Month: April 2019

Rotary 110th convention brings world to Hamburg

Rotary brings the world to Hamburg  

One of the city’s largest and most multi-cultural conventions will bring €24 million 

HAMBURG, Germany (30 April 2019) – More than 25,000 Rotary members from 170 countries are expected to attend the service organization’s 110th annual international convention in Hamburg 1–5 June 2019, which is estimated to bring €24 million into the local economy.

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“An economic and cultural hub that connects Germany to the world, Hamburg is a perfect fit for our convention,” said Rotary International President Barry Rassin. “We look forward to bringing our members to Hansestadt – home to the first Rotary Club of Germany.”      

Often described as a “mini-United Nations,” Rotary’s first-ever convention in Hamburg will transform the Hamburg Messe und Congress into a cultural mosaic as the organization’s global network of volunteers gather to exchange ideas on how to improve lives and bring positive, lasting change to communities around the world. 

“We are proud to welcome the 110th Rotary International Convention to the Hamburg Messe und Congress exhibition complex. Working closely with all stakeholders and our partners we will do everything in our power to provide our guests with the best possible platform for networking and interacting. Our goal is to make this convention at the famous port city of Hamburg an unforgettable event for all participants,” says Bernd Aufderheide, President and CEO of Hamburg Messe und Congress GmbH.

Rotary members will engage in workshops and hear from a lineup of world-class speakers, including Dr. Peter Tschentscher, First Mayor of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg and President of the Senate; and Timotheus Höttges, CEO of Deutsche Telekom AG. 

Organized by Rotary International in conjunction with the Hamburg Host Organizing Committee of local Rotary members, registrants of the convention will also experience Hamburg’s hospitality with visits to the Elbe Philharmonic Hall, St. Michaelis Church and a special shopping day on Sunday, 2 June, along Jungfernstieg.  

“I am delighted that the international public is so interested in our city. The Rotary International Convention is an event on Champions League level and will focus on Hamburg as a city and as a meeting location,” says Michael Otremba, Managing Director of the Hamburg Convention Bureau GmbH (HCB).

About Rotary: Rotary brings together a global network of volunteer leaders dedicated to tackling the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges. Rotary connects 1.2 million members of more than 35,000 Rotary clubs in over 200 countries and geographical areas. Their work improves lives at both the local and international levels, from those in need in their own communities to working toward a polio-free world. Germany’s 56,000 members and 1,100 clubs are taking action to make the world a better place at home and abroad. 


Philipp Krüger: +49 (0)40 533 08878,
Tamira Mühlhausen: +49 (0)40 533 088 87, 

Media passes

Accredited journalists are invited to cover the Rotary convention and events (June 1-5).  Media Passes are required to gain access to the exhibit hall and general session speeches. To apply for a Media Pass, please contact Philipp Kruger. You may also request a Media Pass onsite upon presenting valid media accreditation at the Press Center at the Hamburg Messe und Congress starting on June 1.

Rotary members seek community solutions to opioid epidemic

Fathers turn pain into healing solutions

Rotary members destigmatize opioid recovery

By Arnold R. Grahl Photos by Alyce Henson

A father’s concern and fear propelled sleepless Ben Lowry, an attorney in Portland, Maine, out into the streets one evening searching for his eldest son. 

Just a year earlier, his son had been in college studying engineering when he began using drugs, including opioids. Lowry’s family spent more than $100,000 on treatment and recovery programs before Lowry gave his son an ultimatum: stop using or move out. His son moved out.

Now, hearing the wail of sirens on this cold fall night, Lowry feared the worst.

“Someone said there was an overdose nearby, and I hurried over, thinking it was my son,” Lowry said, his voice cracking with emotion. “There was a young woman dead in the street, probably in her 20s. It’s a very difficult thing to see, especially when your son is living out there.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Maine and New Hampshire recorded nearly 800 opioid overdose deaths in 2017 – a terrible toll, but a small fraction of the 47,600 opioid deaths across the United States that year.

