Supporting the environment becomes a new area of focus

The Rotary Foundation Trustees and Rotary International Board of Directors have both unanimously approved adding a new area of focus: supporting the environment.

More than $18 million in Foundation global grant funding has been allocated to environment-related projects over the past five years. Creating a distinct area of focus to support the environment will give Rotary members even more ways to bring about positive change in the world and increase our impact.

Supporting the environment becomes Rotary’s seventh area of focus, which are categories of service activities supported by global grants. It joins peacebuilding and conflict prevention; disease prevention and treatment; water, sanitation, and hygiene; maternal and child health; basic education and literacy; and community economic development.

Grant applications for projects will be accepted beginning on 1 July 2021. Gifts and commitments from Rotarians and others will be sought to provide global grant support for the new area of focus.

More information about this new cause will be announced soon.

Rotary provides $20 million to help communities worldwide respond to COVID-19

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EVANSTON, Ill. (June 23, 2020) — Rotary members throughout the world are working safely and diligently to assess and provide for urgent community needs as they strive to respond and recover from the effects of COVID-19 coronavirus.

While following social-distancing and health guidelines, they are providing comfort and hope to those feeling the effects of isolation and fear, and focusing their resources and solutions toward supporting frontline health workers and first responders as they battle this disease and save lives.

“As leaders in virtually every community on earth, we bring a unique combination of local knowledge and access to a global network of expertise and resources,” said Mark Daniel Maloney, president of Rotary International. “In the face of uncertainty, we are adapting to shifting needs to offer immediate help to people at a rapid pace. And we’ll remain committed to recovering from this health crisis for as long as it takes.”

Rotary members are taking action to provide a range of solutions including handwashing stations and food to those unable to social distance in Kenya, lifesaving information about preventing the spread of COVID-19 in India, ventilators and protective gear for overstretched hospitals in Italy and vital social connections to neighbors who live alone in Bethesda, Maryland.

The Rotary Foundation, Rotary’s charitable arm, has to date awarded $20 million to support Rotary clubs worldwide in their immediate response to COVID-19 in their communities, and to long term recovery efforts.

To learn more about Rotary’s response to COVID-19 and to find out how you can get involved, visit

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 helping those in need in their own communities to working toward a polio-free world.


Contact: Stephanie Herzfeld, 847-425-5797,

Clem Renouf, the RI president who inspired Rotary’s polio eradication efforts, dies

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1978-79 RI President Clem Renouf recalls conversations with Rotary leaders
as the organization turned its attention to eradicating polio.

Sir Clem Renouf, the 1978-79 Rotary International president who helped propel Rotary toward its top goal of eradicating polio worldwide, has died at age 99.

Renouf was a member of the Rotary Club of Nambour, Queensland, Australia, for 70 years. He served as RI director, Foundation trustee, district governor, RI committee member and chair, and International Assembly discussion leader.

In early 1979, on a flight home from the Philippines, Renouf read a magazine story about the eradication of smallpox. He wondered if Rotary’s new Health, Hunger and Humanities (3-H) Grants could be used to eliminate another disease. They, for the first time, allowed Rotary projects to be taken on by more than just one club or district.

Renouf consulted with a friend, John Sever, who was a district governor in Maryland, USA, and chief of infectious diseases at the United States National Institutes of Health. Sever happened to be friends with Jonas Salk and Albert Sabin, who developed polio vaccines in the 1950s and 1960s. After doing some research, Sever said that polio would be the best disease for Rotary to work on.

“Clem then set his sights on polio eradication as a Rotary worldwide project,” wrote Ray Klinginsmith, 2010-11 Rotary International president, in a tribute to Renouf. In November 1979, the RI Board agreed to set the eradication of polio as a primary goal of the 3-H program.

Renouf was instrumental in raising funds for the early effort. “In order to raise money, Clem asked all the clubs to contribute some cash, which was about $15 per member, for service projects, and the appeal raised the surprising amount of $7 million,” Klinginsmith wrote. “Part of that money was then used to fund the first polio immunization project in the Philippines … The success was real”

In 1985, Rotary launched the PolioPlus program, and it later spearheaded the Global Polio Eradication Initiative with its partners — national governments, the World Health Organization, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF. The GPEI continues to pursue worldwide eradication of polio.

Renouf served in the Royal Australian Air Force during World War II. After the war, he was an accountant and partner in the firm of Renouf and Clarke. He was an associate of the Chartered Institute of Secretaries and Administrators and a fellow of the Australian Society of CPAs, later called CPA Australia. He was also a founder of Sundale Garden Village for the elderly.

Rotary honored Renouf with the PolioPlus Pioneer Award for his extraordinary service to PolioPlus, as well as the Service Above Self Award, Rotary Foundation Citation for Meritorious Service, and Rotary Foundation Distinguished Service Award. He was a Rotary Foundation Benefactor and Major Donor and a member of the Paul Harris Society and the Bequest Society.

