Young at heart
Holger Knaack has a fresh vision for the Rotary of the future. With a little help from his friends, things should go swimmingly
The Rotary Club of Herzogtum Lauenburg-Mölln in Germany has wrapped up its annual Christmas bazaar in the cloister of the 12th-century Ratzeburg Cathedral. Two days of selling handicrafts, mistletoe, and homemade cakes and cookies have netted the club some 8,000 euros, which this year will go to a German nonprofit that supports children who are critically ill. As the club members break down booths and put away tables and chairs, Knaack grabs the vacuum cleaner and, head down in concentration, tackles the crumbs, dirt, and bits of tinsel that litter the floor.
At this moment, Knaack is president-elect of Rotary International, preparing to take office on 1 July 2020. But at the same time he’s a regular Rotarian, a 27-year member of his club, pitching in like everybody else. “He just wants to be one friend among friends,” says club member Barbara Hardkop.
There’s a German phrase: man holt die Leute ins Boot. It means getting people on board to work together toward a common goal. In the coming year, Rotarians will find that Holger Knaack is not one to stand on the sidelines while others do the work. But equally important for Knaack is the philosophy that working hard doesn’t mean you can’t also have a good time. As he spends this year getting people on board — especially to carry out his highest priority, investing in young people — he will also be doing his best to make sure everyone is enjoying themselves.
“It’s a basic principle with Holger,” says his longtime friend Hubertus Eichblatt, a fellow club member. “When we get together, it has to be fun.”
Holger Knaack is an atypical Rotary president, and not just because he wears jeans and eschews ties much of the time. He’s the organization’s first German president, and he came to that position in untraditional fashion. Unlike many of his predecessors, he didn’t rise step by step through the ranks of Rotary offices. He served as club president and district governor, but he had held only one Rotary International post, that of training leader, before becoming director. And he remembers being at a Rotary institute where people asked him what other district offices he had held before becoming governor. “I said, ‘None. None.’ All of them were very surprised,” he recalls.
What Knaack is most known for is his involvement in Rotary’s Youth Exchange program. That experience is deep, broad, and extraordinarily meaningful to him and his wife, Susanne. They have no children of their own, but they have opened their home — and their hearts — to dozens of students. “The Knaack house is always full of guests, especially young people,” says Helmut Knoth, another friend and member of Holger’s club. “They’ve had hundreds of guests over the years.”
Shortly after joining his Rotary club in 1992, Knaack helped out with a camp for short-term Youth Exchange students in northern Germany. He was immediately hooked. “I thought it was a really great program,” he says. “This is something, you’d say in German, wo dein Herz aufgeht: Your heart opens. Whenever you talk to the young people, they’ll tell you, ‘It was the best time in my life.’ Sometimes I think they are surprised about themselves, about what they are able to do, and about the possibilities that are open to them through Rotary.”
The opportunities opened for Knaack, as well. He became Youth Exchange chair for his club, and after serving as governor of District 1940 in 2006-07, he was asked to chair the German Multi-District Youth Exchange, a position he held until the day before he started his term on Rotary’s Board of Directors in 2013. Along the way, he notes, he always relied on other people. “You develop a vision together, and then let’s go ahead,” he says. “Everybody’s going a little different way; there’s never just one road. But the goal should be the same.”
Young people seem to intuitively understand Knaack’s way of doing things. “Holger has a vision, and he is executing on that vision,” says Brittany Arthur, a member of the Rotaract Club of Berlin and the Rotary Club of Berlin International. “And you recognize that this vision is not new for him. Holger and Susanne have had dozens of Youth Exchange students. Do you think they did all that so that in 2020 he could say, ‘We need to invest in youth’? This is who they are.”
Arthur also sees Knaack as unusual in his willingness to invest in “potential, not experience.” In 2012, as an Australian Ambassadorial Scholar in Germany, she had a brief exchange with him at a club meeting. That led to her speaking about her “Rotary moment” at a Berlin peace forum sponsored by 2012-13 RI President Sakuji Tanaka. After her presentation, she thought she was done. But Knaack, who had organized the forum and was now putting together a Rotary institute, had other ideas. “I had just finished speaking to hundreds of Rotarians,” she recalls. “I was feeling so great, and he said, ‘Do you want to help with the institute?’ and I said, ‘Yes!’”
Like other Rotarians, Arthur perceives the depth of Knaack’s persuasive personality. “He’s super funny and nice, but he’s dead serious when it comes to certain things. Which is why he’s such an interesting leader: He can show up on so many different levels when you need him.”
