2014themegarycu-458x306By Erin Thomas
Rotary Peace Fellow, Class 1
Rotarian Action Group for Peace Executive Director

The Rotarian Action Group for Peace attended the 2014 RI Assembly in San Diego, California (USA) to share information about Rotarian Action Groups with incoming District Governors.  The tagline for Rotarian Action Groups is, “RAGS keep Rotarians in Rotary” – and our mission at this conference was to make sure the 2014-15 District Governors are equipped to connect their clubs with RAG experts in fields such as peace, microcredit or water and sanitation. Rotarian Action Groups share their expertise by collaborating with clubs and districts on service projects.

As a Rotarian Action Group for Peace member, we hope you will:

  • Enter your club and district peace projects and peace events on our website. This is the absolute best way to help clubs looking for peace-related service ideas.
  • Notify us of any global grant ideas you have in the Peace and Conflict Resolution/Prevention Area of Focus. We can connect your with experts on the topic, and with Peace Cadre members who can provide technical assistance on the grant.
  • Encourage your District to seek out qualified applicants for the Rotary Peace Fellowship. Increasing awareness of the Peace Fellowships is in the top five goals of Rotary in 2014-15, and this is an area where our Action Group can make a big difference. You can get started here.

Speaking of recruiting Rotary Peace Fellows, a Peace Fellow by the name of Cameron Chisholm who is the Founder and President of the International Peace & Security Institute addressed the assembly and made these three main points about how this fellowship is changing the field of peace and conflict resolution:

  1. Education: The Peace Fellowship offers an excellent and unrivaled educational experience. Not only are they studying peace and conflict resolution at a top university, they are gaining perspective by studying outside of their country of origin and side by side with an international cohort of Peace Fellows who all have work experience in this area of focus.
  2. Networking: Peace Fellows can call on any of the 700+ alumni from their program and be sure that they are getting a qualified and impactful response.
  3. Freedom to Take Risks: Student debt is a very real concern for people pursuing higher education at top universities, and people with large debts are required to stay in the safer jobs with the higher paying institutions once they graduate. Many Rotary Fellows have pursued work in poorer areas of the world with grassroots organizations, and others such as Cameron have started their organizations (IPSI is a great example).

At the RI Assembly, we also had the opportunity to hear from Peter Kyle, who is the Chairperson for the 2015 Peace Symposium in Sao Paulo. He is the Past President of the Rotary Club of Capitol Hill and the current District Governor of District 7620, and retired from the Legal Vice Presidency of the World Bank several years ago.

The Rotary Peace Symposium is held every three years as two-day pre-convention event with multiple workshops for Rotarians and Rotary Peace Fellows. Al Jubitz, Rotarian Action Group for Peace Co-Founder and Chair, will serve on the planning committee with Peter Kyle for that event. Please feel free to send your ideas for the convention to: [email protected].

Peter shared with the Assembly attendees that the Rotary Peace Fellowship is the number one education priority of the Rotary Foundation. Clubs and districts are not required to contribute to the Rotary Peace Centers program, but they are encouraged to do so. An endowment campaign is underway that will leave the fellowship funded in perpetuity. The average cost of the Peace Fellowship is on average $75,000 per fellow, and the endowment goal is within reach for 2015.

Peter asked all District Governors to lead their district in seeking qualified nominations. He suggested that clubs reach out to individuals and organizations they know in their communities – mediation organizations, past GSE participants, and at local colleges and universities. One innovative idea is for Rotary clubs to host a “World Affairs Evening” featuring a prominent speaker that will be appealing to many people in your community, and then make a pitch for applicants at the event. Find out more about nominating Rotary Peace Fellows here.

Our time at the RI Assembly put us in close contact with many of the other Rotarian Action Groups, and we look forward to working with them, after all, “RAGS keep Rotarians in Rotary!