The 2017 Rotary International Convention was held in Atlanta June 10-14. I attended two of the days, Sunday June 11 and 12th along with about 40,000 others delegates. It was an enlightening experience seeing how this organization works with a common mission that spans several hundred nations, 1.2 million members and 33,000 local clubs. Its mission is to provide humanitarian service and help build goodwill and peace. Projects include wiping out illiteracy, disease, hunger, poverty, lack of clean water and environmental concerns while encouraging high ethical standards in all vocations.
Garrett Fenchel with Guatemala Literacy Project
William and Mabel Nyerinda from Kitwe, Zambia
I’ve been a member of Rotary since 1999 and have thoroughly enjoyed the experience in my local clubs in Indianapolis and now living in Cincinnati being a member of the Batavia Rotary. I have made great friends with community leaders locally and internationally. I have attended Rotary clubs in Estonia, Jordan and Malawi. I’ve met with Rotarian leaders in Ukraine, as well.
Not only contributing to Rotary’s mission, I have benefited from the goodness of Rotary’s heart. LifeNets has had been able to further its mission in Malawi and Ukraine through Rotary’s matching grants as well as local clubs helping with projects such as boreholes and education.
Rotary’s main mission since almost the time I joined has been to eradicate polio. It has been succeeding since last year there were only five new cases of polio reported in the world. That’s down from 350,000 when the program started. It’s a great success story. Only the diseases of small pox and polio have been eradicated.
Bill Gates featured speaker
40,000 people were at the convention
This year’s conference focused again on getting rid of the last vestiges of polio. Bill Gates and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars toward this effort. Bill Gates was featured speaker to us. So was the governor of Georgia and mayor of Atlanta. And the President or Director General elect of the World Health Organization (WHO) from the United Nations spoke as well.
There were many breakout sessions. I attended one on writing global grants and another about the Rotary Youth Exchange program where inspiring speeches were given by young people who lived abroad for a school year. I also attended a sobering session on human trafficking. Forty-six million people are exploited as virtual slaves. Twenty percent are in the sex market and the rest in menial work in quarries, making bricks, agriculture and the like.where they are controlled through intimidation. Human trafficking is increasing and has been facilitated by the Internet. Rebecca Bender, a human trafficking survivor spoke at one of the sessions. Her initiative can be further seen on her Website at http://www.rebeccabender.org/.
A “House of Friendship” which was comprised of booths of Rotary partners and clubs provided an opportunity for us to network in an informal way as we walked from booth to booth. It was a cultural as well as educational experience.
Some notable people I ran into was the former district governor from Zambia who was our attorney on a matter we had to resolve in Zambia a few years ago. I met a gentleman from Persia who does good works in venture capital in Florida. Also, from Cincinnati, the son of great friends and acquaintances who manned the Guatemala Literacy Program booth.