“He’s super funny and nice, but he’s dead serious when it comes to certain things, which is why he’s such an interesting leader.”
Holger and Susanne Knaack love to travel, but they have lived their entire lives not far from where they were born: she in Ratzeburg and he in the nearby village of Groß Grönau, about 40 miles northeast of Hamburg. Their upbringings were remarkably similar. Each was born in 1952 and lived over the shop of the family business: Susanne’s father and grandfather were sausage makers, and Holger’s family bakery was founded by his great-great-great-grandfather in 1868. “We were very loved,” Holger remembers. “Everybody took care of you; everybody always knew where you were.”
Hubertus Eichblatt also grew up in Ratzeburg, where his sister and Susanne, whose maiden name was Horst, were childhood friends. “The Horst family had a very open house, and it’s exactly the same with Holger,” he says. “Friends are always coming in and out.”
Holger and Susanne live in the home that once belonged to Susanne’s grandmother; next door, Susanne’s sister, Sabine Riebensahm, lives in the house where the two grew up. About a decade ago, after her husband died, Holger’s sister, Barbara Staats, moved into an apartment on the top floor of that house. The two homes have a total of nine guest rooms, and what with Barbara’s 12 grandchildren, dozens of current and former Youth Exchange students, and various other friends, at least one of those rooms is usually occupied.
Every morning, everyone meets for coffee in a cozy nook off Holger and Susanne’s living room, where floor-to-ceiling windows offer views of the Küchensee, one of four lakes that surround Ratzeburg. They often lunch together as well, followed by more coffee. Then Holger has a ritual: He folds his long frame onto a little sofa for a nap while Susanne, Barbara, and Sabine continue their chat. “He likes to hear us talking while he’s napping,” Sabine says.
The four share duties, including shopping and cooking. “When someone needs something, you just shout,” Holger says. “I think this is the perfect way to live: together. The secret to anything is to ask: What’s our goal? This is exactly our goal, how we live right now.”
One Saturday in December, Holger, Susanne, Barbara, and Sabine are preparing boeuf bourguignon to serve at a dinner party for 23 close friends the Knaacks will be hosting the next day. They’re simultaneously planning the menu for Christmas, when they’ll have 15 people — 16 if a young Egyptian woman who is studying in Germany, the daughter of some Rotarians they met at a Rotary institute in Sharm el-Sheikh, takes them up on their invitation.
Helmut Knoth calls the Knaacks’ hospitality “a stroke of luck for Rotary. At least once a year we have a party there, in their beautiful garden,” he says. “When the weather is nice, we go swimming. In winter, there’s a traditional event for Holger’s birthday. We meet at the rowing club and hike around the lake.” All the birthday gifts are donations to the Karl Adam Foundation, which Knaack founded to support the rowing club. (Ratzeburg is world-famous for its rowing club, whose members formed the core of the German teams that won gold at the 1960, 1968, 2000, 2004, and 2012 Olympics. The club’s co-founder and longtime trainer, a local high school teacher named Karl Adam, is considered one of the best rowing coaches of all time and developed what’s known as the “Ratzeburg style.”)
Looking through family photo albums, the Knaacks talk about childhood vacations to the seaside — Holger and his family to the island of Sylt on the North Sea, and Susanne and her family to the Baltic Sea coast. A few kilometers from their home, Holger’s family also had a small summer house with a large garden where they would spend weekends. The forests and meadows were his to explore. “It was a perfect childhood,” he says.
Holger’s boyhood home was situated about 500 meters from a small river, the Wakenitz, that formed the border with East Germany. “For me, that was really the end of the world,” he remembers. In the summer, he and his friends would test their courage by swimming across the river. On the other side was a swamp, a minefield, and watchtowers manned by East German guards. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, he says, “the first thing we did was to explore the other side by bicycle. All the watchtowers were open. I had never seen our own village, or our own house, from that perspective.”
As a young man, on holidays and weekends, Holger worked as a driver for his family bakery. After finishing secondary school he learned the trade, working in another bakery for two years for his Ausbildung, or apprenticeship. “So I can bake a lot of things,” he says cheerfully. “And I still like to bake. You have to love what you do in order to be very good. Whatever marketing techniques you may use, it’s all about the quality. Quality is about loving the product and trying to make it the best you can. But you have to take your time. That’s the secret to many things.”
After completing his Ausbildung and another year of internship in a large bread factory in Stuttgart, he went to the city of Kiel to study business administration. At the first student assembly, he caught sight of his future wife. “I saw Susanne on the 20th of September 1972,” he says. “I remember that quite well.”
