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Rotary International Convention Brings World Problem-Solvers Together

by sanmigueltimes
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Most of us think of Rotary as service clubs that do good 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.

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 foundation in the world, donating more than $3 billion USD 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 were a dizzying array of worthy projects hoping to interest clubs in various parts of the world to become partners.

The most impressive thing, 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 teaching 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 SMA.

I met Amparo Buendia, MD, in the Friendship Tent. She is leading a project in Columbia 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 more effective and a less expensive option to armed protection. The United Nations is considering a major training expansion to not only save money but also to amplify its peacekeeping mission.

The most important thing that happens in a huge RI convention is the lifelong friendships formed and 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 [email protected], see RotarySMAMidday.org, and come to Rotary Tuesday, June 20, at 12:30 p.m. at Hotel Mision, Salida a Queretaro 1, when I will be sharing more about the amazing problem-solving strength of local, state, national, and international Rotarians.

  • What: Rotary Presentation
  • Title: Rotary International Convention Brings World Problem-Solvers Together
  • Date, time: Tuesday, June 20, 12:30 p.m.
  • Where: Hotel Mision
  • Address: Salida a Queretaro 1
  • Extra info: 415 112 3413 – SMA; 925 476 8117 – US
  • Cost: Free

By Tom Schneider

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