Hundreds attend Rotary UN Day
Jenkins and Salil Shetty, director of the UN's Millennium Campaign, (at top) welcome participants to Rotary UN Day. Bottom; RI President Dong Kurn Lee meets Jonathan Olunga of Uganda, the 10,000th Gift of Life patient. Rotary Images/Alyce Henson
More than 900 people, including Rotarians, Rotaractors, and Interactors from more than 44 countries, attended Rotary International Day at the United Nations in New York City on 8 November.
The day featured panel discussions on water, literacy, health, and hunger. Speakers came from within Rotary, the UN, and other partner nongovernmental organizations, illustrating how organizations can work together to tackle these challenging issues.
Speaking on one of the panels, Martin Silink, president of the International Diabetes Federation(IDF), said that half of the 440,000 children with diabetes worldwide lack access to the insulin they need to live.
Silink encouraged Rotarians to undertake diabetes projects and noted that the UN passed a resolution in 2006 creating World Diabetes Day, observed on 14 November.
C. Wayne Edwards, a past district governor and member of the Rotary Club of Tallahassee, Florida, USA, described how he was inspired by his diabetic wife to raise money for diabetes causes during his year as governor. The result was a $106,000 project that, with help from IDF, provided a diabetes camp for children and established seven clinics in Bolivia.
Other highlights of the day included an address by Grace Agwaru of Uganda, who in 1975 was the first heart surgery patient treated under the Gift of Life program, a Rotarian-supported initiative.
“By saving my life, you have enabled me to reach out to so many people in other communities and help them,” said Agwaru, who works for the Teso Foundation for Sustainable Development. Agwaru also introduced the 10,000th Gift of Life patient, 11-year-old Jonathan Olunga of Uganda.
Some of the loudest applause of the day went to Anand Balachandran, interagency coordinator of the World Health Organization, who cited the effectiveness of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative by contrasting today’s four remaining polio-endemic countries with the more than 125 that existed when the initiative was launched in 1988.
“This work could not have happened without Rotary,” Balachandran said.
Projects in the spotlight
Other Rotary service projects spotlighted during the day included Adopt-a-Village, which addresses health, hunger, and education needs in impoverished communities in Africa; Reach Out and Read, which makes literacy promotion a standard part of pediatric care; Rotary Books for the World, which collects and sends books to impoverished communities in southern Africa; and The Seed Program, which sends vegetable seeds to people in the developing world and teaches them to grow their own food.
First-time Rotary-UN Day attendees Thomas and Rosenia Devine of Emmaus, Pennsylvania, said the day’s program had given them many ideas to take back to their club.
“Our club wants to do more international projects, so I was very interested in learning more,” said Rosenia, president of the Rotary Club of Emmaus.
Peter Marshall, a member of the Rotary Club of Mineola-Garden City, New York, said he has attended the event for the past 12 years but this year’s program “was even better than I expected.”
“Every year, I come with an empty briefcase and leave with one that’s full of great ideas,” Marshall added, showing a portfolio stuffed with notes and brochures.
A youth program aimed at high school-age students ran concurrently during the morning session.
Summing up the significance of the day, RI President-elect John Kenny said: “If we look sensibly at the problems and work together toward the solutions, our world will be better than it was before. All of us are here today because we want to be the ones to work toward the solutions.”
H. Bradley Jenkins, RI’s representative to the United Nations in New York, was lead organizer of the event, along with alternate RI representatives Sylvan M. Barnet Jr., Robert A. Coultas, William A. Miller, and Helen B. Reisler.