Rotary E-Club of Melbourne Pioneers Peace

I would like to think that the pioneering days of Rotary have only just begun. There are just as many new things to be done as ever there were. Kaleidoscopic changes are taking place, many of them without our will. Even to hang on to the fringe of this fast-changing world is about all most of us can do. Rotary simply must continue to pioneer or be left in the rear of progress.” – Rotary Founder Paul Harris

The Rotary E-Club of Melbourne, Australia, is a RAGFP Peacebuilder Club. They are among the growing numbers of “E-Clubs” around the world within Rotary International and the very first Rotary E-Club to form a RAGFP Peacebuilder Club in August 2018. Rotary E-Clubs provide a convenient way for Rotarians to meet online, especially if they are restricted from attending traditional meetings due to work, travel, or other issues. Rotary E-Clubs are not only for “tech-savvy” Rotarians. The oldest member of this RAGFP Peacebuilder Club is 90-years-old.

Melbourne is a city of Rotarian pioneers. The Rotary Club of Melbourne (RCM) was Australia’s very first Rotary Club chartered in 1921 and members of RCM helped District 9800 launch this E-Club five years ago as a means of helping the district adapt to changing needs of Rotarians in the area.

Rotary E-Club Melbourne conducts their weekly Rotary meetings online and then leave their computers to personally seek peacebuilding opportunities in their local community and globally. They meet face-to-face at many of their service and peace projects throughout Melbourne. They also travel together internationally to visit many of the positive peace projects they sponsor in remote areas around the world. Personal experience in the field is a peacebuilding philosophy of this club.

This RAGFP Peacebuilder Club understands how Rotarian service promotes positive peace by making personal connections. They seek firsthand peacebuilding experiences to help them to assess if the solutions they provide in international club projects are working for people, and importantly, so they can build bridges of peace by forging lasting bonds of personal friendship. Developing Friendships as an opportunity for service is the very first guiding principle of Rotary International.

For example, one of their international projects built a well for residents in the small village near West Bengal, India. Rotary E-Club Melbourne members traveled all the way to India to join the villagers in a cup of water at the well. This encounter promoted peace by providing lasting goodwill and friendships surrounding this club construction project.

This project is forever elevated from the nuts and bolts of digging and providing hydraulics to excavate groundwater, to the shared smiles, laughter, and fellowship of everyone who enjoys the fresh water this well produces for the village. Personal peacebuilding experiences bring Rotary club service projects to life.

“International Service is very close to my heart as it helps me to make friends from all over the world,” says E-Club Melbourne International Services Director Madu Bishnu. ” This has happened to me on many occasions and I enjoy the value of such friendship so much.”

All Rotarian peacebuilders understand that peacebuilding involves more than “writing a check” for a worthy project. Rotarians leave their comfort zones to engage with people and ensure their peace projects are working as designed to meet the needs of the community.

Rotarian Jennie Mitchell serves on the Rotary E-Club of Melbourne Peacebuilder Committee. She recently traveled with Madu to visit their club projects in India. One of these projects helps provide latrines in remote areas of India where sanitation is an issue for local residents. Jenny personally examined the latrines and spoke with local residents about their up-keep.

“Many of the toilets are being maintained in good condition and continue to be used on a regular basis,” Jennie reported back to her club.

As members of this RAGFP Peacebuilder Club bonded with villagers, they also ended up touring local schools. They discovered children were being educated in huts on dirt floors. In the winter time, the temperature drops as low as zero degrees Fahrenheit and the bare ground they sit on is frozen. (This provided them another opportunity for Rotarian service.)

They are now purchasing blankets and mats for the children to sit on while they are in school, as well as educational tools to be used in classrooms.

“RECM is a very active Peacebuilder Club,” says Rotary E-Club of Melbourne Current President Gabe Hau. Gabe is also chair of the club’s Peacebuilder Committee. “RECM is keen to spread the word about Peacebuilder Clubs wherever possible. RECM is on the organizing committee of the Peace Through Service Summit on February 15th, 2019, as part of Rotary’s Victorian Multi-District Conference which starts on the 16th of February. The Summit has high profile speakers including PRIP Ian Riseley OAM and many others. We also promoted Peacebuilder Clubs at the Australia New Zealand Rotary Conference in September 2018 at Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. The conference was attended by Rotarians from nearly 30 Rotary Districts. RECM prepared flyers for distribution at the conference and RECM members were at hand to answer any questions about Peacebuilder Clubs.”

Gabe believes personal experiences with others in the community provide many opportunities for Rotarian peacebuilding, and you’ll see many members of this E-Club in visible places within Melbourne as they close their laptops and “get busy for peace.” In fact, the club believes that video-conferencing offers the feel of face-to-face interactions, and provides more time for members to engage for peace in local community events. “It is always time to think about what to do next,” says Gabe.

Rotary E-Club Melbourne is a visible peacebuilding club in their community

The Rotary E-Club of Melbourne sets a standard of personal engagement for all RAGFP Peacebuilder Clubs. They are constantly making new mates in Australia and internationally simply by being personally present in all their positive peacebuilding activities.

Since August 2018, they have been promoting peace by engaging with Australians for Peace, a not-for-profit group also interested in the promotion of peace. They also visited Interact clubs (Baden Powell College and The MacRobertson Girls’ High School) to promote and share the message of peace with their young members. The MacRobertson Girls’ High School Interact Club was so interested in the topic that this school, with the support of RECM, conducted their own International Peace Day Event, encouraging fellow students to write messages of peace on 21 September 2018. The school created tags with a ‘Peace Duck’ that was used to write messages of peace.  The ‘Peace Duck’ was created by Michael Leunig, a famous cartoonist in Australia, as a way to promote peace.

RECM Promotes Peace in Local Schools

We are proud to honor the Rotary E-Club of Melbourne, Australia’s very first RAGFP Peacebuilder Club, as these RAGFP members and Rotarian peacebuilders recognize the needs within their community and provide innovative methods of promoting positive peace in Australia and around the world.