Rotary and ShelterBox celebrate the power of partnership

Evanston Ill., Rotary International announced on 3 June a three-year partnership renewal with its disaster relief project partner, ShelterBox. For almost 20 years, this unique humanitarian alliance has supported families with a place to call home after disaster.

Rotary is a global network whose members take action to make a lasting difference in their communities – and worldwide. ShelterBox provides emergency shelters and other essential items to support families who have lost their homes in disaster.

What began as a local connection with one Cornish Rotary Club has led to an international movement that’s provided 140,000 ShelterBox family tents or 390,000 ShelterKits worldwide to date (a value of over £54 million).

First adopted as a millennium project by the Rotary Club of Helston-Lizard in 2000, the support of Rotary members and clubs around the world saw ShelterBox become Rotary’s Project Partner in Disaster Relief in 2012. Since then, the partnership has helped transform ShelterBox into an internationally recognized disaster relief charity, supporting families with emergency shelter after disaster.

The partnership extends far beyond financial support. Around 1,000 Rotary members are involved in ShelterBox as volunteers, staff or response team members. And clubs worldwide offer valuable, practical assistance to help ShelterBox reach more families fleeing disaster or conflict.

This has recently included support for families in Malawi flooded from their homes by Cyclone Idai and communities in Lombok devastated by the 2018 earthquake and tsunami (quotes and details at the end of this release).

“ShelterBox has been Rotary’s Project Partner in Disaster Relief since 2012, and we are excited to renew the partnership for another three years,” says Rotary International General Secretary John Hewko.

“Through this project partnership, Rotary members around the globe can collaborate with ShelterBox to support communities in desperate need of emergency temporary shelter and vital supplies following natural disasters,” adds Hewko. “Additionally, Rotary and ShelterBox will continue to expand cooperation efforts through preparedness training and stockpiles of prepositioned aide in disaster-prone regions.”

Caroline White, interim Chief Executive at ShelterBox, said: “Whenever disaster strikes, Rotary is beside us. From the earliest planning stages to final evaluations, Rotary members help ShelterBox make community contacts, organize logistics, and reach disaster-affected families in remote areas who might otherwise go without.

This partnership has helped ShelterBox become who we are today. Our global network of 17 ShelterBox affiliates, who raise funds and awareness worldwide, evolved from Rotary relationships.”

Rotary club presidents around the world have also commented:

Ace Robin, President of the Mataram Rotary Club, Indonesia, was caught up in the deadly earthquakes that hit Lombok in 2018. Her home survived, but many around her were destroyed. Through an agreement with the government-led response, Ace’s club was central to bringing ShelterBox aid to Indonesia.

Thanks to their support, vulnerable members of the community received vital emergency shelter, including families with elderly relatives, pregnant women or new mothers.

Ace said: “Working with ShelterBox taught us a lot – they showed us how to build shelter and select families to help. It also gave us a chance to show what Rotary is to local people.”

After floods triggered by Cyclone Idai left tens of thousands homeless in Malawi this March, Rotary members connected ShelterBox with communities in the Blantyre region, helping them understand local needs and culture. Members helped deliver emergency shelter to almost 2,000 families. And ShelterBox supported the Rotary Club of Limbe to join the wider disaster response, enabling the club to deliver food to communities whose entire crops had been destroyed by the floods.

Rotary Club of Limbe President Eric Chinkanda said: “It was a great experience to work with ShelterBox. We have not only walked a mile in reaching out to the many Malawians who faced hardship, but we restored confidence in the displaced people that all was not lost!”

James Kingston, Club President of the Rotary Club of Helston-Lizard, in Cornwall, said: “The members of Helston-Lizard Rotary are delighted that Rotary International continues to recognize ShelterBox.

I joined the club a few months before the Millennium Project began, and I’m so pleased we’re still involved. It has been wonderful to see the charity grow into an internationally recognized, professional disaster relief organization.”

Facts and figures

  • 90% of ShelterBox responses assisted by Rotary
  • 1,000 Rotary members have roles in ShelterBox, in the UK and internationally
  • £54m+ raised for ShelterBox by Rotary supporters since 2000

About Rotary International

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. See

About ShelterBox

ShelterBox provides emergency shelter and other essential items to families who have lost their homes to disasters. See

Rotary announces US$100 million to eradicate polio

EVANSTON, Ill. (June 10, 2019) — Rotary is giving US$100 million in grants to support the global effort to end polio, a vaccine-preventable disease that once paralyzed hundreds of thousands of children each year.

