R. I. President and Trustee Message - April

RI President 2022-23 Jennifer Jones
Rotary Club of Windsor-Roseland
Ontario, Canada

Dear Fellow Rotarians, Rotaractors, and friends,
April 2023

Introducing the Rotary Youth Network

How do you take the best from the worst?

None of us will forget how the pandemic altered our world and our lives. Each of us had to traverse this period of uncertainty, and no one had a free pass from the effects.

I personally believe this has created space for a different kind of global leadership — one that is courageous, empathetic, and vulnerable. I met my good friend Anniela Carracedo online in early 2020. She is one such leader, and I'm thrilled to turn this month's column over to her.
— Jennifer Jones

In March 2020, I had a panic attack. I couldn't breathe, and I felt a terrible pain in my chest.
It had been a few days since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, and I was in the middle of my year as a Rotary Youth Exchange student in the United States. Think about it: an 18-year-old girl stuck in a different country, with a foreign language, with people she had only met six months before. It was scary.

But I am familiar with uncertainty. I was born and raised in Venezuela, which is going through one of the worst humanitarian and political crises in the Western Hemisphere. But my mom always said, "Challenges are nothing more than needs that require a solution."

I called up my Interact and Youth Exchange friends. Together, we organized an online meeting to share projects and get inspired by what everyone else was doing during the quarantine. In that first meeting, we had 70 people, mainly students, from 17 countries.

From that beginning, we built an online platform for Rotary youths worldwide to share their experiences and inspire others with project ideas during isolation. We looked for mentors and supporters who would help our group connect young people, share cultures, and open new collaborative opportunities for international service projects. We called it Rotary Interactive Quarantine, or RIQ.

After only a year, we engaged with more than 5,000 students from 80 countries. Several of our team members became district Interact representatives and district committee members, and some of us even serve on Rotary International councils.

Eventually, quarantine restrictions were being lifted, and the needs of our participants were changing. At our last official meeting as RIQ, Past RI President Barry Rassin inspired us to create even bigger change, so we transformed RIQ into the Rotary Youth Network, or RYN.

A few of our members, including me, were selected to serve on the inaugural Interact Advisory Council, where we presented our vision for youth in Rotary to the RI Board of Directors.

Our presentation to the Board inspired President Jennifer and her team to create a Youth Advisory Council in Rotary International, which I am honored to serve on as a co-chair.

The Rotary Youth Network officially launched during a breakout session at the 2022 Rotary International Convention in Houston. Five of us, who had participated in Interact, Youth Exchange, and Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, traveled across continents to launch an organization we had kicked off online two years before. The convention was also the first time we had met in person.

When my friends and I finished our talk, we realized more than 500 people were giving us a standing ovation. Tears filled our eyes, and the feeling of excitement and accomplishment took over.
Who would have thought that a panic attack would lead to this?

Jennifer Jones
President 2022-23

Trustee Chair's Message - April 2023

Ian H.S. Riseley
Trustee Chair 2022-23
Sandringham, Victoria, Australia,

Trustee chair's message

April 2023

In a letter to his brother Theo in 1874, ??Vincent Van Gogh wrote: “If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.” 

You can see Van Gogh’s love of the natural world in his paintings: luminous sunflowers, gnarled olive trees, and the starry night sky over a Provençal village. When you see nature through Van Gogh’s  eyes or through your own, such as during a trip to the park or a beach, you can’t help but stop to appreciate it. And when you love nature, you also want to take care of it.

April is Environmental Month for Rotary, and Earth Day is the 22nd. Marking the occasion with local projects such as roadside cleanups is fantastic and makes a difference. Consider also thinking big about protecting the environment — one of Rotary’s seven areas of focus — by partnering with other clubs and districts on a larger-scale project funded through The Rotary Foundation.

The more our clubs work together on larger projects, the more we accomplish. Supported by a Foundation global grant, Rotary clubs in Pennsylvania and Brazil teamed up to provide plastic-processing equipment for a waste pickers cooperative in the city of Rio Claro. The workers, who recover recyclables from trash, increased their income by 50 percent and expanded the cooperative, while contributing to a cleaner environment.

Acting big is also one of the main ideas behind the Foundation’s Programs of Scale. With each $2 million grant distributed over a program’s three- to five-year duration, the work done on the ground scales up to fulfill the potential for long-term sustainable change. The 2021-22 Programs of Scale recipient, Together for Healthy Families in Nigeria, is hard at work right now on solutions aimed at reducing the country’s maternal and neonatal mortality rates. 

Programs of Scale grants are among the most exciting developments of Rotary and its Foundation in recent years. They will have a big impact on the world. Remember that Programs of Scale grants take nothing away from your Foundation grant projects; the money invested is a relatively small portion of the Foundation’s total. In addition, The Rotary Foundation designed Programs of Scale to foster greater partnerships, which can include co-funding the initiative.

So, think big this month — about the environment and about global grants and Programs of Scale — and you will see that, when it comes to the good we can do through our Foundation, the “starry night” sky’s the limit.


Ian H.S. Riseley
Trustee Chair 2022-23

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