Holger didn’t make the same impression on Susanne, perhaps because there were 94 men and only three women in their class. But they soon got acquainted, and on weekends, they would drive home together to each work in their family’s business. Before returning to Kiel on Sunday evenings, they would load up the car with bread from the Knaack bakery and sausage from the Horst shop. “Our friends always knew to come over on Mondays,” Susanne says with a laugh.
They graduated in 1975 and got married the next year. Each of them continued to work in their own family’s business. At the time, the Knaack bakery had several shops and about 50 employees. After taking over from his father in the late 1970s, Knaack decided to expand the company. He also decided that he wanted to know exactly where the grain used to bake his bread was coming from. So he turned to his friend Hubertus Eichblatt, a farmer, who started a cooperative with other farmers. Knaack also worked with Günther Fielmann, Europe’s largest optician, who invested in cultivating organic grain on his own farm, Hof Lütjensee. Together Knaack and Fielmann built their own mill and marketed organic baked goods —something new 30 years ago. “Holger was always very innovative,” Eichblatt says, “very forward-thinking about those kinds of things.”
Another of Knaack’s innovations was to move the baking of the bread into the shops. Before that, bread was baked in the factory and the loaves were trucked to the shops. Knaack’s idea was to continue to make the dough in the factory, but then to freeze it in portions that were distributed to the shops to be baked. His motto was Der frische Bäcker – “the fresh baker.” Today, almost every bakery in Germany does it that way.
Knaack kept expanding the business; eventually there were about 50 shops and the factory with hundreds of employees. He received an offer to buy his company from an internationally active firm that was investing in bakeries. It was a very good offer, and Knaack took it. Still a young man in his 40s, he pursued other business ventures and took up golf (and was quickly tapped to be president of his golf club). He had been an active member of Round Table, an organization for people under age 40; at 39, he joined the Rotary club in the nearby town of Mölln (remaining a member there even when a new club was chartered shortly afterward in Ratzeburg with many of his friends as members). And before long, he found his calling with Rotary Youth Exchange.
Medieval Ratzeburg, with its ancient cathedral and half-timbered burghers’ houses, is situated on an island surrounded by four glacial lakes. The northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein is dotted with such lakes; winding roads lead through rolling green countryside past farms and villages built in the characteristic regional style of brick architecture. But the students who have stayed with Holger and Susanne have found something much deeper than a picture-postcard experience of Germany.
Juraj Dvořák was one of the first students the Knaacks hosted, in 1996. After returning home to Slovakia, the 16-year-old sent a card to Holger and Susanne, who invited him back for another visit. But when Dvořák’s father died of a heart attack, the young man told the Knaacks he couldn’t come after all. Holger and Susanne, along with Dvořák’s mother, insisted the visit go on as planned.
“I stayed one month with them, and they did everything to help me,” Dvořák recalls. “Since then we have been close friends. If I had not met Holger and Susanne, and if they had not mentored me in many aspects of my life, I would not have achieved what I have.” Dvořák now heads a private equity company in Vienna, but he’s not talking about material success. “I went from zero to somebody, not in terms of money, but in terms of a healthy personality.”
He and Holger “always had deep discussions,” says Dvořák, who still visits every year. “He told me that money is not the most important thing, that I have to enjoy my work and I should also enjoy life. He told me I should travel and see the world. And he took me to many meetings with his friends, Rotarians. I didn’t understand why at the time, but when I got older, I realized it was an absolutely unique chance to learn how to behave with people you don’t know. He grew me up.”
About Holger and Susanne, he says: “They have a big heart and a strong responsibility for the people they are mentoring. They are different from other people. They are championship league people.”
The Knaacks take that responsibility to mentor students seriously. “The major goal of Youth Exchange is to dive into another culture, to learn everything you can about that culture,” Holger says. “And the amazing thing about Youth Exchange is that parents send their kids around the globe and trust that Rotarians will treat them like their own children. It’s something that makes us unique. No other service organization does it this way.”
Paula Miranda spent three months with the Knaacks, who were her first hosts during her exchange year in 2008. She arrived in Ratzeburg from her home in Argentina in January: “I remember it was 4 p.m. It was already dark in Germany, and I was like, oh, my God, where am I? And they welcomed me with a German meal.”
“Holger told me that money is not the most important thing, that I have to enjoy my work and I should also enjoy life.”