As a member of the Rotary Club of Portland, Lowry decided to do more than just address his own situation. He joined a group of Rotary members in the New England area who have come together to prevent overdose deaths. 

In partnership with public health agencies, the District 7780 Recovery Initiative Committee organizes seminars that educate the community on the dangers of opioids, supports education campaigns in public schools, and raises money to train recovery coaches who assist drug users who are trying to turn their lives around.

“I don’t know if I will be able to help my son,” Lowry says. “But if I can help others in a similar situation, I want to.”

Combatting stigma 

Robert MacKenzie, a member of the Rotary Club of Kennebunk, Maine, and the town’s police chief, has also been personally touched by the crisis. One of his daughters struggled with heroin dependency and is now in recovery. But that process, he says, is a long and uncertain one.

MacKenzie has been instrumental in organizing District 7780’s Overdose Recognition and Response seminars. His main goal is to reduce the stigma associated with opioid use, which, he says, can be a significant barrier to drug users getting help. He thinks Rotarians can spread the message that the opioid epidemic is not a criminal justice issue, but a public health issue.

Robert MacKenzie’s goal in addressing audiences is to reduce the stigma associated with opioid use. At York County Senior College in Alfred, Maine, he explains the use of naloxone auto-injectors to counter an overdose.

“A lot of people tend to shy away from the subject because they look at it as dirty or evil and want nothing to do with it,” MacKenzie says. “They think it doesn’t happen in their town. But guess what: It happens in every town.”

At a November seminar at York County Community College in Wells, a town 30 miles southwest of Portland, about 70 Rotarians and community members turned out to learn how to recognize an opioid overdose and administer naloxone to counteract it. Dozens of the blue and purple kits, each about the size of a deck of cards, were laid out on a table in the college’s auditorium alongside information pamphlets.

Zoe Brokos, a community health promotion specialist with Portland’s Public Health Division, demonstrated how to use the kits. She acknowledged that the fear of public rebuke can keep people from giving or seeking help. Making the auto-injectors more available, Brokos explained, shifts the focus to administering assistance.

“There is still a lot of stigma associated with naloxone even in the recovery community,” she said. “We have to get past that and think about providing a compassionate community response. We can certainly help break down barriers by asking for a kit and encouraging others to do the same.”

John Bouchard’s Rotary Club of Saco Bay organized one of the seminars in their community. The participants realized the issue touches everyone.

John Bouchard, a member of the Rotary Club of Saco Bay, Maine, helped organize one of the seminars in his community, and he attests to their ability to alter widely held perceptions.

“About three-quarters of the way through the program, one of our better-known Rotarians asked the question, ‘Why do we want to help these people?’ ” Bouchard recalls. “There was a moment of silence and then someone at the next table shared how his neighbor’s son became dependent on prescription pain killers after a knee surgery an d progressed to heroin. Then someone else shared a story, and it continued on like that. Pretty soon, we realized this touches everyone.”

In January 2019, in an overview of the opioid crisis, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that about 80 percent of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids  The 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that 2 million people in the United States had misused prescription opioids for the first time in the past year, for a total of 11.4 million people misusing prescription opioids nationwide.

The role of language and culture 

At many of the Rotary forums, people in recovery share their story to underscore that point. Andrew Kiezulas, a former graduate student at the University of Southern Maine who is now working as a chemist and production manager for a company in Carlisle, Massachusetts, has been in recovery since 2012. He became dependent on opioids after a back injury in 2007. He helped run an on-campus residential recovery community and has researched the impact of language on substance use.

“When you lay out a rap sheet on the same person, with the same history, and change the term ‘substance abuse’ to ‘person with substance use disorder,’ it makes a big difference in how that person is treated,” Kiezulas says. “A person labeled as an abuser will more often be referred to punitive measures. But if they are labeled as having a disorder, they are more often referred to treatment, they have more time with doctors, they get access to more services, and their outcomes are significantly better.”

“This isn’t just, we don’t want to be called addicts, anymore,” he continued. “Stigma is a very real thing and plays out in doctor’s offices, cop cars, etc.” 