Klinginsmith described Renouf as quiet but a natural leader.

“Clem was always kind and supportive of younger Rotarians, and he is the one who gave me a chance to travel the Rotary Road,” Klinginsmith wrote. “Rotary would not be at the high point it is today without the improvements made by Clem and his team.”

Winners of the 2020 Rotarian magazine photo contest

Snap judgments

From Hong Kong to Hungary, Rotarians captured perfect moments in our annual photo contest

This year, we received more than 600 entries to our photo contest from 56 countries and geographical areas. The photographs take us from the vast plains of Inner Mongolia to the manmade canyons of Hong Kong. They tell a story of Rotarians exploring the world with open eyes and hearts, making connections across cultures, and capturing beauty wherever they find it.

Our judge, Damon Winter, has brought to his task the discerning eye of a professional photographer. His comments on the images our readers submitted are like a master class in photography; like the best teachers, he sees what is good — and how it might be even better.  

In addition to the winners and honorable mentions that appear in this issue, we’ll feature more photos from the contest in The Rotarian throughout the coming year.

First place

Photographer: Tono Valdés
Rotary Club of Guatemala Sur, Guatemala
Location: Fuego Volcano, near Escuintla, Guatemala

Winter: With every color in the spectrum represented, this nighttime volcano scene is like a deconstructed rainbow stretched by time and punctuated by the raw power of nature. It is the rare photo that you would be happy to have on your wall, to stop and stare at every time you pass by. I love the collision of the blue-hued star trails, all traveling through the composition in tidy, concentric circles, with the chaos and violence of the exploding volcano. The green hue of the fluorescent-lit cityscape below helps balance the frame.

Second place

Photographer: Fang Keong Lim
Rotary Club of Bandar Utama, Malaysia
Location: Xiapu, China

Winter: Godly beams of morning light penetrating this foggy forest scene make this photo come to life. The beautifully stacked and layered vertical composition, in which the main subjects are perfectly silhouetted against a layer of lush groundcover, is a thoughtful way to utilize all the elements and bind them together. This is a tricky exposure that could have benefited from just a little more fine-tuning to retain more detail in the highlights.

Third place

Photographer: Yuan Lung Hsieh
Rotary Club of Tainan Cherng-Ta, Taiwan
Location: Tainan, Taiwan

Winter: A masterful use of light, exposure, and composition allowed the photographer to render this colorful indoor-outdoor abstract scene. I wish there had been a little more care with the edges of the frame and a more clearly defined moment with the silhouette at left, but it is a valiant effort and clever use of exposure to see beyond how our eyes perceive this scene.

Honorable mention

Photographer: M A Taher
Rotary Club of Sonargaon Dhaka, Bangladesh
Location: Sylhet, Bangladesh 

Winter: Lovely composition and framing, and a great job by the photographer getting close to the subjects to bring an intimate experience to the viewer. It looks like a difficult place to maneuver, so I’m sure careful planning and forethought were necessary to get this shot. By choosing the moment when the central woman’s head turns up and catches the light, the photographer gives us an entry point into the photo and an anchor for the composition.

Honorable mention

Photographer: Shravan BM
Rotary Club of Bantwal Loretto Hills, India
Location: Udupi, India

Winter: Peak action in magic-hour light — what more could you want? Maybe a bit of golden backlighting under a crowd transfixed by the moment, just to top it off? This photograph has that too.

Honorable mention

Photographer: Carlo Antonio Romero
Rotary Club of Cagayan de Oro, Philippines
Location: Hong Kong

Winter: At first I thought these were stacks of shipping containers waiting to be lifted onto a cargo ship. Then I looked a little closer and saw that it was a different kind of storage — the human kind. This is a very interesting use of an ultra-wide-angle lens and an unexpected low-angle perspective along with mixed-source nighttime lighting and a surreal illuminated city sky to create this beautiful abstract architectural study that is also a poignant commentary on the modern human condition.

Honorable mention

Photographer: Lola Reid Allin
Rotary Club of Belleville, Ontario
Location: Fez, Morocco

Winter: One of the very few portraits I looked at that went beyond the feeling of an ordinary posed snapshot and showed quiet grace and a direct and intimate connection between the subject and the photographer. A beautifully detailed face is but one of the many patterns and textures that make up this photograph — from the weathered paint on the walls to the multiple decorative iron grates and stone details, to the different fabric textures and designs. Somehow his eyes still pierce right through that patchwork of textures.

Honorable mention

Photographer: Philbert Williams
Rotary Club of Tobago, Trinidad and Tobago
Location: Stone Haven Bay, Tobago

Winter: What an amazing scene, with the fallen tree as a backstop for the young goalie as a group of boys play soccer in the misty orange glow of the setting sun. It brings back many fond memories of the best time of day on the beach, when the tourists have gone home and just the people who live there remain. It’s a small thing, but I keep wishing I could see if that ball was headed for the goal.

