Peace through Vocational Service
January 29, 2021

Dear Peacebuilders,

As we reflect on Rotary’s Vocational Service in the month of January, let us explore the connections between vocations, service, and peace. To recognize these connections, we must answer the following questions: How can we turn our vocations into service? How can we collaborate with people from different vocations to achieve service? How can we enhance our vocation through service? 

The concept of vocational service is rooted in Rotary’s philosophy and purpose. Rotarians foster:

  • High ethical standards in business and professions
  • The recognition of the worthiness of all useful occupations
  • The dignifying of each Rotarian’s occupation as an opportunity to serve society

Rotary was a pioneer in recognizing that if we are to serve humanity through our vocations, we need to learn how to work with one another while integrating our numerous expertise. Rotary calls us to something higher than our individual worlds through the philosophy of "Service Above Self." It may be more convenient to work with people in our cohort because less needs to be explained and the same professional jargon can be used. But does working with those with similar experiences open our minds? Does it expand our hearts? Does it extend our spirits to others? We can only be the best humanitarians when we become practical with compassion, understanding, and humility, and work outside our professional comfort zones.

People are the center of vocation, service, and peace. When we conduct work with others and especially for the purpose of service, trust must be cultivated, respect must be earned, and collaboration with whom we disagree must be achieved. Each one of us has a responsibility towards their fellow colleagues. Regardless of titles, those whom our decisions, actions and words impact are our responsibility. When we have the spirit of service, our thoughts, words, and actions become tools for making a difference, creating opportunities, and inspiring those around us. When we use our vocations to serve, we advance peace.

Working and serving across sectors requires many peacebuilding tools, including effective communication, facilitation, mediation, and negotiation. When we make decisions impacting humanity, we bring our various frameworks of thinking and perceptions of the issues to the table. Our blind spots are exposed, and our disagreements are highlighted. If we are to "Serve Above Self," we need to be humble and realize that to make more enlightened decisions, it requires thoughtful collaboration. We are always smarter together. Remember that service is a journey we take with others and for others. In order to use our individual knowledge to serve our diverse humanity, we are obligated to enrich the conversation, shed light on new perspectives, and think of our differences as opportunities for learning while continuously aligning ourselves with the higher calling of peace through service.

Collaborating despite our differences might seem hard to many, but Rotary provides the perfect solution to work together. Our method is the Four-Way Test. In all the things we think, say, and do, we answer to four questions: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

This method was created in 1932 by businessman Herbert J. Taylor, a Rotarian who served as a Rotary International President in 1954-55. He used the test to create a culture of thoughtful collaboration which saved his company from bankruptcy. Taylor proved by example that when we integrate the truth, compassion, and service in our vocations, we enhance our performance in tangible ways. When we integrate the Four-Way Test into our vocations, we build a culture of trust, support, and excellence. He demonstrated that for us to be better at our vocations, we need to lead with service.

When we reflect on Taylor’s choice to lead with service at a time of crisis, we learn quickly that the ends should not justify the means. Just like Theodore Roosevelt said, “No man is justified in doing evil on the ground of expediency.” Taylor’s choice to do what is right despite uncertainty is an important lesson to observe from a pioneering Rotarian. Considering Taylor's story as a metaphor, we cannot afford to corrupt our choices for the sake of avoiding bankruptcy.

Our talents are gifts to the world and when we turn them into vocations, they become a vehicle to transform attitudes, enhance systems, and advance the institutions where we operate. Rotary encourages us to work with each other despite our different careers, lifestyles, and mindsets. Rotary does not ask us to always take the easy path. Working in a diverse environment is difficult, but with the increase in difficulty comes the increase in reward. Service is not a vocation; service is a calling. When we combine our vocation with service, we have fulfilled Rotary’s objective.

Vocational service is really “Service above Vocation." When we serve we do not always make the easy choice. We make the right choice. When we “Serve above Vocation,” we become Peacebuilders.

Wage Peace, 

Reem Ghunaim 

Executive Director 

Peace through Vocational Service 

January is the Month of Vocational Service. Through our vocations, we have the power to advance peace in Rotary's Areas of Focus. 