Earl Freeman, a prevention specialist who works with the District 7780 committee, has had his own encounters with misplaced stigma attached to opioid use. He notes that some of his medical colleagues ask him why he wants to work with “those people.” That attitude, he says, holds communities back from addressing the issue compassionately, and it overlooks the complicated factors that can lead an individual into dependency on a drug.

“I had one patient come to me who said she was 16, she had messed up a leg, and they put her on oxycodone,” he recalls. “She said it was after that first pill that she knew something had changed.”

Another of his patients was in her 30s and a successful junior executive, who began using oxycodone after a dental procedure. Her dentist kept refilling the prescription for seven weeks before he stopped. But when she quit taking it, she suffered withdrawal symptoms that affected her ability to function. She found out that a friend had a supply left over, and when that ran out, began getting nonprescription pills on the street. Eventually, she realized where her actions were heading and came to see Freeman.

“Because she had so little drug culture embedded in her, once she got control of the symptoms, she could begin to withdraw herself with my help,” he said. “If someone has taken opioids every day for a month, they are going to have withdrawal. But how they deal with that sociologically is going to depend on many things.” 

The Rotarians in New England have reached out to a number of other organizations to support their efforts. The Rotary Club of Biddeford-Saco organized a Red Ribbon Committee that coordinates with nearby towns to sponsor events in schools to teach students about the dangers of prescription and nonprescription drugs. District 7780’s committee has also been working to establish a local chapter of Learn to Cope, a nonprofit support network that offers education, resources, and peer support to parents and family members dealing with a loved one’s addiction to opiates or other drugs.

Meanwhile, MacKenzie and the Kennebunk Police Department have partnered with a local nonprofit volunteer organization called Above Board to establish a Recovery Coach Training Academy. Led by certified trainers, the four-day course graduates peer mentors who are then paired with people in recovery. In  January, MacKenzie organized a session for emergency first responders, followed by recovery coach training for 30 community members. The first responders will use the new coaches as a resource pool when they encounter people struggling with substance abuse disorder.

Every father’s nightmare

Lowry completed the course in November. (His trainer, Jesse Harvey, is a Portland Rotarian.) Lowry encourages others to take the training.

You don’t think it is going to happen to you until it does.

Ben Lowry
Portland, Maine, USA, Rotary member

“It opened my eyes to a lot of things,” he says. “I can certainly empathize with people based on my own experiences with my son.”

He says the past year of his son’s struggle with drugs has been a nightmare. “You don’t think it is going to happen to you until it does.”

His son has been robbed at knifepoint twice and overdosed three times. He recently landed a job and moved back in with his father – although according to the elder Lowry, he smokes marijuana with his friends. 

“I don’t know if that’s recovery or not, at least he’s not doing harder stuff,” says Lowry, who still endures sleepless nights. “I hope his living with me and working is his first real step of recovery. But you don’t know. All I can do is keep trying.”

Tunisian Interactors win 2018 Interact Video Awards

By Arnold R. Grahl

When members of the Interact Club of Tunis Inner City, Tunisia, set out to make a video about their club, they focused on the many projects that have kept club members busy and engaged throughout their city.

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“The key message was to show that a group of teenagers can have an impact on their community,” says Fatma Choura, the club’s adviser and member of the Rotary Club of Radès, Tunisia. “They wanted to encourage other young people to become active and serve their communities.”

The two-minute video was selected as best in the 2018 Interact Video Awards, earning the club $1,000 to spend on a future project. Videos from the Interact Clubs of Alexandria East Champions, Egypt; San Salvador Noroeste, El Salvador; and Colegio de Calumpit, Bulacan, Philippines, were named runners-up. A video from the Interact Club of A.V.P. Trust Public School (CBSE) Gandhinagar, Tamil Nadu, India, was voted the 2018 fan favorite in a social media poll. All awardees received a letter from the Rotary International president and have their videos posted on social media.