Honorable mention

Photographer: Yeong Hsiou Chen (Asic)
Rotary Club of Taipei Hwachung, Taiwan
Location: Inner Mongolia, China

Winter: This reminds me of the Marlboro Man ads from the 1970s, minus the weathered cowboy in a dusty ten-gallon hat. It is such an amazing scene, but it’s missing a little something to take it to the next level.

Honorable mention

Photographer: Ken James
Rotary Club of Kalamalka, British Columbia
Location: Elliston Point, Newfoundland

Winter: A simple but lovely puffin portrait with a little something extra to make it unusual and wonderful. These birds are not herbivores, so was it doing a little home decorating? Those sorrowful eyes suggest something more meaningful.

Honorable mention

Photographer: Cynthia Barasz
Rotary Club of Saint Petersburg Sunset, Florida
Location: Walvis Bay, Namibia

Winter: Absolutely perfect timing captures the battle between sea and air for feeding-time supremacy. The seagull’s wings are in peak extension, with every single feather on display, beak open, ready to snatch that tasty morsel from what seems to be a very calm person. A very nice execution on a fun photograph.

Honorable mention

Photographer: Richard Hallick
Rotary Club of Tucson Sunrise, Arizona
Location: Dunapataj, Hungary

Winter: The way those four horse heads stack up together as if carved from a single piece of Italian marble lends such wonderful texture to this action shot that I almost don’t care what’s happening with the rider in back. I find myself wishing this were either shot wider, with some room to breathe around the subjects, or just really tight on those magnificent horses.

Get ready for your close-up

The next edition of The Rotarian’s photo contest will open on 1 October 2020 and close on 15 December 2020. For more information, go to

Meet our judge

Damon Winter is a photographer for the New York Times, who won the Pulitzer prize for feature photography in 2009 for his photographs of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.

Statement from Rotary International

Statement from Rotary International

At Rotary, we have no tolerance for racism. Promoting respect, celebrating diversity, demanding ethical leadership, and working tirelessly to advance peace are central tenets of our work.

We have more work to do to create more just, open and welcoming communities for all people.

We know there are no easy fixes and that challenging conversations and work lie before all of us. Rotary’s strength has long been our ability and commitment to bringing people together. We will tap into that strength now as we stand with those who are working for peace and justice. 

Rotary will do our part to listen, learn and take action to ensure that we continue to contribute to making positive change.

Watch: Italian clubs aim to protect hospital workers responding to COVID-19

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Italian clubs aim to protect hospital workers responding to COVID-19


Rotary clubs in districts across Italy worked together to procure state-of-the-art equipment needed to combat the deadly coronavirus disease for 26 hospitals around the country.

The pandemic has devastated Italy, with more than 32,000 deaths and nearly 226,000 confirmed cases by mid-May. The Italian Rotary club project, funded by global grants, is providing thermal scanners, COVID triage units, and bio-containment stretchers that allow medical staff to safely assess, monitor, and transport patients. Valued at more than $1.4 million, the equipment will address current urgent needs and be useful for the future, helping to reduce the spread of disease and protect public health.

Rotaract rising

At midnight on 30 June, hundreds of Rotaractors will ring in the new Rotary year together. They’ll also be celebrating Rotaract’s ongoing evolution, including the expansion of Rotary membership to include Rotaract clubs.

Interota 2020 will be held from 27 June to 1 July in Hong Kong. Interota is a triennial Rotaract event, organized by Rotaract members with support from Rotary International, that includes workshops, discussions, and speakers as well as cultural activities. Learn more at

A countdown celebration is scheduled for the last night of Interota 2020, Rotaract’s triennial convention, which will be held in Hong Kong next month.

“It’s really exciting,” says Ignacio González, a member of the Rotaract Club of Oriente de Talca in Chile. Until recently, Rotaractors have been considered Rotary program participants. “Now,” says González, who serves on the Elevate Rotaract Task Force, “we are a part of Rotary. It’s a new era for Rotaract.”

Rotary President Mark Daniel Maloney and President-elect Holger Knaack, strong champions of Rotaract, will be at Interota this year. It may be the first time a presidential changeover ceremony has taken place at a Rotaract event.

Rotaract’s elevated status within the organization was approved by Rotary’s Council on Legislation in 2019 as part of an ongoing effort to make Rotary more appealing and welcoming to young professionals. “We keep telling Rotarians to find a way to bring in young people, when we have them already and we seem to forget them,” says 2018-19 Rotary President Barry Rassin. It was Rassin who formally proposed expanding the definition of Rotary membership to include both Rotary and Rotaract.

