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Year in review

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Strengthening our foundation for our future

When the Rotary year began in July 2020, we were nearly four months into a global pandemic. The world around us was changing, and Rotary evolved right along with it.

The pandemic made it clear just how critical it is for Rotary to accelerate our efforts to increase our impact, expand our reach, enhance member and participant engagement, and increase our ability to adapt.

Here’s a look at some of the ways we made a difference this year by providing the connections, service, and advocacy our communities need.

  • In August, the World Health Organization announced that all 47 countries in its African region are free of the wild poliovirus. This public health achievement demonstrates that we can rid the world of polio. And we will.
  • RI President Holger Knaack hosted three virtual presidential conferences in Brazil, Nigeria, and the United States to highlight and encourage collaboration among Rotarians and Rotaractors. Attendees discussed strategies for ensuring a strong future for the next generation of Rotary and Rotaract members. 
  • Protecting the environment, long an important cause for Rotary, became an official area of focus. Rotary members can direct donations to this area and apply for global grant funding to address the effects of climate change and environmental degradation.
  • Rotary awarded its first $2 million Programs of Scale grant to Partners for a Malaria-Free Zambia. This evidence-based program aims to reduce malaria in 10 target areas over the next three and a half years, bringing health care to 1.3 million Zambians. The organizers are sharing what they learn with Rotary clubs and districts worldwide to strengthen our impact.
  • The first class of Rotary Peace Fellows at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, began a yearlong certificate program in peacebuilding, conflict resolution, and leadership development. The peace center at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand, also now offers a yearlong certificate program, a change from its previous three-month curriculum. The Otto and Fran Walter Foundation pledged $15.5 million to The Rotary Foundation to fund a new peace center in the Middle East or North Africa that will focus on peacebuilding and development in the region.
  • Rotary worked with partner organizations to provide learning opportunities for members and program participants. Toastmasters International produced an eight-course leadership and communication series to help members hone such skills as speechwriting and public speaking. And the National Youth Leadership Council provided material for new service-learning courses that teach our youngest participants how to address the causes of community issues, inspiring a lifelong commitment to service among these future leaders.
  • On World Health Day, 7 April, and again during the 2021 Virtual Rotary Convention in June, six Rotary members — from Ethiopia, India, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, and the United States — were honored as People of Action: Champions of Health for their outstanding work to improve health at home and around the globe. 
  • Rotary members used their decades of experience in the fight against polio to support local health authorities’ response to COVID-19. Members volunteered at clinics, combated misinformation, helped prevent the spread of the virus, and advocated for fair and equal access to vaccines.  
  • Local community members worked with Rotarians from Germany, Thailand, and the United Kingdom to bring Rotary clubs back to Vietnam. The Rotary Clubs of Saigon and Saigon International were chartered in June.
  • To support the critical role of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in Rotary’s culture, we facilitated discussions through a webinar series that addressed topics such as inclusivity, ways to connect with diverse communities, and the experiences of Black members in Rotary. We also surveyed members to learn about their perceptions and experiences in Rotary. The results will be used to create a plan that ensures our commitment to DEI is reflected in everything we do.
  • The RI Board of Directors, with guidance from Rotary’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force strengthened our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.