2020 has been a year demonstrating how the world has united to take action against a global pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic also emphasized the peace inequalities around the world and just how unstable our communities are to dramatic shifts in our economy and social dynamics.  Just as Rotarians and Peacebuilders worked together to keep their local communities safe, we now need to raise awareness and take action on the issues where people are left vulnerable due to the pandemic, conflict, and other negative peace factors. As Peacebuilders, we must advance peace through our vocations where governments, institutions, and systems lack to ensure resiliency for all humankind. 

This month's newsletter will discuss Rotary's Areas of Focus and vocational service. We encourage you to reflect on how you can advance peace through all seven Rotary Areas of Focus. 

Peace is Essential
Peace is the center of all Rotary areas of Focus
Peace is at the center of all Rotary Areas of Focus. All vocations have the potential to serve for peace. No matter which Rotary Area of Focus you, your club, or your vocation are dedicated to, the values of positive peace will always be at the core of vocational service.

It may be difficult to know where to begin with vocational service, but every intentional action, no matter how small, can have a lasting impact on building a community's resiliency and creating positive peace. Through the framework of Rotary's Seven Areas of Focus, we will identify areas of vocational services that have been heightened by the global pandemic and offer inspiration to take action. The seven Rotary Areas of Focus (RAF) are:
All vocations have the potential to serve for peace.  Continue reading to learn more about some of the peace obstacles our communities face, as well as some ideas for Rotarian intervention in each Rotary Area of Focus. 
Support Refugees during COVID-19

Each Rotary Area of Focus (RAF) has elements that overlap and connect to other RAFs. One of the famous overlaps is RAF Disease Prevention and Treatment and the RAF of Water and Sanitation. In order to treat illnesses within a community, it is essential to have quality healthcare facilities. To prevent many diseases from spreading or occurring in the first place, communities must have access to basic clean water, sanitation facilities, and exercise proper hygiene. When it comes to bringing sustainable positive peace to a vulnerable community, bridging clean water & sanitation with disease treatment and prevention are a gold-star combination. 

Displacement is caused by a variety of negative peace issues, such as armed conflict, generalized violence, human rights violations, and natural and man-made disasters.
 There are over 79.5 million people who have been forcibly displaced around the world-- that's more than 1% of the world's global population. Most of the world's refugees live in countries that are struggling to provide basic services, such as food, healthcare, and proper clean living conditions.  According to the International Rescue Committee, we could see up to 1 billion COVID-19 infections and 3.2 million deaths in the 34 of the world's most vulnerable nations. Social distancing, one of the best ways to help spread the COVID-19 virus, is a near-impossible task in many overcrowded refugee camps. Overcrowded camps in Syria, Greece, and Bangladesh are some of the most densely populated places in the world. Many camps have limited to no access to clean water and PPE making simple precautionary measures like washing your hands and covering your face difficult. The limited access to basic healthcare in most refugee camps may lead to greater exposure to infection without the necessary equipment to test and vaccinate these fragile communities.

International aid organizations have been receiving budget cuts due to the economic downturn. caused by COVID-19. UNICEF Middle East and North Africa division only received 40% of the funding it needs to operate in conflict zones, and the UN's World Food Programme was forced to reduce its food rations to refugees in Eastern Africa by 30% due to insufficient funds. If your community is suffering due to COVID-19, imagine the difficult realities exacerbated by COVID-19 being faced by nearly 80 million refugees. 

Thank you to all who have used their vocation to serve refugees during COVID-19.

Rotarian Intervention Inspiration
Rotary partner, Shelter Box, has been working tirelessly to provide essential resources to refugee camps in Syria, Somaliland, Cameroon, and Ethiopia while maintaining proper protective measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. During the pandemic, Shelterbox has customized its aid packages to include soap and hand-washing basins. In some responses, Shelterbox has provided a representative to raise public awareness of good hygiene practices with the tools they provided. Learn more about how you can partner with Shelter Box and provide necessary supplies to communities of displaced people all over the world. 