Rotary programs include: Interact, Rotary Youth Exchange, Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, New Generations Service Exchange, Rotary Peace Fellowships, and Rotary Community Corps

After the Council approved revising the RI Constitution and Bylaws to include Rotaract as a membership type, the Elevate Rotaract Task Force — made up of both Rotaractors and Rotarians — was formed and began surveying members to come up with policy recommendations for the transition. “We’re hearing from Rotaractors all over the world,” says David D. Stovall, RI treasurer and chair of the task force.

On the advice of the task force, the RI Board of Directors in October approved several changes to Rotaract — the most notable being the removal of Rotaract’s upper age limit. As of 1 July, members of Rotaract will no longer be required to leave their club when they turn 31. Clubs will still be able to set their own age limit, if they wish.  

Elyse Lin, a member of the Rotaract Club of Taipei Tin Harbour in Taiwan who is also on the task force, says the age limit was an obstacle for Rotaract members who wanted to stay involved with Rotary but either didn’t feel ready for a traditional Rotary club or found the expense of joining one out of reach. “Once those members leave, it’s very hard to get them back into the Rotary family,” Lin notes. Although some Rotaract alumni continue to participate in Rotaract events, she says, they often no longer feel like a true part of the organization. With the rules change, she predicts some recent alumni will rejoin Rotaract. 

Rotaract clubs will be able to take advantage of products and services such as new leadership development resources from Toastmasters International, updated online goal-setting tools, and an improved online club administration experience.

Other changes: New Rotaract clubs won’t have to rely on a Rotary club to sponsor them; they can now sponsor themselves or choose another Rotaract club as their sponsor. And Rotaractors are now eligible — and encouraged — to serve alongside Rotarians on district and RI committees. “Elevate Rotaract is really a call for a closer partnership between Rotary and Rotaract,” explains Clement Chinaza Owuamalam, a member of the Rotaract Club of Apo, Nigeria, who serves on the task force. 

Rotaract clubs will also gain more support from Rotary International, including access to administrative tools on My Rotary and the option to subscribe to the digital edition of The Rotarian magazine. As the transition from Rotary program to membership type gets underway, the Trustees of The Rotary Foundation also plan to discuss whether Rotaract clubs should be eligible to apply for Foundation grants. 

Rotary has a new alliance with Toastmasters International, and Rotary’s online learning center will host a curriculum created by Toastmasters that will help members improve their leadership and communication skills. To learn more, visit

One thing Rotaractors are looking for, says Ronald S. Kawaddwa, a member of the Rotary Club of Kasangati, Uganda, is more professional development opportunities. To meet this demand, a leadership training program Rotary is rolling out with Toastmasters will also be available to Rotaract members. “At age 30, you are launching your professional career,” says Kawaddwa, who is on the task force. “If Rotaract provides a better package in terms of professional development, that adds value.”

In 2022, annual dues of $5 per person for university-based Rotaract clubs and $8 for community-based clubs will be introduced to cover the cost of additional support for Rotaract clubs. RI will work to develop and promote alternative funding sources to help Rotaractors pay dues, including fundraising opportunities.

Kawaddwa says that shifting the public perception of Rotary is particularly important to attracting more young people in his region. “On the African continent, most of the population is below the age of 30,” he says. “If Rotary remained the way it was, it would soon become irrelevant.”

Letting Rotaract members stay in their clubs longer gives them more time to learn about Rotary, Kawaddwa adds. “We hope that these changes will produce stronger Rotarians, members who have served longer and gotten more experience and mentorship while in Rotaract.”

Kenyan Rotarians take action to prevent spread of COVID-19&nbsp;

Rotary clubs in East Africa are forging partnerships to provide hand washing stations and food in areas where social distancing is a luxury that few can afford

by Arnold R. Grahl
, Rotary International

Almost 80 percent of the population in Nairobi, Kenya, lives in informal settlements where it’s not unusual for families of day laborers to live together in one house. Surviving day to day on the meager wages they typically earn as shop clerks, construction workers, or domestic employees, as many as eight people cook, do homework, eat, and sleep in these tight quarters.

In short, social distancing is a luxury that many poor Kenyans can’t afford.

“If the [COVID-19] pandemic hits here, like it has in North America and other places, it will be just catastrophic” because of the inability to social distance, says Geeta Manek, a Rotary Foundation trustee-elect and member of the Rotary Club of Muthaiga, Kenya. “We’re working very hard, through preventative measures, desperately trying to keep this thing away from us.”

Shortly after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, Joe Otin, governor of Rotary District 9212 (Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, and South Sudan), formed a districtwide response team. Chaired by Nairobi-East Rotarian Joe Kamau, the team is working with clubs across the district to provide hand washing stations, deliver food to families who have lost jobs, and raise money for personal protective equipment.

“The world needs Rotary more now than ever before.”

The 100-liter tanks rest on metal stands and have brass taps at the bottom and ledges for soap.

“When [Kamau] asked what we wanted to do first, we said let’s go with hand washing stations,” says Manek, a member of the response team.