When Miranda turned 19 a month later, Holger and Susanne organized a birthday party with some of her new friends from school. “They made barbecue asado like we do in Argentina,” she recalls. “They wanted to make me feel at home, and I really appreciated that. My year wouldn’t have been the same without them. I really love them.”
Alois Serwaty, a past governor of District 1870, first met the Knaacks 25 years ago at a German Multi-District Youth Exchange conference. “Both Holger and Susanne have an uncomplicated and open manner that appeals to and motivates young people,” he says. “When you meet them, you recognize right away that they like young people. Holger’s attitude is that Rotary must remain young and that working for and with young people keeps you young.”
Dvořák agrees: “I was with Holger in December, and he has not changed in 24 years. He’s still the same, maybe just some wrinkles. This Youth Exchange program gives him energy.”
A phrase you hear often among German Rotaractors is auf Augenhöhe begegnen — to meet someone at eye level. “That means everyone is equal, on a level playing field,” Susanne says. “It doesn’t make any difference if someone is a director or a driver. You discuss something and come up with a solution without the other person feeling like he’s received an order.”
According to his friends and family, Holger has a real flair for this. “If he can’t do something himself, he can delegate really well,” Susanne laughs. “He can recognize who would be good at something. It’s a talent of his.”
One example, she says, is the success he had working with Rotaractors on the Rotary institute in Berlin. “They said, ‘We’ll do the breakout sessions,’ and instead of saying, ‘You can’t do that,’ he said, ‘Go ahead.’ He trusts people to succeed. But he’s still in the background keeping an eye on things. It was the same for the convention in Hamburg,” where Knaack and Andreas von Möller were co-chairs of the 2019 Host Organization Committee. “There were lots of Rotaractors involved there too.”
“We need to take care of our Rotary clubs, and our friends in our clubs.”
One of her husband’s main goals, Susanne says, is to continue to bring Rotary and Rotaract closer together. “He’s excited about what he wants to accomplish.” And when he’s excited about something, “he’s able to get others excited as well,” adds Susanne’s sister, Sabine. As Brittany Arthur noted, “You feel like you’re investing in his vision.”
Over cappuccinos in the sunny cafe of Ratzeburg’s Hotel Seehof, with its views of the sparkling Küchensee, Knaack’s friends Hubertus Eichblatt, Helmut Knoth, Jens-Uwe Janssen, and Andreas-Peter Ehlers — like Holger, all members of the Rotary Club of Herzogtum Lauenburg-Mölln — agree that he possesses a certain genius for marshaling volunteers. Ehlers remembers how it was when he served as district secretary during Knaack’s year as district governor. “Before that time,” he says, “under other governors, it was always ‘somebody should do this’ or ‘who is going to do this?’ But Holger would say, very specifically, ‘Hubertus, I’ve been thinking about it, and you’re the perfect person to do this. Here’s how I envision it. This is just right for you, Hubertus, I would really love it if you did this. It’s great that you’re going to do this!’ The way he puts it to you, you can’t say no. And you do it gladly, because he doesn’t hand it to you and then walk away. He comes back in a month and asks, ‘Hubertus, everything going OK? Can I help with anything?’ ”
Eichblatt laughs at this depiction, but stresses that Knaack is successful because his enthusiasm is infectious — and because he sets the example: “He exemplifies these positive characteristics, so it’s relatively easy for him to convince people to do things.”
As they chat about Knaack’s good qualities, they echo what many people say — that he’s never in a bad mood. But close friends that they are, they insist he’s not perfect. “We have to find a weakness,” muses Eichblatt, before settling on a benign character flaw. “He’s very fashion-conscious. His glasses!”
The mention of Knaack’s signature eyewear elicits an immediate reaction from the group. “He’s the only one who wears glasses like that,” Ehlers says. “And if they break, no problem: He has another pair!”
“They’re his trademark,” Knoth adds. “I’ve only ever known him to wear these glasses. And he seldom wears a tie. Jeans, always. He looks youthful. He is youthful!” The old friends nod and laugh as they finish their cappuccinos.
Knaack’s philosophy — that no matter how hard you work, you should also have fun — applies especially to Rotary. “Traveling around, talking with people, is really fun for him,” says Susanne, a charter member of the Rotary E-Club Hamburg Connect. “Rotary is fun for him — and it’s just as much fun for me.”
Knaack wants everyone to enjoy Rotary — and to be proud to be part of it. “All of us love this organization, and all of us should feel we ought to do something to make Rotary stronger,” he insists. “It’s not hard to do more: be more involved in your club, more interested in your friends, more involved in projects and programs. Ask yourself: Is our club involved in youth service? Can we come up with better ideas for fundraising? And the club also has a responsibility to make people feel good, feel welcome, feel proud. It has to feel special to be a Rotarian.”