The funding comes as Rotary and its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) address the final—and most pressing—challenges to ending poliovirus transmission, and as Nigeria approaches three years without any reported cases of wild poliovirus, bringing the Africa region closer to polio-free status.

“We have the wild poliovirus cornered in the smallest geographic area in history, and now there are just two countries that continue to report cases of the wild virus,” said Michael K. McGovern, chair of Rotary’s International PolioPlus Committee. “As we work with our partners to apply innovative new strategies to reach more children, and embrace lessons learned thus far, Rotary is doubling down on our commitment to end polio for good. I’m optimistic that the end of polio is within our grasp, but we must remain vigilant in rallying global political and financial support as we push towards a polio-free world.”

While there were only 33 cases of wild poliovirus reported in 2018, the last mile of eradication has proven to be the most difficult. Barriers to eradication–like weak health systems, insecurity, and mobile and remote populations–must be overcome. As long as a single child has polio, all children are at risk, which underscores the need for continued funding and commitment to eradication.

To support polio eradication efforts in endemic countries, Rotary is allocating half the funds it announced today to: Afghanistan ($16.3 million), Nigeria ($10.2 million), and Pakistan ($25.2million). Additional funding will support efforts to keep vulnerable countries polio-free:

  • Chad ($102,395)
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo ($9.5 million)
  • Ethiopia ($2.6 million)
  • Iraq ($6 million)
  • Kenya ($6.3 million)
  • Mali ($1.2 million)
  • Somalia ($1.4 million)
  • South Sudan ($1.2 million)
  • Syria ($1.7 million)
  • Yemen ($2.1 million)

The World Health Organization (WHO) will receive $1.3 million to conduct research, and will also receive support for surveillance activities in its Africa ($10.9 million) and Eastern Mediterranean ($4 million) Regions.

Rotary has committed to raising $50 million a year to be matched 2-to-1 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, amounting to $150 million for polio eradication annually. Rotary has contributed more than $1.9 billion to fight the disease, including matching funds from the Gates Foundation, and countless volunteer hours since launching its polio eradication program, PolioPlus, in 1985. In 1988, Rotary became a spearheading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Gates Foundation later joined. Since the initiative launched, the incidence of polio has plummeted by more than 99.9 percent, from about 350,000 cases in 1988 to 33 cases of wild poliovirus in 2018.

About Rotary

Rotary brings together a global network of volunteer leaders dedicated to tackling the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges. We connect 1.2 million members from more than 35,000 Rotary clubs in almost every country in the world. Their service improves lives both locally and internationally, from helping those in need in their own communities to working toward a polio-free world. Visit and for more about Rotary and its efforts to eradicate polio.

Contact: Audrey Carl,, 847-866-3424

Rotary’s 110th annual convention concludes

Rotary’s 110th annual convention concludes; one of Hamburg’s most multicultural, non-profit gatherings

  • More than 26,000 registrants representing 3,605 Rotary clubs in 170 countries
  • Rotary commits US$102 million this year to end polio
  • Hamburg gains €24 million in tourism revenue
  • First German nominated to serve as Rotary International president in 2020
  • mytaxi donates €70,000 to German Rotary club projects
  • 35 speeches and 98 breakout sessions
  • 334 exhibit booths of which 200 featured Rotary humanitarian projects

HAMBURG, Germany (5 June 2019): As Rotary closes its 110th annual international meeting at the Hamburg Messe und Congress on 5 June, Rotary members will bring home indelible memories and new insights on how to improve lives and bring positive, lasting change to communities around the world. 

In his keynote address, Rotary International President Barry Rassin said, “Service to others is an integral part of our mission, whether it’s through the plans and actions of individual clubs, Rotary’s six areas of focus, or the transformational support of The Rotary Foundation. And the service that most defines us and our global mission is the ongoing goal to rid the world of polio.”