Manek led a fundraising effort in Ethiopia and Kenya that raised more than $21,000 within 20 days. Prime Bank in Kenya offered to match all contributions 1-to-1. The team used the money to purchase 100 water tanks and then persuaded the supplier to donate an additional 100. The 100-liter tanks rest on metal stands and have brass taps at the bottom and ledges for soap. The response team has distributed these hand washing stations in Kilifi, Mombasa, and Nairobi and is now working with national health departments to decide who to help next. The tanks are being refilled by trucks, but local authorities are also discussing ways to pipe in water.

The Rotary Community Corps, groups of non-Rotarians who work alongside Rotary members on service projects, are teaching people effective hand washing techniques, counting the number of times people come back to wash their hands, and collecting other data. Clubs are also partnering with Shofco, a grassroots organization that provides critical services, advocacy, and education for girls and women in Kenya’s urban slums, to monitor the stations.

The response team is also using the stations to ask people coming to wash their hands for information about families who are short of food. Manek says work-from-home orders made it impossible for day laborers to earn a living. Clubs have distributed packages of sugar, maize meal, rice, lentils, salt, and soap.

Clubs have distributed packages of sugar, maize meal, rice, lentils, salt, and soap.

Purchasing personal protective equipment for frontline health care workers has been more difficult. Manek says they’ve been able to negotiate with vendors and donors to get some surgical masks and gowns, but supplies are scarce and much of it is available only by airlift, which makes it too expensive.

If there is a positive side to the crisis, it’s been the way it has energized Rotarians and attracted the attention of partnering organizations.

“We’ve been the first ones on the ground,” Manek says. “We’re getting invitations from corporate partners like banks and insurance companies who are seeing what we’re doing and want to work with us.”

  • $21000.00

    Amount Manek raised in 20 days in Kenya and Ethiopia

  • 200.00

    Initial number of tanks distributed

  • 100.00

    Liter capacity of water tank

Manek has been most involved in her home country of Kenya, but she says Rotarians have been active in Eritrea, Ethiopia, and South Sudan as well.

“Through this initiative, we’ve come across so many partners we didn’t know existed, or if we knew they existed, we would just have let them do their thing and we do our thing,” Manek says. “Now, people are coming to us. They want a credible partner. They don’t want to give money to a big pot and not know where it’s going. All these values we have been sharing with the world are paying off.”

Says Otin, “the embodiment of Rotary clubs and their ultimate purpose is to embrace and support communities in need, and thus the world needs Rotary more now than ever before.”

Italian club uses expertise to aid in coronavirus fight

Members help launch site so merchants can sell goods, organize supplies to make sanitizer, and provide food to health care workers.

by Ryan Hyland, Rotary International

While Italy has been largely locked down to fight the coronavirus, members of the Rotary Club of Morimondo Abbazia have galvanized support — and a measure of hope — for people and businesses reeling from the effects of the pandemic.

Their efforts are addressing both immediate and long-term needs: donating meals to health care workers, organizing a supply chain to get the ingredients for liquid sanitizer, and helping businesses that depend on in-person commerce move their operations online.

We are obviously in an unprecedented time. In the spirit of Rotary, we again used our network and expertise to help communities.

– Pier Metrangolo, member of the Rotary Club of Morimondo Abbazia, Italy

Italy has been hit hard by COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, with more than 183,000 cases and 24,000 deaths, mainly in its northern region. The government took sweeping action in early March, essentially prohibiting all movement of people in the northern region and closing all nonessential businesses. Soon after, it expanded those restrictions to the entire country.

Italy’s economy will be badly damaged, with small and medium-sized businesses affected the most. Club members in Morimondo, a town in northern Italy near Milan, wanted to help shops and merchants through the crisis.

Delivering lifeline for businesses

Club member Davide Carnevali, co-founder of an information technology firm, proposed an initiative that would involve the club and the company, Mitobit. They would work together to create an e-commerce platform where small and medium-sized businesses could promote, sell, and deliver their products.

In Italy, where only 10 percent of all businesses sell goods online, the website gives these merchants an important boost now and in the future. “We want to change their whole approach to their business that will be sustainable long after the shutdown,” Carnevali says.

The club and Mitobit launched the site, Consegnacasa, meaning “home delivery,” during the second week of March. Mitobit developed and designed the site, and the club members handled legal support, communication, and promotion. The site offers merchants free advertising to showcase their goods and offers customers an easy online payment system and delivery service.

One of the biggest challenges for Italy is what happens after the pandemic ends … We wanted to do our part in setting them up for success when things get back to normal.

– Rotaractor Alina Dorosenco

Carnevali says the first deliveries began in early April. The club outlined safety measures for merchants to take during deliveries, including wearing masks and gloves and, if possible, avoiding in-person contact with customers.

Members also worked with the Rotaract club that Morimondo Abbazia sponsors to contact businesses that already had some online or social media presence, such as a Facebook page, even though the companies weren’t conducting business online. Rotaractors developed a social media strategy to communicate directly with these merchants. The club also created social media lessons to help business owners learn more about advertising on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other channels.

