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6 humanitarians honored for their work with refugees

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Six humanitarians who are members of the family of Rotary were honored as People of Action: Connectors Beyond Borders during the 2019 Rotary Day at the United Nations, which focuses this year on the global refugee crisis.

The annual event, held in New York City on 9 November this year, celebrated the vision for peace that Rotary and the UN share. Through Rotary’s long history with the UN, its members have helped people affected by war, famine, and disaster.

"When Rotarians see suffering like this, we do not fall into despair, we act," said Rotary International President Mark Maloney. "Rotary members are creating community-based solutions to provide immediate relief, plus resources for refugees’ long-term integration and recovery."

Dominique Hyde, director of external relations for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), praised Rotary for their work. "Rotarians have always found ways to help refugees," she said. "Collectively you have contributed over $3 million toward refugee support and relief."

Today, the number of refugees worldwide is the highest it has been since World War II. The six honorees — five Rotary members and a Rotary Peace Fellow — are all people of action who have found community-based solutions to the refugee crisis.

  • Bernd Fischer

    Club: Rotary Club of Berlin, Germany

    Project: Integration of refugee women into German society

    Description: Fischer, a retired diplomat, is coordinating Rotary clubs in Europe and the U.S. on a grant project to integrate 240 refugee women into German society by helping them overcome cultural and language differences that hinder their participation in daily life. The project has already trained 100 women with children and has provided mentoring in their own languages, job training and placement assistance, and child care when they need medical and psychological treatment.

  • Lucienne Heyworth

    Rotary connection: Rotary Peace Fellow (Uppsala University, 2015-17)

    Project: Education curriculum in times of emergency, focused on the Middle East

    Description: Heyworth developed an “education in emergencies” curriculum to provide instructional materials that can be used in makeshift learning spaces to teach people displaced by conflict. Such spaces create critical safe places for entire communities, where families can fill other basic needs like food, hygiene, and health. Heyworth, who was a teacher before she developed her expertise in providing education in areas of conflict, has focused her work in the Middle East.

  • Ilge Karancak-Splane

    Club: Rotary Club of Monterey Cannery Row, California, USA

    Project: Education and integration project in Turkey for Syrian refugee children

    Description: After visiting several refugee tent camps in Turkey, Karancak-Splane organized Rotary clubs to provide 1,000 pairs of children’s shoes and socks for families in the camps in 2017. Recognizing that the children also lacked access to schools, Karancak-Splane and her Rotary club launched a global grant project to help educate refugee children.

  • Hasina Rahman

    Club: Rotary Club of Dhaka Mavericks, Bangladesh

    Project: Nutrition services for Rohingya children in Bangladesh

    Description: Rahman, assistant country director of Concern Worldwide, has mobilized Rotary clubs and partner agencies to raise funds for and construct an outpatient therapeutic center that provides lifesaving preventive care and nutrition services for children and pregnant women who have fled to the Cox’s Bazar refugee camp in Bangladesh to escape violence in Myanmar. The center has screened more than 500,000 Rohingya children and helped more than 7,000 severely malnourished children. Staff members and volunteers have learned about feeding infants and young children, and refugee families have received information in their own language about breastfeeding and proper hygiene.

  • Ace Robin

    Club: Rotary Club of Mataram Lombok, Mataram, Indonesia

    Project: Disaster relief and housing for people displaced by earthquakes

    Description: Robin has led her club’s and community’s efforts to provide assistance to people displaced by a series of earthquakes in the Lombok region of Indonesia during 2018. She served as the contact person for ShelterBox, aiding in the delivery of 915 units of temporary housing near Lombok. She and her fellow club members brought water, food, and other necessities to people who were displaced and distributed teaching materials, uniforms, shoes, and bags for students. Robin remains involved in the long-term recovery efforts.

  • Vanderlei Lima Santana

    Club: Rotary Club of Boa Vista-Caçari, Roraima, Brazil

    Project: Humanitarian aid to Venezuelan refugees

    Description: Santana has led efforts to welcome and care for thousands of Venezuelan refugees arriving in northern Brazil because of desperate economic conditions in their country. Santana’s club has been working with the government and nonprofit organizations to coordinate the distribution of meals and vaccines to more than a thousand refugees who are living in streets or makeshift shelters in a plaza near the local bus station. They also provide professional development assistance and help the refugees find places to sleep.