frank Reitz (RC of Fort McMurray) who had an opportunity on June 11 to reflect on the past year.

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Frank Reitz reflects on his year as District Governor during June 11 Changeover Event

He compared the last three years, which included two years preparing to step into the role as District Governor, to being on a roller-coaster.

“It has been an awesome ride,” he said. “It’s a long way up there. Then you get to the top of the roller-coaster and it seems that two and a half seconds later, you’re at the bottom and some guy says, ‘It’s over. Get out!’

“Throughout the year, I was reminded that we must change to remain relevant, but our values as Rotarians will never change. We are people of action,” Frank said.

While the number of Rotarians in District 5370 didn’t increase over the past year, Frank pointed to improved member retention as a measure of success. He also noted the growth of youth programs, concluding that, “We are meeting the needs of the youth.”

As they travelled throughout the District, Frank and his spouse, Barbara, learned about the programs and projects of the 57 clubs they visited. “These are impressive and relevant to their communities,” he said.

He noted that support for The Rotary Foundation is strong within the District. All clubs supported the Foundation and donations from District 5370 Rotarians are the second highest in the zone, on a per-capita basis. Nearly all clubs also contributed to Polio Plus.

In her presentation, Ingrid suggested that peace building may become as relevant to young Rotarians as eradicating polio was to previous generations of Rotarians. 

“Many [younger members] do not even know what polio represented, nor the fact that Rotary and its partners are on the brink of eliminating this disease globally,” she said. “However, these millennials are bombarded each day with news of turmoil and unrest across the world. We need to focus on peace building.”

In addition to sharing her peace building message during her travels throughout the District, Ingrid will also talk about other goals related to membership, the Foundation and Rotary’s public image, which are included in the District’s Strategic Plan. 

“Rotary is facing a membership challenge around the world, but particularly in North America. Our own District has seen a steady, overall decline in the last several years,” she said.

“I believe we can reverse that trend. We have neighbouring districts in our zone that have seen steady growth in the last five years. So can we!”

She described The Rotary Foundation as “the backbone of all the grants that fund our many projects,” noting the efforts of Foundation chair Wayne Kaufman (RC of Edmonton Riverview) and his committee to raise awareness about the importance and impact of Foundation giving.

“Our plan is to continue the club visits to educate members about the Foundation and to share success stories of successful Rotary grants throughout the year, so that members and the public are more aware of the work of the Foundation,” she said.

Shifting her focus to Rotary’s public image, Ingrid said, “We need a strong communication plan, to raise awareness in our community about the amazing work of Rotary Clubs. This is particularly relevant in the urban corridor, where there are many service clubs vying for attention and support.”

The strategic plan also expresses commitments to support the District’s youth programs and to prepare club officers to lead their clubs.

Ingrid described her final two goals as, “both connected to fun. We plan to incorporate the arts into Rotary events and to celebrate Rotary and life balance.

“The arts add the colour and texture to our lives, whether it is beautiful music, an intriguing theatre performance, or a stunning visual masterpiece. We have many talented individuals in our clubs, and I want to promote and support the arts in our Rotary events,” she said.

“As for celebrating, as I visit each club, I plan to acknowledge and share with our membership the important work Rotarians do each day across our District, as positive change-makers in our communities.”

She concluded with a brief preview of the District Conference, including the attendance of two women who have become leaders of Rotary worldwide. 

“Rotary International has had only three female vice-presidents in its 113-year history, including current vice-president Dean Rohrs and former vice-president Jennifer Jones. Both are confirmed for our conference.”

Ingrid also promised an 18-piece orchestra for the 1920’s themed Governor’s Ball, “that pays homage to the era of Rotary’s founder Paul Harris and his boys of Chicago and the early glory days of Rotary.”

Ingrid will begin her visits to all 57 clubs by mid-July.

“I am looking forward to visiting all the clubs in our District to see first-hand all the important work that makes an impact in our communities. We have so many talented and experienced individuals in our District, who possess vast knowledge and skills in leading companies, excelling in their professions and providing leadership in their own communities.