“One of the biggest challenges for Italy is what happens after the pandemic ends. No one really knows what the future holds for businesses. We wanted to do our part in setting them up for success when things get back to normal,” says Alina Dorosenco, president of the Rotaract Club of Morimondo Abbazia. “We don’t have much money, as a Rotaract club, but we have social media and technical skills that will help shops modernize their business.”

About 20 merchants have started using the site so far — businesses from Morimondo to Milan to nearly as far south as Rome. “We don’t have a limit,” Carnevali says. “We want this to grow to help as many businesses as possible. This is just the start.” He estimates that 60 percent of the merchants on the site will be food-related, 20 percent will be personal goods like clothing, and the rest will be other businesses like pet stores and jewelers.

Supporting frontline medical workers

The Rotary club of Morimondo Abbazia has been supporting health care workers as well as businesses. Member Pier Metrangolo, a professor of chemical engineering at the Polytechnic University of Milan, learned that the university was going to produce desperately needed hand-sanitizing liquid and he looked for ways the club could help. It was difficult, because of the shutdown, to find the ingredients that the World Health Organization suggests using. He and fellow club members contacted their business associates and acquaintances to create a network of manufacturers that help supply the ingredients and distribute the product.

“We are obviously in an unprecedented time. In the spirit of Rotary, we again used our network and expertise to help communities,” Metrangolo says.

The club also donated money to help the university continue producing sanitizer. The school makes up to 5,000 liters (1,320 gallons) of the liquid each day and distributes it to local hospitals, the Red Cross, police officers, and a prison. Metrangolo says the university recently received a license to produce masks. “Our club will continue to help in any way we can. This emergency needs Rotary,” he adds.

At a local nursing home, health care workers made what Metrangolo called a heroic decision, opting not to go home but to stay at the facility to try to stem the spread of the virus and keep caring for patients. The club donated nearly $3,000 to help feed the staff until it’s safe for workers to go home. Once a week they buy pizza for the staff and residents. When the Rotary Club of Helsinki –Finlandia Hall, Finland, a twin club of Morimondo Abbazia, learned about the initiative, it donated $550 toward future meals.

Members of the Morimondo Abbazia Rotary club admit that not meeting in person has been difficult, but the energy and resourceful spirit of the club have not waned. Carnevali says most of the club’s 40 members attend the weekly online meetings.

“We miss seeing each other in person, but there is a lot of enthusiasm during our online meetings because we know we have to help bring hope to those suffering,” Carnevali says. “This is a dark time for Italians, but we will persevere.”

Never too young to lead

Never too young
to lead

Six Rotarians reveal the secrets of balancing family and work that allowed them to take on the role of district governor before turning 50

by Kim Lisagor Bisheff
Illustrations by Viktor Miller Gausa

As an active member of the Rotary Club of Hampton Roads (Norfolk) in Virginia, Clenise Platt had been a club president and taken on some leadership roles in her district. Even so, it came as a complete surprise when Mary Landon, the club’s 2016-17 president, approached her at the end of a meeting and asked if it would be OK to nominate her for district governor.

“I thought one day I might place my name in the hat to become a district governor,” says Platt, 48. “But truth be told, I thought ‘one day’ was years away.”

Moved by the request, she asked for a few days to think it over. She consulted with friends and family, researched the job requirements, and did some soul-searching. “I determined that it was important to me that if I agreed to be nominated, it would be because I believed I could bring a fresh perspective to the role,” she says. “Becoming district governor would not be a résumé builder or an item to check off on a to-do list.”

Decision made, Platt accepted the nomination and later learned that she would become the first African American woman to serve as governor in District 7600’s history.

Platt may be part of a growing trend within Rotary. In recent years, an increasing number of young Rotarians have accepted district-level positions that had traditionally been held by older members. On 1 July 2019, Rotary inaugurated 36 district governors under age 50. They are midcareer professionals with demanding jobs in medicine, education, tech, finance, and broadcasting. There’s an architect, an advertising executive, a legislator, a lawyer, a veterinarian, and a soy sauce manufacturer. They all have families and friends; some have young children. Yet each of them managed to find the time to take a top leadership position in their districts. Here’s how six of them make it work.

Shia Smart

District 9810, Australia | 41 clubs; 1,128 members

Shia Smart joined Rotary when her son, Flynn, was four months old. “So effectively he’s only known Rotary,” she says. “He’s been brought up with it.” Now 15, Flynn travels with his mother to district functions and has logged more meeting hours than many adult Rotarians.

During the same period, Smart, who lives about 15 miles east of Melbourne, was developing her career as an IT business analyst. “I’ve always worked for other people,” she says. “I’ve had flexible working arrangements, but I’ve never been in a position where I control what I do or where I’m going.”