Inspiration for Vocational Service
  • Collaborate with local homeless shelters and ask what items they are most in need, and work with your friends and Rotary Club to provide these essential items. 
  • Support and celebrate front-line and essential workers
  • Reach out to the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene Rotary Action Group (WASHRAG) for more ideas on how your club can get involved with keeping communities safe from disease. 
Create Educational Opportunities
Education is one of the most important investments a community can make for its future peace. Education improves health and livelihoods, contributes to social stability, and drives long-term economic growth at the individual, community, and national levels. Proper education allows individuals the opportunity to reach their true potential and will be better suited to support themselves, their families, and their communities. For women and girls in vulnerable populations, each additional year of school can increase a woman's earning by up to 20%. 

For many of us, the children in our lives have gotten used to online or distant learning curriculum. As difficult as this transition has been on many families and students, most of our children are still obtaining a quality education with the online tools we utilize most every day. For communities without internet access or technological resources, many children are left with little to no schooling during nation-wide lockdowns.

By April of 2020, 91% of students worldwide were impacted by temporary school closures. That's 1.6 billion children not attending physical school. According to Human Rights Watch, most children in the African continent have not been learning in an academic context since March of 2020. Some children are given their textbooks and left to learn on their own instruction due to their inability to convene in a physical classroom with their teachers. Due to the pandemic, more than 250 million primary and secondary school children in Africa are not attending school. In addition to missing opportunities for education, children are losing access to ancillary school services like meals, sanitary pads, and immunization. For children living in extreme poverty, not attending school leaves them with fewer opportunities to break the cycle of poverty and are more likely to be forced into the workforce as minors. 

Due to varying access to the internet and technology in Sub-Saharan Africa, teachers, governments, and non-profit organizations collaborated together to find new (and not so new) means to engage their students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Nations including Ghana, Senegal, Madagascar, and Rwanda have resorted to radio schooling to keep students learning from home. Because of a radio's easy access and simplicity of use, radios have a wide-reaching impact on creating relevant educational programming for students across a region. Radios are a simple solution to providing students with educational programming, but it does not allow for students to connect with their teachers and children can easily fall behind if without teacher assistance. Until the infrastructure for the internet, phone data, access to digital equipment, as well as adequate teacher training beco
me readily available, radio and television educational programming will be how some students continue to learn during the pandemic. 

Through empowering students through educational opportunities, we empower young people to be prepared to use vocational service for peace in the future.
Rotarian Intervention Inspiration
Education is far more complex than getting children into a classroom. Proper education requires regularly trained teachers, proper nutrition, educational resources, sanitation, and healthcare among a long list of other details. Similarly to the concept of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, for students to engage in a successful learning environment, they must be healthy in all aspects of life.  

To better support students during the pandemic, it is essential to understand where the education gaps are. Every community has different needs, and every child has a different situation. Partner with local schools and education non-profits to know the missing education gaps for local students. For students in Western nations, these tools may be access to high-speed internet, headphones, and tablets. For students in other nations, children may need access to ancillary resources like food, healthcare, and smartphone data. To learn more about the educational gaps for students in conflict zones, coordinate with local Rotary Clubs to understand the local needs or contact organizations like UNICEF, UNESCO, and Global Partnership for Education

Inspiration for Vocational Service
  • Support teachers and schools on their mission to provide quality education
  • Volunteer with local groups to help students in need gain access to food, hygiene products, books, and studying materials such as notebooks, pens, and pencils
  • Use your vocational skills to engage students in your community and abroad to help continue quality education during this pandemic. Read this Rotary Voices blog post for more information
Provide Economic Opportunity
The RAFs of Maternal & Child Health and Community & Economic Development are essential indicators of peace. Maternal & Child Health programs focus on the healthcare issues concerning women, children, and families, such as access to recommended prenatal and child care, infant and maternal mortality prevention, maternal and child mental health, and child immunizations. Economic and Community Development addresses the economic needs of low-income communities and individuals through the creation of sustainable avenues of business development and employment opportunities that can empower communities away from poverty. Projects dealing with the health of children and mothers clearly have strong ties to the previous RAFs highlighted before (Disease Treatment & Prevention, Clean Water & Sanitation, and Education & Literacy), but where do Maternal & Child health issues overlap with Community & Economic Development?