“I am confident that our District is ready to be a leader in the areas of peace and conflict resolution in the Rotary world, adapting new ideas for membership engagement and attraction, and continuing to have positive impact in our communities!”

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More than 20 years of service to Ethiopia recognized with a major Rotary award

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Leo Seguin, the 2017 recipient of the Donald MacRae Peace Award, stands between PDG Betty Screpnek and DG Frank Reitz

Leo Seguin (RC of Westlock) is the 2017 recipient of the Donald MacRae Peace Award (Zones 24 & 32), recognizing his commitment of more than 20 years to the people of Ethiopia.

Past District 5370 Governor Betty Screpnek, who currently serves as a director of The Rotary Foundation Canada, presented the award during the Fort McMurray District Conference. She noted that it was learning of a famine in that nation that led Leo to become involved in Ethiopia.

“When the famine attacked Ethiopia in the late 80s, this Rotarian could not stand by when he and his neighbors’ ‘bounty’ was abundant,” Betty said. “He went into action and grain drives with the Canadian Grain Banks filled some 20 grain cars to feed Ethiopia.”

The Donald MacRae Peace Award is an annual award presented by Rotary Zones 24 & 32 to recognize and honour an individual or organization for outstanding achievement consistent with the ideals of Rotary as expressed by the Fourth Object of Rotary:

“The advancement of International understanding, goodwill and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional people united in the ideal of service”

A former president of the Westlock Rotary Club, Leo has lead several international projects in Ethiopia. He travels to Africa frequently to listen to the people and gain firsthand knowledge of the projects, to be sure the funds we raise are well-spent.

His next visit is scheduled for January 2018.

IMG_4180In 2004, Leo was instrumental in establishing the Rainbow for the Future, a NGO headquartered in Westlock.

Information on the Rainbow for the Future website explains that it “is a Canadian development agency dedicated to the organization and integration of sustainable development efforts in Ethiopia. We are committed to helping the poor help themselves, and those we help in Ethiopia are truly the poorest of the poor.”

The agency supports “irrigation-based development projects as a means to improve food security, allowing communities to become autonomous and independent. When household income is stabilized and food security is established, the focus can then turn to education, healthcare, and long-term sustainability in a number of areas. These include education—particularly the education of girls and women— access to healthcare services and medical facilities, and income-generation programs, especially for women.”

Since its inception, Rainbow for the Future has raised $10 million, 95 per cent of which directly supports projects in Ethiopia, many of which have been accomplished in partnership with other Rotary clubs and agencies. Volunteers pay their own expenses related to participation in projects.

The award commemorates the contribution of Halifax Rotarian Donald MacRae, who in a speech to the International Convention in Kansas City in June 1918 proposed that Rotary become an agent for the promotion of goodwill and peace among nations—the first time that this vision of Rotary was expressed publicly.

In 1921, as chair of Rotary’s Constitution and By-laws Committee, MacRae had an opportunity to incorporate this vision into the constitution of Rotary. He presented a resolution to the International Convention in Edinburgh, Scotland that amended the constitution by adding the fourth Object of Rotary. This Fourth Object became the engine that drives Rotary’s International service: indeed, it has become the watchword of the Rotary Foundation.

“Reflecting the vision created by MacRae, the award focuses on advancing international goodwill, understanding and peace through peacemaking efforts or humanitarian activity of international significance. Peace can only happen by drilling those wells to provide potable water, education, disease prevention and feeding the hungry. That is the Rotary way of creating peace and I think we have it right,” Betty said.

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Three awards presented to recognize club achievements

District Governor Frank Reitz presented three awards during the Fort McMurray District Conference to acknowledge outstanding achievements of Rotary clubs during 2016-2017:

Membership AwardRotary Club of Barrhead – This award is for the largest percentage increase in membership (31 per cent) from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017.

The Rotary Foundation AwardAnnual fund – Rotary Club of Edmonton South – This award is presented to the club that has the highest annual per capita contributions ($478.43) to The Rotary Foundation.

Polio Plus Award – Rotary Club of Dawson Creek Sunrise – This award is presented annually to the club that has the highest per capita contributions to Polio Plus. The 41 members raised a total of $49,956 towards the eradication of polio.

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