As he thinks about the year ahead, he notes that a Rotary president gets invited to lots of events, including district conferences, and sends a representative to most of them. But Knaack plans to attend — if only virtually — the conference in District 1940, whose governor this year, Edgar Friedrich, is a member of the Rotary Club of Herzogtum Lauenburg-Mölln. “I think you’re allowed to make an exception for your own district, especially if the district governor is from your own club,” Knaack says. “Your Rotary club is really important. Whatever office you have had in Rotary, and however important you were, at the very end, you’re always a member of your own Rotary club and happy to be among your friends.
“That’s why we need to take care of our Rotary clubs, and our friends in our clubs. It doesn’t matter if you were president. At the end, it’s important that you’re among friends.”
• This story originally appeared in the July 2020 issue of The Rotarian magazine.
On 1st July 2020 our new Rotary District 9705 became a reality with the merging of the two Districts 9700 & 9710.
At the District Changeover held via ZOOM Webinar, the District Governors for 2019-20, John Mackenzie for D9700 and Peter Ford for D9710 reviewed their years and handed over to D9705 Governor for 2020-21, Dr. Michael Moore AM PhD.
Dr. Michael Moore AM PhD – A short Curriculum Vitae
• Dual citizenship – Australian and Canadian
• Married with three adult children
• Inaugural Rotary District 9705 District Governor
• CEO – Public Health Association of Australia Inc (2008 – 2018)
• President World Federation of Public Health Associations (2016-2018)
o President Elect (2014 – 16)
o Chair Immunization Taskforce (2019 ongoing)
• Chair and member of series of Boards
o Currently Chair National Drug Research Institute at Curtin University
o Member Soils for Life
o Member: Community Advisory Committee Charles Sturt University
• Company Director – MooreConnections Pty Ltd
o Consultancy in Health and eGovernment / National and International
• Small-medium Business Owner/Manager – Psychedeli Cafe with 18 staff
• Government Minister –
o First Australian Independent to be appointed Minister
o Health and Community Care, Corrections and Housing
• Leader of the House – ACT Parliament
• Member of Parliament – Independent MLA in the ACT for four terms
• Political and social columnist – City News a Canberra weekly newspaper since 2006
• Teaching: Tertiary and Secondary Teacher, Secondary School Faculty Head
• Distinguished Fellow: The George Institute of Global Health (University of NSW) from 2018
• Adjunct Professor at the University of Canberra since 2001
• Bachelor of Arts (Flinders University)
• Post Graduate Diploma of Education (Adelaide University)
• Master of Population Health (Australian National University)
• PhD University of Canberra – Power, Politics Persuasion: The Critical Friend in Public Health Advocacy
• Over 500 articles in peer reviewed journals, newspapers, blogs, book chapters and magazines
• Paul Harris Fellow (Awarded by the Rotary Club of Canberra in 2010 )
• President: Canberra Club 2007/08 with Presidential Citation
• Member in the General Division of the Order of Australia (AM)
• Sidney Sax Public Health Medal (Public Health Association of Australia
• Life Member Public Health Association of Australia
• Health in All Award 2014 – (University of NSW)
• Justice Gerald Le Dain Award for Achievement in the Field of Law (Drug Policy Foundation USA)
• Aids Action Council President’s Award 2001
|Now More Than Ever, Rotary Connects the World: The 2020 Rotary Virtual Convention will link you with Rotary and Rotaract members from around the world. Sign up now for this free online event that takes place 20-26 June. Our first virtual convention is open to all Rotary members and participants.|
Come together during general sessions to witness the power of Rotary connections. Learn new skills, explore thought-provoking topics, and discover inventive ways to engage and adapt at our breakout sessions.
Visit the convention’s event page on Facebook to connect with other members. And use the hashtag #Rotary20 in your social media posts to share what you’re looking forward to at this year’s convention. Don’t forget to invite a friend from your club or share the convention with your Rotary family.
Rotarians Against Malaria
In Australia, Rotarians Against Malaria observe Malaria Awareness Day on 30 April each year, in conjunction with World Malaria Day on 25 April, to raise awareness of the global burden of malaria, a preventable and treatable disease that puts half the world at risk and kills a child every two minutes.
