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Top Rotary stories of the year

By Arnold R. Grahl
Rotary News — 21 December 2012

The year got off to an exciting start in January when India marked a year without a new case of polio. By February, the World Health Organization had removed India from the list of endemic countries.

Here’s a look back at this and other memorable Rotary events of 2012.

1. India polio free

END POLIO NOWAfter going an entire year without a new reported case of polio, India was removed from the list of polio-endemic countries by the World Health Organization (WHO). Ghulam Nabi Azad, India’s minister of Health and Family Welfare, made the announcement at the Polio Summit 2012 in New Delhi on 25 February.

The news was a huge boost to the morale of Rotarians, who have been laboring to eradicate the crippling disease since 1985. Only three countries — Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan — remain on the polio-endemic list.

A chief contributor to India’s success is the widespread use of the bivalent oral polio vaccine, which is effective against both remaining types of the poliovirus. Another is rigorous monitoring, which has helped reduce the number of children missed by health workers during National Immunization Days to less than 1 percent, according to WHO. The lessons learned in India may well serve to help immunization efforts in the remaining endemic countries.

In May, Rotarians at the RI Convention in Bangkok, Thailand, celebrated Rotary’s having exceeded the US$200 Million Challenge for polio eradication efforts. The challenge was Rotary’s response to $355 million in matching grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

But the work is far from complete, because worldwide eradication has not yet been achieved. Later in the year, Rotary launched an online petition drive to urge government leaders to continue funding the Global Polio Eradication Initiative’s efforts. And in October, RI launched the World’s Biggest Commercial, which enables people visiting the new End Polio Now website to add their photo and join the effort to make history.

2. New grant model

TRF-yellow-rgbRotary districts have begun qualifying for The Rotary Foundation’s new grant model, which goes into effect for all districts on 1 July. For the past three years, 100 pilot districts have been testing this Future Vision model, providing feedback to help the Foundation refine it.

The model includes three types of grants: district, global, and packaged. Applications for district grants began in late October, and those for the other two types will begin early in 2013.

District grants offer clubs and districts flexibility in carrying out activities that further the Foundation’s mission, and can be used for short-term projects in both local and international communities. Districts can request up to 50 percent of their District Designated Fund in one annual block grant.

For example, Rotarians in District 5340 (California, USA) used district grants to provide clean water for rural communities in South Sudan and to boost the capacity to carry out search-and-rescue efforts in their own community, among other projects. Read more.

Global grants support large international activities with sustainable, measurable outcomes in one or more of the six areas of focus. Rotarians in Mozambique used a global grant to provide water and improved sanitation for 2,500 students and staff at a primary school. Read more.

Packaged grants provide opportunities for Rotary clubs to work with the Foundation’s strategic partners on predesigned projects and activities that support the areas of focus and that are funded entirely by the World Fund and the strategic partner. Through a packaged grant in District 3810 (Philippines), Rotarians are teaching more than 2,000 women in Antipolo business skills and ways to balance family and work responsibilities. Read more.

Learn more about the new grant model. (at Rotary.org)
Read 10 lessons from the Future Vision pilot. (at Rotary.org)

3. RI theme

RI 2012-2013 Theme "Peace Through Service"RI President Sakuji Tanaka unveiled the 2012-13 RI theme, Peace Through Service, during the International Assembly in January. The then president-elect urged the Rotary leaders in training to explore the many ways they would be able to build peace through acts of service. He also asked Rotarians to promote three Rotary Global Peace Forums, the first of which was held 30 November to 2 December in Berlin. Remaining forums will be in Honolulu, Hawaii, in January, and Hiroshima, Japan, in May.

Read more about the presidential theme.

See the video of Tanaka’s speech.

Watch for coverage of next year’s RI theme, which President-elect Ron Burton will announce at the 2013 International Assembly in January.

4. 2012 RI Convention

2012 Bangkok Rotary International ConferenceMore than 35,000 Rotarians from 181 countries and geographical areas converged on Bangkok, Thailand, in May for the 2012 RI Convention. They celebrated successes in the campaign to eradicate polio (see above), and left with renewed energy to continue the fight against the crippling disease.

Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn represented His Majesty the King during the opening ceremony, thanking Rotarians for their good work around the world. During four packed days of plenary and breakout sessions, Rotarians heard from a number of speakers, including microcredit pioneer and Nobel Peace laureate Muhammad Yunus; antipoverty crusader Hugh Evans; Gillian Sorenson, senior adviser and national advocate at the United Nations Foundation; and Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter and activist Angelique Kidjo.

During the World Peace Symposium that preceded the convention, former Sudanese child soldier Emmanuel Jal talked about the atrocities he had witnessed, and Liberian Nobel Peace laureate Leymah Gbowee urged attendees to continue working for peace.

5. Interact turns 50; peace centers, 10

Rotary District 5630 Interact ClubsInteract clubs and their sponsors around the globe celebrated the program’s 50th anniversary during World Interact Week, 5-11 November.

The first Interact club, at Melbourne High School in Melbourne, Florida, USA, received its charter in November 1962 under the guidance and sponsorship of the Rotary Club of Melbourne. In celebration of the golden anniversary, charter members of the club joined current Interactors and Rotarians from District 6930 for a night of reflection and fellowship.

The Rotary Peace Centers program marked its 10th anniversary in 2012. The program has been offering master’s degrees in peace and conflict resolution at leading universities in Australia, England, Japan, Sweden, and the United States since 2002. In 2004, a three-month professional development certificate program was added at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand.