After having attended more than my share of conferences and conventions on many subjects and causes I have to say I have never experienced any convention as organized and inspired as the 2018 Rotary International Convention that just wrapped up in Toronto, Canada on June 27. With 24,000 registrants from 175 counties, the organization came off without a hitch and the view of thousands of individuals united in common causes to make the world a better place was awesome. In addition, we had the chance to meet many interesting and involved advocates and new local and international friends.
I speak from experience since, as Vice President now moving up to President Elect of my own Greater West Chester Pennsylvania Sunrise Rotary Club, with my daughter, Alisa, we climbed onboard a tiny plane from Harrisburg to Toronto on June 22 to travel to Toronto and visit and experience first hand what Rotary is about worldwide. We were not disappointed. Alisa had attended her first Rotary meeting at West Chester Sunrise when she was two years old. Day care opened later. Over the years till now at age 21 and finishing college she participated with me in multiple local volunteer projects and then became involved in Rotaract, Rotary for college students, while she was on campus. Now was our chance to see what Rotary is like outside our own local areas, and outside the U.S.
The conference was not just a series of distinguished speakers although it was that but entertainment was woven in with international themes. Speakers ranged everywhere from individuals describing projects that bring water and health initiatives to rural areas around the world to well known individuals including Laura Bush, former U.S. First Lady, and Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada. The inventor of the Leappad, an interactive game known to parents of young children in the U.S. to teach them how to read, explained how he adapted the model to be used in Pakistan to help women and their children learn through sound, associations, and touch even in areas where it was forbidden by the culture for women to learn to read. The Prime Minister of Haiti, a Rotarian, spoke about Rotary’s involvement to help his country through their several natural disasters. The President and CEO of UNICEF USA, the United Nations group for children, spoke of immigration and children. Everyone joined in common goals as they shared experiences at General Sessions and then during Breakout Meetings describing how to carry the original vision of Paul Harris into action.
For those who do not know Rotary, this international movement began with business leaders meeting at various locations (hence Rotary) to do good for the community. The first unified goal has been for many years to eliminate polio from the face of the earth. In connection with that Rotarians have travelled to remote areas and under extreme conditions to bring the polio vaccine. Now, when the goal seems very close at hand, the polio initiative has highlighted other needs also. There are six primary directions described at the conference – peace and conflict prevention/resolution, disease prevention and treatment, water and sanitation, maternal and child health, basic education and literacy, and economic and community development.
Another theme developed during Breakout Sessions was how to relate Rotary to a time like now where people have limited time to attend meetings or limited resources. I was interested in ideas expressed regarding satellite clubs and eclubs and communication of on ground clubs on line as a way of continuing service for those who might otherwise be unable.
The House of Friendship was a huge auditorium with hundreds of booths describing Rotary projects throughout the world.
Finally, coming home, I should note what is happening with our Club. While we were gone, our President of the Greater West Chester Sunrise Rotary, Rick Stevenson, was heavily involved himself in chairing and working in the 21st Cancer Ride to benefit Chester County Hospital/Penn Medicine Cancer Center patients. Rick has been devoted to this cause from the beginning. Dennis Wallace will be moving up as new President this month and I’m interested in his thoughts on Toronto since he attended. Dawn DeFuria just wrapped a great year as District Governor of District 7450. Check us out on Facebook – The Greater West Chester Sunrise Rotary Club.
Esquire, Colliton Law Associates, P.C. Janet Colliton has practiced law for over 38 years, 37 of them in Chester County, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. Her practice, Colliton Law Associates, PC, is limited to elder law, Medicaid, including advice, applications and appeals, and other benefits planning including Veterans benefits, life care and special needs planning, guardianships, retirement, and estate planning and administration.