In 2018, these investments saved almost 600,000 lives and prevented nearly 100 million malaria cases compared to 2000 levels. Globally, in 2018, an estimated 1,109 deaths occurred daily as a result of malaria infections. Of 1,109 deaths, an estimated 67% were children under five years.
The global theme for World Malaria Day, ‘Zero Malaria Starts with Me’, emphasizes everyone’s power and responsibility – no matter where they live – to ensure no one dies from a mosquito bite.
Help us END malaria.
Rotary is closely monitoring the pandemic of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, and continuously assessing the potential impact on Rotary operations, events, and members.
Your health and safety are always our top priorities.
In the near term, Rotary International recommends that districts and Rotary and Rotaract clubs meet virtually, cancel, or postpone meetings and events following the advice of national and local health officials.
Rotary encourages members and their families to take precautions to protect themselves from contracting the virus by: washing your hands often and thoroughly, putting distance between yourself and others if COVID-19 is spreading in your community, and staying home if you are sick.
I am moved to make this post after reading an article on the number of refugees leaving Venezuela and the situation in Turkey and Europe with a huge number of Syrian refugees. Please read the article on Venezuela. https://www.rotary.org/en/exodus-venezuela
I find this an encouraging move by Rotary in a World that seems to have more conflict and challenging situations than ever before. Peace initiatives within our communities are needed now more than ever.
Rotary’s peace initiatives at a tipping point
Posted on March 4, 2020
Rotarians, Rotary Peace Fellows, Rotaractors, and Rotary Scholars participate in a Positive Peace workshop.
By Chris Offer, Rotary Club of Ladner, Delta, British Columbia, Canada, and chair of the Peace Major Gifts Initiative
Ispent three days in Ontario, California, USA, in January with a group of passionate peacebuilders learning to be Rotary Positive Peace Activators.
The goal of the three-day training was to develop a worldwide network of peacebuilders to support Rotarians and Rotaractors in fostering Positive Peace in their communities. By 2024, Rotary will train 150 new Positive Peace Activators in six global regions, prepared to educate, coach, and accompany Rotarians in at least 1,000 presentations and/or workshops, and act as consultants on projects locally and globally.
The training is the next step in a growing list of Rotary peace initiatives that I believe are pushing Rotary to a tipping point. Our peace programs will begin rapidly expanding and will change Rotary forever as we go from being advocates for peace to something grander: active and effective peacebuilders.
In 2017, Rotary and the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) formed a strategic partnership. This alliance builds on IEP’s research into Positive Peace – the attitudes, institutions, and structures that shape peaceful societies – as well as Rotary’s grassroots work in communities globally.
In addition to our partnership with IEP, Rotary’s Peace Centers are expanding, Rotary Peace Fellows are taking on diverse roles, there is an online peace academy, and clubs and districts are increasing their reach with a variety of peace projects. Major positive peace projects occurred in 2019 in Mexico and Colombia.
The 25 activators who participated in the training with me were Rotarians, peace fellows, Rotaractors, and Rotary Global Scholars. We were trained on the IEP positive peace model and on facilitating meetings. We focused on skills that will enable us to lead education programs with Rotary-affiliated groups.
Rotary seeks to create the conditions for Positive Peace by funding and implementing thousands of local and international peace projects. The Rotary Positive Peace Activators will take a lead as advisors to assist clubs and districts.
This is our peace tipping point.
- The WorldSupport Rotary’s work in building peace through your generous gift (select the Endowment-Rotary Peace Centers from the donate menu)
- Read more about Rotary’s partnership with IEP
- Learn about the Rotary Positive Peace Academy
- Contact Summer Lewis for more information on the Rotary Positive Peace Activators
We have all seen the disastrous fires that have erupted, taking lives as well as destroying hundreds of homes and properties across Australia.
Rotary is looking to provide support for families in need. To this end several Rotary Districts and Clubs have established projects which are ready and able to accept donations from you. All of those projects can apply for funds from this appeal. Click to DONATE
The article published in “The Rotarian”, January 2020 tells a story of what Rotary and Rotarians can do to assist those who need assistance: Service above Self
Ski into the heart of Rotary
Rotary Club of Rome International
The only way to survive was to relax every single muscle and then forget about the body. The pain remained, but I learned to contemplate it objectively, almost like a spectator. After my surgeries, I had to lie completely still, my shattered pelvis held together with plates and screws. I could only use one hand; the other shoulder was broken. Fractured vertebrae and ribs added to the pain.