With the closing of schools internationally, children are left with few opportunities for education for improved economic resources. In vulnerable communities where the cost-benefit between a child's education and finances are in the balance, families are left with few options. Conflict, financial insecurity, and COVID-19 have deteriorated economic conditions around the world, leaving women and children particularly vulnerable to abuse.

In Mali, these conditions are leading to a rise in the trafficking of children, forced labor, and recruitment by armed groups. As schools continue to close, children are pushed toward informal work in gold mines, especially in areas controlled by armed militias. An estimated 6,000 children, mostly boys, are working across eight mining sites across the nation, being exposed to child labor, economic exploitation, as well as physical, sexual, and psychological abuse. Many of the victims are Malian, refugees, asylum seekers, or migrants. 

In 2020, there were over 1,000 cases of women and girls being abducted, sexually assaulted, and raped in Mali's Mopti region. About 53% of Malian women are married before the age of 18 -- a statistic the UN Refugee Agency is concerned will spiral due to shrinking economic opportunities for women during the pandemic. 

With schools closed and job opportunities dwindling, the mental and physical welfare of women, children, and families are especially susceptible to abuse, thus further widening the gaps to peace for that community. 
Rotarian Intervention Inspiration
There are many ways for Rotarians to intervene in issues of Economic Development to prevent the abuse of women and children. These conditions are not just happening in Mali, but to women and youth all over the globe. Learn directly from experts on the job opportunity gaps happening in your community and abroad including ways to create skills and development training during and post-pandemic that would create new, safe, and sustainable employment opportunities for vulnerable populations.

District 5340 pioneered Rotary's microcredit program called Mobilizing Rotary for Microcredit (MRM) in 2003. Microcredit programs provide credit to the poorest populations in the world. These programs target women because 92% of a woman's income will be reinvested in food, shelter, and education for her family. In many regions around the world, only 40-50% of a man's earnings will be reinvested into the family. 

Inspiration for Vocational Service
Climate Crisis and Sustainability
Supporting the Environment is Rotary's newest RAF. Like Peace & Conflict Resolution, the Environment is foundational to the success and resiliency of each RAF. To have clean water to drink and prevent disease, we must keep pollutants out of our rivers and waterways. To keep communities resilient to economic problems and to feed the masses, the soil must be fertile to continue to grow crops. Learning to live with the environment sustainably for generations to come is a core educational element to prevent conflicts in resource scarcity and climate change. Preserving nature, protecting biodiversity, and building green solutions to peace obstacles will help ensure resilient, sustainable positive peace communities today and long into the future. 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change was the most immediate threat to peace globally. The last decade was the hottest decade on record. In 2019, there were nearly 2,000 weather-related disasters causing 25 million new displacements in 140 countries around the world. From hurricanes, cyclones, flooding, forest fires, and earthquakes, vulnerable communities are often left with little resources to bounce back from dangerous and more frequent environmental disasters. 

Forest destruction that accelerates climate change due to the decrease in CO2 absorption can also encourage diseases such as coronaviruses. Loss of habitat hinders the health of wild animals and ecosystems while bringing these same wild animals into closer contact with humans and domesticated animals. The close proximity to unhealthy wild animals facilitates the animal-human barrier of these diseases that eventually spread through human-to-human contact as we've seen with COVID-19. 

Indigenous peoples are on the frontlines of environmental degradation and destruction. The COVID-19 pandemic has switched many governments' focuses away from environmental regulations to disease prevention, contributing to relaxed environmental protections in vulnerable regions. Brazil, which is home to over 114 documented "uncontacted indigenous communities" are at risk of displacement and extinction due to the growing Amazon fires and deforestation.