Alongside partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, Rotary has achieved a 99.9 percent reduction in polio cases since spearheading the initiative more than 30 years ago. Since then, Rotary members have contributed $1.9 billion and countless volunteer hours to protect more than 2.5 billion children in 122 countries from polio. Today, just two countries continue to report cases of wild poliovirus, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Rotary is committed to raising $50 million per year, with every dollar to be matched with two additional dollars through a matching agreement with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Including the matching funds, Rotary is committing another US$102 million this year to fund polio eradication efforts in 13 countries. 

Michel Zaffran, director of polio eradication for the World Health Organization (WHO) presented on the progress and global significance of the initiative. “We’re truly on the cusp of eradicating a disease for only the second time in human history,” said Zaffran. “Our responsibility is nothing less than to ensure that no child anywhere will ever again be paralyzed by the poliovirus.” 

German Rotary members have contributed more than US$31 million to end polio, and on 1 July 2020, Holger Knaack, owner of the real estate company Knaack KG, will oversee this effort as the first German to serve as Rotary International president. Knaack of Ratzeburg said, “I’m honored to have the confidence and support of Rotary’s 1.2 million members,” said Knaack. “As president, I plan to highlight the best Rotary has to offer where people of all backgrounds can see themselves reflected in our service and impact.”

During the four-day event, attendees heard from an array of world class speakers, including:

  • Dr. Peter Tschentscher, First Mayor of Hamburg
  • Dr. Gerd Müller, Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development
  • On the closing day, Eckart Diepenhorst, CEO of mytaxi presented a check for €70,000, representing 100 percent of the proceeds from all rides to and from the Hamburg Messe from 31 May through 5 June to support the following German Rotary club projects:
    • A bee pasture project developed by the Rotary Club of Ahrensburg to help the dwindling bee and butterfly populations;
    • Emotions Training for Autism, developed by Rotaract Germany, to support those with autism spectrum disorder thrive; and
    • HANWASH, a collaborative initiative by local Rotary members, The Rotary Foundation and DINEPA to bring clean water to Haiti.

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,

mytaxi donates proceeds from rides to Rotary

HAMBURG, Germany (31 May 2019) — To multiply the impact of the 25,000 Rotary members expected to attend the service organization’s international convention 1-5 June, mytaxi will donate all proceeds from rides to and from the Hamburg Messe – beginning today until 5 June – to Rotary efforts that improve lives.

“Along with being one of our main event sponsors, we are grateful for mytaxi commitment to support Rotary club efforts to transform lives and communities for the better,” said Barry Rassin, Rotary International president.

Each year, Rotary members invest hundreds of millions of euros and countless volunteer hours to promote health, peace and prosperity in communities across the globe. mytaxi contribution will support:

  • A bee pasture project developed by the Rotary Club of Ahrensburg to help the dwindling bee and butterfly populations to flourish;
  • Emotions Training for Autism, developed by Rotaract Germany, to support those with autism spectrum disorder thrive in their personal and professional lives; and
  • HANWASH, a collaborative initiative led by Rotary clubs in Haiti, The Bahamas, The Cayman Islands, The British Virgin Islands, The Rotary Foundation, DINEPA and others, to bring clean water to Haiti.

“We take pride in knowing that our donation will go toward improving our environment, economy and wellbeing,” said Eckart Diepenhorst, CEO of mytaxi. “With the leadership of Rotary clubs, we know that our contribution will result in lasting, positive change.”

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.

About mytaxi: mytaxi was founded in June 2009 and was the world’s first taxi app that established a direct connection between a passenger and a taxi driver. With 14 million passengers and more than 100,000 drivers, mytaxi is the leading taxi e-hailing app in Europe. Since February 2019, mytaxi is part of the FREE NOW group, the ride-hailing joint venture of BMW and Daimler. Within 2019, mytaxi will rebrand to FREE NOW. mytaxi today works with 700 employees in 26 offices and is available in around 100 European cities. Eckart Diepenhorst is the CEO of mytaxi. More information is available at: 


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

Value of Rotary volunteering

Cosmos Segbefia, a member of the Rotary Club of Sekondi-Takoradi, and Derrick Ababio Kwarteng, of Global Communities, assist with the construction of a borehole in the Western Region of Ghana in 2018. A report by Johns Hopkins University prepared for Rotary International estimated that Rotary members provide about 47 million hours of volunteer effort a year at an estimated value of $850 million.