Choura says the Tunis Inner City club decided to film at the Olympic Stadium in Radès because it’s an impressive backdrop and is located in the city of their sponsor club. The video’s main character, a young woman, passes groups of Interactors who are acting out the club’s five most meaningful projects. The film builds to its main message: “Through enjoying the good and overcoming the bad, we grew together, and we got closer until we became a family — a family aiming for higher goals and achievements and looking forward to making the world a better place.”

Choura says the Interact club is like a family. The members spend a lot of time together, and through team-building and social activities, they’ve developed mutual respect for each other. The Interactors also benefit from the mentoring and support they receive from their sponsor Rotary club.

“We follow them closely because they are, as teens, in a critical phase of their development,” Choura says. “We see each other on a regular basis and we work together, growing as a family.”

10th anniversary

The Interact Video Awards celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2018, with a record 198 videos submitted from 35 countries. In its first year, 32 videos from nine countries were submitted. The growing popularity of the awards has inspired more Interactors to promote how Interact instills leadership skills and helps them make a difference in their communities.

Kyle Gomes, a former member of the Interact Club of Hugh Boyd Secondary School, British Columbia, Canada, which earned best video in 2012 and 2014, says, “Winning the Interact Video Awards reinforced the idea that even though we were a small, newer club, our contributions mattered.” 

“I think the video selected in 2012 was probably the most impactful for us,” adds Gomes, now a professional photographer and cinematographer. “We were a brand new Interact club, and these were the very first large-scale projects we were taking on. This was for sure instrumental in motivating everyone.”

Here are the winners for the past 10 years:


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Interact Club of Mark R. Isfeld Secondary School, British Columbia, Canada: The Interact Club of Mark R. Isfeld regularly volunteers in their community and has undertaken several projects to support education and promote health in Honduras. Their video sought to demonstrate how they are a driven group of students who wish to make a positive impact worldwide.


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Interact Club of Constanta, Romania: With the theme “If Interactors Ruled the World,” members of the Interact Club of Constanta share their ideas for making the world a better place. 


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Interact Clubs of Aquinas, Central, Holmen, Logan, and West Salem high schools, Wisconsin, USA: Interact clubs near La Crosse come together with their community to create iFeed, a one-day food drive to feed the hungry at home and around the world.


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Interact Club of Hugh Boyd Secondary School, British Columbia, Canada: In the video, “Our Best Day in Interact,” club members show how they’re changing lives and improving communities around the world — from rebuilding an orphanage in South Africa to raising funds for polio eradication.


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Interact Club of Kathmandu Mid-Town, Nepal: In “Seeds of Change,” members of the Interact Club of Kathmandu Mid-Town show how selling herbs from their club’s garden helped pay for hygiene kits distributed to underserved children.


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Interact Club of Hugh Boyd Secondary School, British Columbia, Canada: Members of the Hugh Boyd Secondary School Interact club show that a small group of people can still make a significant change in the world. 


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Interact Club of the Episcopal School of Knoxville, Tennessee, USA: “Change 4 Change” chronicles the efforts of the Episcopal School of Knoxville’s Interact club to help eradicate polio. Using their creativity and management and leadership skills, students complete a schoolwide project to raise funds and awareness to support Rotary’s End Polio Now campaign.


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Interact Club of Syosset High School, New York, USA: The Syosset High School Interact club describes how they raised $42,000 for Gift of Life International to improve the lives of two children with life-threatening heart condition in El Salvador. 


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Interact Club of South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice Communities in Schools, South Carolina, USA: In a juvenile correctional facility in South Carolina, members of this Interact club use the leadership skills they’ve learned while they’ve been detained to help others. “It has given us a chance to give back and to repair at least some of the harm we have caused,” says a member. “We’re becoming givers, instead of takers.”

Highlights of 2019 Rotary Council on Legislation

Council elevates Rotaract

Representatives from around the world vote to make Rotaract clubs members of RI and to preserve club flexibility

By Arnold R. Grahl

The 2019 Council on Legislation may not have made as many dramatic changes as the Council three years ago did, but it made several decisions that will shape the future of Rotary.

  1. Representatives at the 2019 Council on Legislation in Chicago vote on the first proposal of the week: an amendment to the preamble to the Avenues of Service.