I was skiing with friends in Val d’Isère, France, when the accident happened. The first two days were glorious: good snow, ideal conditions. On the third day, a dense fog rolled in, so we decided to take an easier route down and stop for the day. The runs were smooth and deserted. I was ahead, so I cut right and looked behind me to see if I could catch a glimpse of anyone. I cut left and looked back again. Where were they?
When I faced forward again, a signpost was directly in front of me. I tried an emergency maneuver to avoid it, but it didn’t work. With the little control I had left, I tried dodging it from the side. But it was too late — I hit the post hard.
My friend Bernard found me first. I was in so much pain and very cold. He put his windbreaker over me and called for help. It was too foggy for a helicopter to airlift me off the mountain, so the emergency response team hoisted me onto a toboggan to sled down to a cable car that took me the rest of the way to a waiting ambulance. My injuries were too complicated for the two closest hospitals to treat, so I was transferred to a university hospital in Grenoble for surgery.
My wife, Daniela, was in Rome at the time. She rushed to France, but by the time she got to Grenoble, I had already been taken into surgery. The operation was expected to be very long, so the staff advised her to return to the hotel. I hate to think of how she must have felt, upset and alone in a foreign place with my situation uncertain.
Back at the hotel, Daniela noticed the Rotary logo; the doorman told her that the Rotary Club of Grenoble-Belledonne met there. In fact, their meeting was about to start. Daniela is also a Rotarian, and the timing felt like a blessing. She needed to spend a few hours among friendly faces, even if they were strangers. She decided to attend.
The club members welcomed her warmly, and when she told them about my accident, they showed us what it means to be a part of Rotary. The topic of the meeting shifted from club business to how to help Daniela. One member offered her daughter’s apartment, which was temporarily unoccupied. Another gave Daniela a ride back to the hospital. When she told me everything later, I was very touched. I could tell that Daniela had gained strength to deal with her fears for my health knowing that she could count on friends, even ones she had just met, to help her.
In the following days, while I underwent more operations, the Grenoble Rotarians helped Daniela settle in. They solved the bureaucratic problems that arose when she filled out the paperwork to authorize my stay in France. After two weeks in the hospital, I was transferred to a rehabilitation clinic in the mountains outside Grenoble. My doctors thought it best that I stay nearby, rather than return to Rome, during rehabilitation so they could monitor my progress and intervene if needed.
I spent four months recovering in France. For much of that time, I was completely immobilized. I was well cared for, and Daniela was able to travel back and forth from Rome to see me, but I was still in a foreign place without any family nearby. The rehabilitation clinic was beautiful, but the road to reach it was winding, long, and not very convenient from Grenoble. Yet the Rotarians never left me wanting for company. Their visits brought me a little bit of the outside world, and for that, I was so grateful. After any of them visited, Daniela would, of course, receive an update.
When I finally started to move around in a wheelchair, I asked my doctor for permission to attend the Grenoble-Belledonne club meeting. Through tears, I thanked them for taking care of me and my family.
It’s now been almost 12 years since my accident. I have healed, and our friendship with many members of the Grenoble club endures. I have always believed that the most extraordinary aspect of Rotary is the potential for friendship all over the world. I’m lucky to have lived a very touching example of that.
As told to Vanessa Glavinskas
At our meeting held 22 October 2019, DG John McKenzie explained how all Rotary Districts in Australia are giving support to Purple House. Here is their story and how you donate on their website. A great cause.
The Purple House story begins with some magnificent paintings…
Thirty years ago, Pintupi people from the Western Desert of Central Australia began leaving their country and families to seek treatment for end-stage renal failure in Alice Springs or Darwin. Far from home, they suffered great loneliness and hardship, and weren’t around to pass on cultural knowledge in their communities.
So they decided to do something about it.
In 2000 Papunya Tula artists from Walungurru and Kiwirrikurra developed four extraordinary collaborative paintings which were auctioned at the Art Gallery of New South Wales on 11 November 2000, which along with a series of other work, raised over $1 million. That money started the Western Desert Nganampa Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku Aboriginal Corporation, now called Purple House, which developed a new model of care based around family, country and compassion.
Run from its headquarters in a suburban house in Alice Springs, Purple House’s mission is ‘Making all our families well’. Flexibility and cultural safety is at the centre of everything we do. It’s the ‘Purple House way’.
We now offer remote dialysis, social support, aged-care services and runs a bush medicine enterprise. And our services are expanding. Since the opening of the first dialysis clinic in Kintore in 2004, we now run 16 remote clinics and a mobile dialysis unit called the Purple Truck, which allows patients to head back home to visit family, for festivals, funerals and other cultural business. Three new remote dialysis clinics are scheduled to open in 2019.