That Rotary members log a lot of volunteer hours should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the organization. But a new report just released by Johns Hopkins University provides a powerful look at the impact of all those volunteer hours.

The special report prepared for Rotary International by the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies found that Rotary members had volunteered a total of 5.8 million hours within a four-week survey period. Extrapolating those results over an entire year, the report gave a conservative estimate of nearly 47 million hours of volunteer effort generated by Rotary members in a typical year.

The report then analyzed the economic impact of all those hours and estimated the value conservatively at $850 million a year, if communities had to pay for the services that Rotary volunteers provide.

Rotary, with the help of Johns Hopkins University, is the first global service organization to conduct an empirical analysis of its volunteer’s impact using an internationally sanctioned definition of volunteer work. The authors of the report noted in their conclusion that at each stop, the analysis had chosen the most conservative estimates.

“This makes the results reported here all the more remarkable,” the authors noted. “Translated into economic terms, Rotary is annually generating a scale of social and economic problem-solving effort that is worth nearly nine times more than it costs the organization to produce.”

Rotary General Secretary John Hewko said the figure doesn’t even include the in-kind contributions and the money that Rotary clubs and the Rotary Foundation raise every year. In addition, the figure doesn’t include the volunteer work of the many relatives and friends of Rotary that members often involve in a project, or that of members of Rotaract, Interact, or the Community Corps, that would easily double the estimate of Rotary’s economic impact.

Holger Knaack selected to be 2020-21 Rotary International president

By Ryan Hyland

Holger Knaack, a member of the Rotary Club of Herzogtum Lauenburg-Mölln, Germany, has been selected to serve as president of Rotary International in 2020-21.

The Nominating Committee’s decision follows the resignation last month of President-nominee Sushil Gupta due to health reasons. Knaack will officially become president-nominee if no other candidates challenge him by 31 May.

To build a stronger membership, Knaack says Rotary must focus on increasing the number of female members and transitioning Rotaractors into Rotarians.

Knaack believes that the People of Action campaign offers new public awareness possibilities for Rotary. “This campaign conveys our global image while still respecting differences in regions and cultures,” he says.

A Rotary member since 1992, Knaack has served Rotary as treasurer, director, moderator, member and chair of several committees, representative for the Council on Legislation, zone coordinator, training leader, and district governor.

He is an endowment/major gifts adviser and co-chair of the Host Organization Committee for the 2019 Rotary International Convention in Hamburg.

Knaack is the CEO of Knaack KG, a real estate company. He was previously a partner and general manager of Knaack Enterprises, a 125-year-old family business.

He is a founding member of the Civic Foundation of the City of Ratzeburg and served as president of the Golf-Club Gut Grambek.Knaack is also the founder and chair of the Karl Adam Foundation.

Knaack and his wife, Susanne, are Major Donors to The Rotary Foundation and members of the Bequest Society.

The members of the Nominating Committee for the 2020-21 President of Rotary International are Kazuhiko Ozawa, Rotary Club of Yokosuka, Kanagawa, Japan; Manoj D. Desai, Rotary Club of Baroda Metro, Gujarat, India; Shekhar Mehta, Rotary Club of Calcutta-Mahanagar, West Bengal, India; John G. Thorne, Rotary Club of North Hobart, Tasmania, Australia; Guiller E. Tumangan, Rotary Club of Makati West, Makati City, Philippines; Juin Park, Rotary Club of Suncheon, Jeonranam, Korea; Elio Cerini, Rotary Club of Milano Duomo, Italy; Gideon M. Peiper, Rotary Club of Ramat Hasharon, Israel; Per Høyen, Rotary Club of Aarup, Denmark; Paul Knijff, Rotary Club of Weesp (Vechtstreek-Noord), Netherlands; Sam Okudzeto, Rotary Club of Accra, Ghana; José Ubiracy Silva, Rotary Club of Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil; Bradford R. Howard, Rotary Club of Oakland Uptown, California, USA; Michael D. McCullough, Rotary Club of Trenton, Michigan, USA; Karen K. Wentz, Rotary Club of Maryville, Tennessee, USA; Michael K. McGovern, Rotary Club of South Portland-Cape Elizabeth, Maine, USA; and John C. Smarge, Rotary Club of Naples, Florida, USA.

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.”

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