To maintain a future of peace for all, Rotarians must fill the gaps to protecting the environment as well as create projects that do not add unneeded stress to local and global ecosystems.
Rotarian Intervention Inspiration

Rotarian, Dr. Binish Desai engineered ways to convert coffee grounds, used face masks, human hair, and plastics into durable recycled products. These products, including bricks, jewelry, and home decor items are produced by previously impoverished women in India. Desai's products are between 15-20% cheaper than competing products, maintain the same durable quality and reuse materials that would normally go into a local landfill. The eco-bricks created from used waste materials have been used to build toilets in rural communities in India. This entrepreneurship product and system provides local communities a means to create goods and new revenue streams to support themselves and their families, diverts waste into durable materials, and creates affordable materials that build upon the needed infrastructure in the local community. 

Dr. Desai's eco-products is an example of how one project can leave a lasting impact on positive peace through its implementation of multiple RAFs. Projects do not have to be complex to have a high impact. Former RI President, Ian Risely, proposed a challenge in 2017-2018 to plant 1.2 million trees -- one for every Rotarian in the world. Planting trees are a low-cost investment to the future of a community. Among a long list of benefits, reforestation and tree planting provide future habitats for local animals, create shade and future resources for a community, places nutrients in the soil, and pulls CO2 from the atmosphere. 

Dr. Desai embraced vocational service by using his talents to serve humanity through environmental sustainability.

Inspiration for Vocational Service
Peacebuilder Club Promotes
Peace through Vocational Service
Peacebuilder Club, the Rotary Club of Zanesville, celebrated their first-ever Good Neighbor Day on October 3, 2020. Good Neighbor Day was created to partner with the community of Zanesville to beautify the neighborhood through a fun community event. The Rotary Club of Zanesville collaborated with the Noon Rotary Club and the Bethel Community Center, an organization that assists vulnerable populations in the area, to help organize and facilitate the event.  Through the input of local neighbors and community members, a list of needs and goals were established for the Good Neighbor Day event. The 33 volunteers with the collaboration of 9 organizations completed the following good neighbor deeds: 
  • mowed lawns and collected trimming
  • planted 14 trees
  • trimmed trees and vines
  • repaired and cleaned gardens
  • repaired 2 park benches
  • stained picnic tables
  • cleaned graffiti
  • connected with neighbors
  • picked up litter
  • collected recycling
  • cleaned gutters
  • repaired fences
  • placed numbers on homes
  • gained laughter and fellowship within the community. 
All activities were done outdoorrs with proper social distancing protocols. Volunteers worked with their families, used hand sanitizer, and wore face masks to protect themselves and the community. 

Want to take action in your community and abroad? Become a RAGFP Peacebuilder Club and join over 250 clubs around the world that are dedicated to wage peace.

Take a look at our Peacebuilder Club Map to see our global network of peacebuilders. Click the button below to open the RAGFP's Peacebuilder Club Application

Become a Peacebuilder Club!
February celebrates the Rotary Month of Peace and Conflict Resolution + Prevention.  For the month of February, we challenge you to engage friends, family, and neighbors to become involved in the RAGFP's peace work. Peace requires all of our participation. During the RAGFP's 2020 Membership Drive we are asking all of our friends to become a member, then invite a neighbor to continue the momentum for peacebuilding worldwide. Together, let's take action for peace. 
Become a RAGFP Member
RAGFP, Rotary, and Peace Event Calendar
January 22-24th
Presidential Conference District 9141 Nigeria

January 24th
International Day of Education (UN)

February 1-28th
RAGFP Membership Drive

February 1-11th
Rotary International Assembly, Virtual

February 20th
World Day of Social Justice (UN)

February 23rd
RAGFP's Peace Action Virtual Booth
February 23rd
Rotary International's Birthday

March 8th 
International Women's Day (UN)

March 8-14th
World Rotaract Week

March 20th 
International Day of Happiness (UN)

March 21st
International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

March 22nd
World Water Day (UN)
Peace through Vocational Service
Join and donate to Rotary Action Group for Peace to help us engage, empower and educate Rotarian peacebuilders around the world. Thank you for your support!
Happy International Day of Peace
Copyright © 2020 Rotary Action Group for Peace, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:
[email protected]