Central Australia has gone from having the worst to best survival rates for dialysis in Australia. We are getting more and more patients back home so that families and culture can remain strong. As one former-director said, “Anangu like the open space of their land, where they can smell the Spirit, the wildflowers and other plants. They want fire for the smell of wood smoke going through the air. They want to smell the flowers after rain.”
Purple House is entirely Indigenous-run and owned with an all-Indigenous Board of Directors who are elected by our members. We are supported through an innovative mix of philanthropic and self-generated funds, and Northern Territory and Commonwealth Government support.
Purple House is is always willing to share our story and provide advice and support to other communities who want to establish their own dialysis service.
You can see more and donate on their website: https://www.purplehouse.org.au/
6 humanitarians honored for their work with refugees
Six humanitarians who are members of the family of Rotary are being honored as People of Action: Connectors Beyond Borders during the 2019 Rotary Day at the United Nations, which focuses this year on the global refugee crisis.
The annual event, being held at the UN’s headquarters in New York, USA, on 9 November this year, celebrates the vision for peace that Rotary and the UN share. Through Rotary’s long history with the UN, its members have helped people affected by war, famine, and disaster.
Today, the number of refugees worldwide is the highest it has been since World War II. The six honorees — five Rotary members and a Rotary Peace Fellow — are all people of action who have found community-based solutions to the refugee crisis.
Club: Rotary Club of Berlin, Germany
Project: Integration of refugee women into German society
Description: Fischer, a retired diplomat, is coordinating Rotary clubs in Europe and the U.S. on a grant project to integrate 240 refugee women into German society by helping them overcome cultural and language differences that hinder their participation in daily life. The project has already trained 100 women with children and has provided mentoring in their own languages, job training and placement assistance, and child care when they need medical and psychological treatment.
Rotary connection: Rotary Peace Fellow (Uppsala University, 2015-17)
Project: Education curriculum in times of emergency, focused on the Middle East
Description: Heyworth developed an “education in emergencies” curriculum to provide instructional materials that can be used in makeshift learning spaces to teach people displaced by conflict. Such spaces create critical safe places for entire communities, where families can fill other basic needs like food, hygiene, and health. Heyworth, who was a teacher before she developed her expertise in providing education in areas of conflict, has focused her work in the Middle East.
Club: Rotary Club of Monterey Cannery Row, California, USA
Project: Education and integration project in Turkey for Syrian refugee children
Description: After visiting several refugee tent camps in Turkey, Karancak-Splane organized Rotary clubs to provide 1,000 pairs of children’s shoes and socks for families in the camps in 2017. Recognizing that the children also lacked access to schools, Karancak-Splane and her Rotary club launched a global grant project to help educate refugee children.
Club: Rotary Club of Dhaka Mavericks, Bangladesh
Project: Nutrition services for Rohingya children in Bangladesh
Description: Rahman, assistant country director of Concern Worldwide, has mobilized Rotary clubs and partner agencies to raise funds for and construct an outpatient therapeutic center that provides lifesaving preventive care and nutrition services for children and pregnant women who have fled to the Cox’s Bazar refugee camp in Bangladesh to escape violence in Myanmar. The center has screened more than 500,000 Rohingya children and helped more than 7,000 severely malnourished children. Staff members and volunteers have learned about feeding infants and young children, and refugee families have received information in their own language about breastfeeding and proper hygiene.
Club: Rotary Club of Mataram Lombok, Mataram, Indonesia
Project: Disaster relief and housing for people displaced by earthquakes
Description: Robin has led her club’s and community’s efforts to provide assistance to people displaced by a series of earthquakes in the Lombok region of Indonesia during 2018. She served as the contact person for ShelterBox, aiding in the delivery of 915 units of temporary housing near Lombok. She and her fellow club members brought water, food, and other necessities to people who were displaced and distributed teaching materials, uniforms, shoes, and bags for students. Robin remains involved in the long-term recovery efforts.
Vanderlei Lima Santana
Club: Rotary Club of Boa Vista-Caçari, Roraima, Brazil
Project: Humanitarian aid to Venezuelan refugees
Description: Santana has led efforts to welcome and care for thousands of Venezuelan refugees arriving in northern Brazil because of desperate economic conditions in their country. Santana’s club has been working with the government and nonprofit organizations to coordinate the distribution of meals and vaccines to more than a thousand refugees who are living in streets or makeshift shelters in a plaza near the local bus station. They also provide professional development assistance and help the refugees find places to sleep.