In his address to convention attendees on Tuesday, 31 May, Trustee Chair Ray Klinginsmith proclaimed that The Rotary Foundation has never been stronger than it is today.
Bolstered by generous contributions from members and robust programs like PolioPlus and the Rotary Peace Centers, the Foundation's good work is drawing public notice, Klinginsmith said: CNBC, a leading consumer and business news outlet in the U.S., ranked Rotary No. 5 among the top 10 charities changing the world in 2015.
"Isn't it clear that our Foundation is truly better than ever before?" said Klinginsmith, who reported more than $269 million in contributions last year.
David Forward, author of "Doing Good in the World: The Inspiring Story of The Rotary Foundation's First 100 Years," joined District 6840 Governor-elect Randall Feldman and Stephanie Urchick on stage to talk about the coming year's centennial celebration.
Urchick, chair of The Rotary Foundation Centennial Celebration Committee, described the centennial's four broad goals:
- Educate members and the public about Rotary and its Foundation.
- Recognize major achievements and accomplishments.
- Organize celebrations in our communities and at Rotary events.
- Inspire further support.
"It's that once-in-a-lifetime concept that makes the centennial celebration so exciting," she said.
Rebecca Martin, director of the Center for Global Health at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, described the Foundation's most significant achievement this past year: the historic gains toward worldwide polio eradication.
Last year, the World Health Organization declared Nigeria – which was the last polio-endemic country in Africa – polio-free, and Martin noted that the African continent is expected to reach two full years without any new cases on 11 August.
Despite recent advances, challenges persist. "The world remains at risk with wild poliovirus circulating in Pakistan and Afghanistan," Martin said. "We need to strengthen our ability to detect all viruses and reduce the risk of outbreaks through vaccination, sustain the strong advocacy with leaders and key stakeholders, and ensure credible oversight of the program while leveraging and building the polio assets."
The world's two remaining polio-endemic countries have already seen some progress this year. Martin cited 16 cases caused by the wild poliovirus in Afghanistan and Pakistan, down from 25 at this time last year.
"We have seen stronger cooperation between the two governments at all levels," she added. "Children crossing the borders are vaccinated, and surveillance data are being shared. This is the only way we will see these two countries achieve polio-free status."
Riseley declared president-nominee
In the afternoon business session on Tuesday, RI President K.R. Ravindran and General Secretary John Hewko oversaw the election of the 2017-18 RI directors and district governors.
President-nominee Ian H.S. Riseley received the voting delegates' unanimous approval to take the reins of Rotary International in July 2017.
In his report to the convention, Hewko spoke about strengthening Rotary's brand, increasing membership, supporting the Foundation, and expanding partnerships.
"Our polio partnership is a model for future initiatives," he said. "This is why the Rotary International Board implemented a directive to secure more strategic partners to work with Rotary in our areas of focus."
Hewko highlighted Rotary's strategic partnership with USAID, which links USAID's technical expertise and Rotary's network of grassroots volunteers to increase access to clean water and sanitation.
Rotary started its 2015-16 fiscal year with the second-highest membership in history. To reach a new record, Hewko said, Rotarians must make a special effort to attract members.
"Be creative in engaging new members and enriching the membership experience for your fellow Rotarians," he added. "Because without members, there would be no Rotary. And without our Rotary Foundation, Rotary would not be anything like the great organization it is today."
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