Last week I took some days from the office to travel to Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada for a purpose very dear to my heart. Anyone who knows me well knows I have a close involvement with Rotary. This year I had the privilege of being inducted as the president of our own Greater West Chester Sunrise Rotary Club. Our Club meets at breakfast at the West Chester Senior Center every Wednesday except for the first Wednesday of the month when we meet and socialize in the evening at Timothy’s just outside of town. Projects are ongoing. Our purpose and our goals include friendship but go much farther. Why we meet and what goals we expect to accomplish are ongoing discussions for us and for Rotary clubs around the world. We are not alone.
With this as background, for Club presidents, district governors and frankly any member, Canada was the place to be last week for what was referred to as a Zone Conference, a strategy and training session, for multiple U.S. and Canadian Clubs in Zones 24 and 32. It was also a place to rethink the future and consider what we really mean.
I think the image many people have of Rotary is a club where older people meet to share a meal and listen to speakers. The energy that motivates active Rotarians, both young and old, is often lost in translation. Rotary is a 1.2 million member network of volunteers initiated by Paul Harris, and other businessmen in Chicago in 1905 to exchange ideas, form relationships and give back. It has also been for me, a support group when I adopted my daughter from China as a single Mom, a source of knowledge and information in setting up and expanding my business as an elder law attorney, and a place where I could find inspiration with like-minded business and non-profit people who find meaning in projects like directing traffic for the annual Cancer Ride for Chester County Hospital, the West Chester Food Cupboard, and multiple other engagements. It is also international. I knew about International engagement and learned more. As one speaker said “Your product is hope.”
Rotary International’s primary project is the complete elimination of polio. At conference we learned the number is down to 78 cases worldwide after 2.5 billion children have been immunized against polio. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a major supporter. Our other core commitments are promoting peace (Peace Fellowships, Peace Centers and collaboration with other groups), fighting disease in addition to polio and expanding access to health care, providing clean sustainable water supplies, sanitation and hygiene to people throughout the world, expanding access to quality medical care, sanitation, and education and economic opportunities for mothers and children, and supporting education and growing local economies.
At the conference we heard from Chad Priest, CEO, Indiana Red Cross, who spoke on resilient communities, those that can better handle disasters. He noted that Red Cross goes into areas looking for local Rotary and similar Clubs after a disaster strikes since there needs to be onsite connection with the area that local clubs provide.
We received information about the “Shelter Box” project and saw examples of how these kits that can be taken into areas where people are struck by natural and other calamities and given easy to assemble living areas with accessories as needed such as water filtration.
The presenters spent quite a bit of time discussing how Rotary can and is adjusting to be relevant to younger people today, both by providing more flexibility and energizing Rotaract clubs already on college campuses and by expanding their reach to form Community Rotaract Clubs that are primarily service and Internet connected. Rotary has E-Clubs, RAG’s (Rotary Action Groups) and New Voice ideas to make traditional clubs more flexible.
One of the first people my daughter, Alisa, and I met at the Conference was Trinitey, a participant from Alaska. Trinitey, at age 19 had already been a Rotary student in Austria. She travelled from her Alaskan home to the conference in Niagara Falls by way of Seattle, Chicago and Buffalo. One of our trainers was a young woman, Brittany Arthur, from Australia then Germany who has now established a Club in Japan where she provides banking services to young Japanese starting out. Rotary grows and it travels!
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.