Rotary International Convention
1 – 5 June 2019
Three Canadians from The Townships Project attended the Rotary International Convention from June 1 – 6, 2019 in Hamburg Germany: Carole Rowsell (board member), Lars Henriksson (board advisor) and Martha Deacon (founder and board member). We attended with the intention of identifying Rotarian interest in supporting the Building Better Businesses Symposium in South Africa, both among South African Rotarians and among those of other countries including Canada, Germany and Holland.
This was the 110th Rotary International Convention with more than 25,000 Rotarians in attendance from more than 170 countries around the world. The Convention is organized in segments. It begins on a Sunday, with opening ceremonies (two, because of the large number of attendees) and ends with closing ceremonies on Wednesday from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday have the following structure: 10:00 am -12:00 noon Plenary or General Sessions; 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm Breakout Sessions, covering many topics. Carole Rowsell focused on Service and Projects, plus the House of Friendship (open from (9:00 am to 5:00 daily) where she helped at the booth of the Rotary Action Group for Microfinance and Community Development (RAGM). The House of Friendship has booths highlighting Rotary Service Programs, Rotary Action Groups, Rotary International and the Rotary Foundation.
Report from Carole Rowsell:
“Lars and I attended all three General Sessions, to hear ideas on Rotary programs and future influences. In the afternoons, we focused on activities of RAGM, the Rotary Action Group for Microfinance and Community Development, of which Martha and I are members. RAGM had a seminar, a booth, their annual general meeting and a think tank meeting on Tuesday at the close of the House of Friendship. On Monday afternoon, we attended the Micro Business and Microfinance Seminar, run by RAGM, and later that day, their Annual General Meeting.
On Tuesday afternoon I volunteered at the RAGM booth and was invited to the think tank late in the afternoon. I had the opportunity to update the President of RAGM, Jim Louttit, on The Townships Project’s latest strategy in SA. He has visited Johannesburg, knows Martha, and some of the Rotarians active in the Building Better Businesses Symposium.
It was very helpful to have updated pamphlets and a current website for The Townships Project. We gave out a number of pamphlets at the RAGM booth, but few Rotarians gave their card for more information. However, as the RAGM booth took names for their monthly newsletter and membership in their Action Group (2,000 – 3,000 Rotarian subscribers), this is the vehicle I am planning to use to reach out to the Rotary world. I plan to write a blog on the RAGM website, which can be added to weekly or monthly, with pictures. At this convention, both Lars and I were able to build a good relationship with the key organizers of RAGM.
I have attended about a dozen Rotary International Conventions over the years and have participated in House of Friendship booths showcasing humanitarian projects. Never did we get a promise of a donation at the convention. However, we built inroads and knowledge of our humanitarian projects and later did get participation. The Rotary Action Groups are a new model or umbrella for areas of focus. I believe that we have opened the door and now need to continue with the information flow. Rotarians respond to programs and projects with Rotary involvement at both ends. The Townships Project qualifies in this respect. They also like to know there is guidance from an experienced NGO, such as The Townships Project.”
Carole Rowsell and Hannifer Muskoe, incoming president for her Rotary Club in Uganda.
Report from Martha Deacon:
“This was my first Rotary International Convention and I was astonished at the sheer scale of the event. Hamburg was overrun with Rotarians: access to the local transportation system was free with our registration as we were staying in all parts of the city. Watching the Opening Ceremony with the parade of flags from 180+ countries, like watching the Olympics! It is a graphic demonstration of the international power of Rotary’s 36,000 Clubs worldwide.
Barry Rassin, the Rotary International President, told us he had met with 35 heads of state over his year as President, all of whom wanted to strengthen relationships with Rotary because of its excellent reputation for community and humanitarian service.
On Sunday at lunch, I found myself sitting across from Irene Matzke-Rischmann of Club Syke-Utbremen, outside Bremen. Bremen, in Germany, was where my father had ended up on VE Day at the end of the war as a soldier in the Canadian artillery. I told them how thrilled he would be to think that we were sitting in Hamburg together 74 years later, working on ways to bring peace and prosperity to the world. Truly a miracle. I will follow up with the Club Syke-Utbremen in Germany about the Building Better Businesses Symposium. On Sunday after the Opening Ceremonies, Carole, Lars and I caught up with about 15 members of the South African contingent at the African banquet including Shirley Downie Past District Governor (PDG) of District 9400. She told me about the breakout session called “How Intercountry Committees Can Facilitate Global Grants” at which Annemarie Mostert, who will be District Governor of District 9400 in 2020-21, was presenting on Tuesday. The Intercountry Committee under discussion was South Africa-Germany, and the project was an Early Childhood Education program in the Township of Alexandra in Johannesburg. Afterward I attended the reception hosted by Germany for the South Africans, and will follow up with those German members who indicated an interest in learning about the Building Better Businesses Symposium in Pretoria in September 2019.
After the conference ended on Wednesday, Carole and Lars (who is a PDG from Ontario, Canada) invited me to dinner with about 12 PDG’s from Ontario in Canada. I was invited to tell them about The Townships Project and to follow up in the future. PDG’s are the leaders who encourage and connect whole groups of local Clubs and are therefore in the best position to know what clubs are interested in what subjects. Their overview is invaluable, as is the easy connection they have to their peers worldwide. Carole and Lars originally connected me to Rotary in South Africa in 2017.”
On Thursday, I drove from Hamburg, through Bremen, to Zeist in Holland to meet with the Burgermeister, whose predecessor had given my father a Delft plate in 1945 to thank him for his part in the liberation. I had grown up with the plate on the wall of my home in Canada, and wanted to find out more about it and to offer it back to Zeist on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of liberation in 2020. It turns out that the Burgermeister is a Rotarian, providng yet another avenue of follow-up for The Townships Project and the Building Better Businesses Symposium!
Martha Deacon and the Burgermeister of Zeist.
Submitted by Rotarians:
Carole Rowsell, Rotary Club of Parkdale HighPark Humber, D7070, Toronto, Canada
Lars Henriksson, Rotary Club of Toronto-Eglinton, D7070, Toronto, Canada
Martha Deacon, eClub of Southern Africa, D9400, Johannesburg, South Africa