So how did a working mom become a Rotary district governor? Club culture played a significant role, says Smart, 49. She’s a charter member of the Rotary Club of Mont Albert & Surrey Hills, which enacted policies that encouraged working parents to rise through the Rotary ranks: They welcomed children at meetings, relaxed attendance requirements, and scheduled board meetings outside business hours.

That culture empowered Smart to shape her year as district governor to accommodate her job and her responsibilities as a parent. Her first move upon learning that she would become DG was to get her son’s school calendar so she could schedule club visits and meetings accordingly. And when she got a new job just before the start of her term, she set her schedule to make it work. “I said, ‘I need all these days off for Rotary,’ ” and her new employer assented. “I have been very lucky that Rotary is so structured and organized.”

Every step of the way, Smart says, she has made an effort to communicate with colleagues, friends, and family about her Rotary life. “It’s amazing how accommodating people can be when you explain things,” she says. “Take people on the journey with you, and you will find they are very supportive.”

Santhana Naidu

District 6580, Indiana | 32 clubs; 1,515 members

Santhana Naidu explains the strategy that helps him manage his roles as husband, father, district governor, and associate vice president of marketing and communications at Indiana State University in Terre Haute. It can be summed up in one word: compartmentalization. “I set aside two workday evenings and weekends for Rotary business,” he says. “I don’t generally take [Rotary-related] calls or emails during workdays unless it’s an emergency.”

Of course, that approach depends on the cooperation of all stakeholders. ISU lets him work remotely when needed, and his wife, Amy, “has been pulling my share at home when I’m away,” Naidu admits. “I couldn’t do this without a supportive employer and family.”

The district’s clubs have also lent their support. About two-thirds of them have held joint meetings or socials so he wouldn’t have to travel on his workdays. “At the social events, several people have told me how much they’ve enjoyed interacting with a DG,” he says. “I see that as a win.”

In recent years, the district has developed a culture of supporting young leaders, Naidu says. “Past district governors have been instrumental in resetting expectations for younger Rotarians and working professionals.” That included hiring a district administrator to help with day-to-day office duties. The result: At 42, Naidu, a member of the Rotary Club of Terre Haute, is the district’s youngest-ever DG, and the next in line is a working mother of four.

“I truly believe Rotary leadership is possible while working full time,” Naidu says, “and you can do a good job on both fronts.”

“I truly believe Rotary leadership is possible while working full time.”

Anna Tumanova

District 2223, Russian Federation | 77 clubs; 1,107 members

When your district spans all of Russia, visiting each of its clubs can be a challenge. Consider this: Flying east from St. Petersburg on the Gulf of Finland to Vladivostok on the Sea of Japan — more than 4,000 miles — takes about 12 hours. That’s why Russia’s District 2223 has initiated a six-year pilot program that divides the district into five regions, each of which has its own director. “I hope that all these regions in six years can be separate districts,” Anna Tumanova says. “We have huge potential here. Of course, we still have a lot of work to do.” Tumanova, 43, is no stranger to work. She has been an active Rotarian and full-time financial consultant since 2005, when she and her husband, Vladimir Rtishchev, chartered the Rotary Club of Ulyanovsk, a city on the Volga River about 500 miles east of Moscow. When Rtishchev died of liver cancer in 2015, Tumanova didn’t step back from Rotary. She leaned in. Rtishchev had hoped to become a district governor one day. In taking on that role, Tumanova has fulfilled his dream. “It helped that I had Rotary friends all across Russia,” she says. Everywhere Rotary takes Tumanova, her daughter, Varvara, goes as well. “Now she also has friends all over the country,” Tumanova says. “Rotary kids.” Varvara, 12, plans to launch an Interact club with her Rotary friends from across the region so they can more easily keep in touch. She gets straight A’s in school, where she is allowed to do homework via the internet when she is on the road. And she and her friends have learned to enjoy one of the perks of Rotary trips: “Rotarians travel not like tourists but like real guests,” Tumanova says. “I hope that Varvara and her friends will grow up as people of the world. They have no borders in their minds, and that’s very important.” 

“It helped that I had Rotary friends all across Russia.”

Igor Lenin Peniche Ruiz

District 4195, Mexico | 78 clubs; 1,170 members

In a typical workday, Igor Lenin Peniche Ruiz drives an hour from his home to his family’s 3,000-acre ranch in the Yucatán jungle, where he and his 10 employees are raising about 500 beef cattle. As general manager, he observes the animals, talks with his team, takes notes on the cows, bulls, and calves, and monitors their feed, which they grow on-site. It’s a demanding job, and the only one he has ever known: The ranch belongs to his 79-year-old father, who has worked alongside him for years.

That routine changed significantly when Peniche Ruiz became a Rotary district governor. At the start of his term, he was traveling for Rotary five or six days a week. His father, his sister, and his workers — some of whom have been with the ranch for 30 years — picked up the slack. “My Rotary team is really good, but my work team is even better,” he says. “I trust in my team, I trust in my family, and they allowed me to do this work.”

Peniche Ruiz, 49, says his employees are happy to pitch in because they’ve seen how Rotary has helped people in their communities. “They already live the magic of Rotary,” he says. In one instance, his club, the Rotary Club of Mérida-Itzaes, sponsored a medical clinic in a nearby town. Doctors diagnosed life-threatening conditions in time to save two patients’ lives.

At home, that magic has spread to each of his five daughters. Four have participated in Rotary Youth Exchange, three have been Rotaractors, one was a Rotaract club president and district representative, and one was an Interact club president. “My wife, Norma, is the main key to keeping every-thing in balance,” he says.

When Peniche Ruiz joined Rotary 20 years ago, his oldest daughter was 10. His youngest is now 18, so he and his wife decided that this was the right time for him to take on the role of DG. As always, he has Norma’s full support. “That’s the only way you’re going to be a successful person,” he says. “Family is the most important thing.”

Clenise Platt

District 7600, Virginia | 62 clubs; 2,508 members

Clenise Platt’s first Rotary leadership role was chairing her club’s dictionary project, a fitting assignment for someone who had written a children’s book. When club members found out about the book, Keep Your Chin Up, they asked her to read it to local third graders when she delivered the dictionaries. A few years later, the club began donating copies of the book along with the dictionaries; since then, about 2,000 students have received her book.

“I am so appreciative of the way my club engaged me as a young leader,” Platt says. “I think their willingness to make space for me to be a leader in the club, and the way they asked to include my book in the program for the third graders, helped me to feel engaged and an important part of the club.”

The experience led her to pursue increasingly influential roles within her club and her district. Along the way, she learned to integrate her service life with her job by being clear about her priorities. On her first day as the staff development coordinator at the Virginia Beach Public Library, Platt told her co-workers that she was a Rotarian and hoped to become a district governor one day. “I had no idea that I would be on the pathway to governor less than a year later,” she says.

To maximize time with friends and family, Platt has looked for opportunities to include them in Rotary functions. Her parents, Clinton and Hattie, have attended meetings, fundraisers, club visits, installation ceremonies, and international conventions, and they have volunteered at a district conference. “They have fans who ask about them when they aren’t at an event,” she says. “I made my parents Paul Harris Fellows because they were the first people who taught me the meaning of Service Above Self.” Her brother, Gabriel, will soon become a Paul Harris Fellow as well.

“Rotary has been a complement to my family,” she says. “I have found that incorporating my personal and professional life with Rotary has enriched my experience as a district governor in a number of ways.”

Jaco Stander

District 9370, South Africa and Lesotho | 88 clubs; 1,446 members

Jaco Stander may be one of the oldest of the 36 younger DGs — he turned 50 about halfway into his term — but like others in his cohort, he has embraced Rotary as a family affair. His wife, Lisa, a pharmacist, is also a Rotarian. In the year leading up to his term, she traveled with him to all of his training sessions so, he explains, “we could share our Rotary journey together.” They planned their visits to the district’s clubs in a way that allowed them to keep tabs on Stander’s two gas stations and block out time for family and friends.

“Both my wife and I planned our working environment to commit to the DG year,” he says. Stander trained two managers to oversee his business. (He adds, “I’m also fortunate to still have my parents, who are able to assist where needed.”) So she could have more flexibility, Lisa became a locum pharmacist, which means she’s employed on a contractual rather than full-time basis. It helped that their children — Christopher, 24, and Brigitte, 22 — had finished or were about to finish college. “The timing made sense at that stage,” he says.

The process that led to Stander taking on the DG position started years earlier, when he became a Rotarian. “My club encourages young and new members to play an active role in club leadership,” he says. “I had the opportunity to lead a wide range of portfolios.” (Stander is a member of the Rotary Club of Klerksdorp, a city about 100 miles southwest of Johannesburg.) His district took the same approach, pulling him into a district youth committee, a term as assistant governor, and various training events early in his Rotary career. And when he completes his term as governor, he will lead his district’s 2020-21 youth services committee.

Those experiences encouraged him to aim higher. “I wanted to be part of district leadership and be more involved in the management of Rotary,” he says. The final nudge was a phone call from Bruce Steele-Gray, a past district governor, who asked him to apply. Stander also received support and encouragement from what he calls his “close group of PDG friends.”

“Becoming a district governor is an amazing opportunity to experience Rotary at a totally different level,” he says. Stander also recommends diving into district activities early and often. “It’s a way to acquire knowledge and experience,” he says, “as well as an opportunity to contribute new energy and views that will help bring Rotary into the modern era.”

“My club encourages young and new members to play an active role.”

In our February issue, Kim Lisagor Bisheff wrote about how to spot fake news.

• This story originally appeared in the May 2020 issue of The Rotarian magazine.

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