    Photos by Alyce Henson

  2. Representatives vote to close a debate on a proposal at the Council.

    Photos by Alyce Henson

  3. Two representatives share a laugh between votes at the Council.

    Photos by Alyce Henson

  4. Past RI Presidents K.R. Ravindran and Ian H.S. Riseley listen to representatives debating a proposal.

    Photos by Alyce Henson

  5. A representative at the 2019 Council on Legislation uses a device to listen to the interpretation of a debate. The Council is conducted in eight languages.

    Photos by Alyce Henson

Among the most important, the Council elevated the status of Rotaract clubs, allowing them to join Rotary International the way that Rotary clubs do. The change is intended to increase the support that Rotaract clubs receive from RI and to enhance their ability to serve.

“We need to be an inspiration to our young partners, so they will continue doing the great service that they do,” said RI President Barry Rassin when he presented the measure. “This sends a strong message that they are truly our partners in service.”

In many ways, the Rotaract experience will not change. Rotary clubs will still charter and sponsor Rotaract clubs. Rotaract clubs will still have their own standard constitution and their own unique club experience. And members of a Rotaract club will not be called Rotarians. The measure simply expands the definition of membership in Rotary International to include both Rotary and Rotaract clubs.

Every three years, representatives from Rotary districts around the world meet in Chicago, Illinois, USA, to consider changes to the constitutional documents that govern Rotary International. This year’s Council considered more than 100 proposals.

Representatives authorized the Board to pursue changing RI’s charitable status to a section 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization under the U.S. Internal Revenue Code. It is presently a 501(c)(4). A task force has been studying the possible change for 18 months and says it will offer benefits that include tax reductions and vendor discounts that will reduce expenses.

Dues increase

As for dues, the Council approved a modest increase of $1 a year for each of three years, beginning in 2020-21. The previous Council set dues for 2019-20 at $34 per half year.

With the increase, the dues that clubs pay to RI per member will increase to $34.50 per half year in 2020-21, $35 per half year in 2021-22, and $35.50 per half year in 2022-23. The dues will not be raised again until a future Council votes to change it.

Councils give Rotary members a voice in how our organization is governed. Learn more about the Council on Legislation and the Council on Resolutions on our Council web page or read our live blog of the 2019 Council.

The Council also changed the name of the General Surplus Fund to RI Reserve, because that more accurately reflects the purpose of the fund. In another vote, the Council approved calling the general secretary a chief executive officer (CEO) in circles outside Rotary, to increase his stature in dealings with other intergovernmental organizations.

A seemingly small but intensely debated action will reduce the number of nonvoting members at future Councils, by removing past RI presidents and allowing only one RI Board director to attend but not vote.

But in some respects, the Council defined itself as much by what it did not do. 

This year’s representatives resisted pressure to limit some of the flexibility that the 2016 Council granted clubs, rejecting several measures that would have placed restrictions on clubs. One unsuccessful measure would have required clubs to meet at least 40 times each year. 

Many clubs have been using the innovative and flexible club formats to attract new members and meet their current members’ needs.

Representatives also rejected proposals to make it optional for members to subscribe to an official Rotary magazine and to reduce the size of the Council by half and have it meet every two years.

Democracy in action

Several representatives commented on the democratic nature of the proceedings.

“All of the delegates have been very responsible and respectful, no matter what their opinions,” said Adriana De La Fuente, the representative from District 4170 and a member of the Rotary Club of Plateros Centro Historico, Ciudad de México, Mexico. She has attended three previous Councils as an observer. “That elevates the trust and respect for our organization.”

Glen K. Vanderford of District 6760, a member of the Rotary Club of Jackson-Old Hickory, Tennessee, USA, said he appreciated the opportunity to represent the people of his district and gather with like-minded people to voice opinions.

“The process allows us to have a road map forward instead of just going day to day,” he said. “I was excited by the outcome of enhancing Rotaract and that we didn’t weaken future Councils, but preserved the ability for everybody to have a voice.”

Live updates from Council on Legislation 2019

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