6 Rotary members honored as People of Action: Champions of Inclusion
Their commitment shows how inclusion makes an impact
Rotary honored six members as People of Action: Champions of Inclusion in January to recognize their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion around the world. The distinction was announced to coincide with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the U.S. holiday that honors the slain civil rights leader. These members and their work exemplify Rotary’s core values and illustrate how inclusivity can make a transformational impact on individuals and communities.
Project: Do You Like Music?
Rotary E-Club of District 2440
Kardıçalı, a community volunteer for 50 years, focuses on helping women and children through music. She conducts music training and therapy for displaced children, especially those from Kurdish, Syrian, and Roma communities. She helps children express themselves through music and understand its role in showing how diversity enriches the human experience. Kardıçalı trains teachers and students in music education, especially at state schools in the Izmir area that have fewer resources. She also supports the Children’s Peace Orchestra, whose members lack housing. Her book, “Do You Like Music?,” is being translated into Braille so it will be available to even more children. She’s also working with Izmir community leaders to adapt the book for children with learning disabilities. And she donates copies of the book to students, teachers, organizations, and schools to make the project more sustainable. Her project is supported by Rotary clubs from Districts 2440 and 2420, along with Inner Wheel clubs in Turkey and northern Cyprus, state schools, Lions clubs, and the National Education Board of Çeşme for Teacher Training.
Project: Angel’s Center for Children with Special Needs and Inclusive Education Under Basic Education and Literacy Project
Rotary Club of Wakiso (District 9213)
Nambooze, an advocate for children with disabilities and for inclusive education, founded the Angel’s Center for Children with Special Needs in Wakiso, Uganda. Her advocacy comes from her experience as a parent of a child with Down syndrome who encountered a lack of services for children and their caregivers. The Angel’s Center currently hosts more than 120 children and provides early learning intervention, integrated therapy, outpatient services, and nutrition-focused sensory gardens. It supports caregivers with counseling and respite care, and helps teachers learn how to meet the needs of children with disabilities. Nambooze also helps young adults with disabilities find employment. Since 2012, her work has affected more than 150 children and 200 families. As her Rotary club’s president-elect, Nambooze also mobilizes members to advocate for all children to have equal access to education, health care, and community activities. The club’s signature project supports inclusive education measures in schools, such as building libraries, implementing adaptive infrastructure, training teachers, developing a needs-based curriculum, and enrolling and retaining students with disabilities.
Project: Transgender Empowerment — Astitva
Rotary Club of Global Action District 5150
Shukla is dedicated to supporting the transgender community in New Delhi, India. She leads the transgender empowerment project, known as Astitva, at Pahal — Nurturing Lives, a mentorship organization that works to empower young people of all genders. Shukla says the transgender community is very vulnerable as the least understood and the most abused. People who are transgender often have no options to earn a livelihood other than sex work or begging. After the COVID-19 pandemic affected those sources of income, Shukla supplied people with groceries and other necessities and worked with local authorities to get members of the transgender community vaccinated. She also helps raise HIV/AIDS awareness in the community and educates people about prevention. Through Astitva, she provides counseling, training, and mentoring to help transgender people transition to government and corporate jobs. She has had an impact on more than 2,000 people through these initiatives and hopes to help many more.
Project: Brazil’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee
Rotary Club de Encruzilhada do Sul (District 4680)
Zerwes is an advocate for LGBTQ+, racial, and gender equality and disability rights who has been a leader in diversity, equity, and inclusion in South America. He led the formation and is the current president of CDEI Brasil (the DEI committee in Brazil), which has more than 60 Rotary and Rotaract members from across the country and supports and guides local districts. His work has encouraged 27 out of 31 governors to make DEI district chairs part of their leadership teams and ensure that DEI activities are part of the district’s focus. The committee has prepared educational materials, trained leaders, produced monthly webinars and social media content, and raised awareness about DEI events. It has also built partnerships with nongovernmental organizations and advised communities about DEI issues. Zerwes has worked closely with clubs, districts, and leaders in Brazil to ensure that Rotary offers a welcoming environment for people from diverse backgrounds. The committee regularly shares news about its activities with the DEI Task Force. Because of Zerwes’ initiatives, CDEI has served as a model for other Rotary clubs and districts and has been replicated in other countries.
Cam Stewart — Mikostahpinukum (Red Morning)
Project: Indigenous Community Action Project
Rotary Club of Calgary East (District 5360)
Stewart has been active in diversity, inclusion, and human rights for more than two decades, with a particular focus on Indigenous inclusion. He founded and chairs District 5360’s Indigenous Relations Committee, which is unique within Rotary because its members include Indigenous, non-Rotarian leaders. The committee, which reports to the district governor, ensures that Indigenous issues and people are a priority. It received a district grant for the Indigenous Community Action Project to address some calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. This project creates opportunities for Rotary clubs and Indigenous organizations to identify community issues, brainstorm solutions, develop initiatives, and take action together. Stewart provides resources for clubs to learn about DEI issues related to Indigenous peoples and organizes events where people can meet, learn, celebrate, and build relationships. He also arranges for Elders or other keepers of knowledge to participate in Rotary events. Stewart has been honored with an eagle feather and a pipe from Elder Doreen Spence and was given the Blackfoot name Mikostahpinukum (Red Morning) by Elder Herman Yellow Old Woman.
André Hadley Marria
Project: Spark Thomasville
Rotary Club of Thomasville (District 6900)
Marria is a diversity, equity, and inclusion leader in her club, district, and community, and a founding mentor of a program for entrepreneurs from underserved communities. Currently governor-elect of District 6900, she has served as DEI chair since 2020 and built a district-wide effort. After encouraging each club to select a DEI chair, she helped people identify personal biases and improve their clubs’ culture and inclusivity. Marria was the first Black president of her Rotary club and led the club’s first Black history program. She has also had a variety of roles, including board member and executive director, at Spark Thomasville, a 12-week incubator program for entrepreneurs. She has helped participants set goals, develop business plans, improve their communication skills, and perfect their presentation pitches for a competition. She initiated a partnership between Spark and her Rotary club that provides program participants with educational materials and mentorship. Her leadership at Spark Thomasville led to a redesigned curriculum, a more diverse board, a more inclusive applicant pool, and the organization becoming a federally recognized nonprofit. Marria has also raised more than $500,000 for the Marguerite Neel Williams Boys & Girls Clubs of Southwest Georgia, where she continues her work in youth development.