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People of action around the globe

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Since the 1930s, the Rotary Club of Kutztown, Pennsylvania, has served its local agriculture sector with a yearly soiree. On 19 February, 160 people packed the town’s Grange hall for a Farmers’ Night meal, piled up family style, featuring comfort food such as turkey, ham, carrots, peas, potatoes, “and always a dessert, pie a la mode,” says Bob Hobaugh, District 7430 governor-elect and the event’s chief organizer since 1995. “We celebrate all local people in agriculture,” Hobaugh says, including high school students interested in becoming the next generation of farmers. In Pennsylvania, farming is a major driver of the state economy.

More than 4 million Venezuelans lack access to safe drinking water.


When Miguel Saviroff heard about a project to control parasite-borne diseases in his native Venezuela, he persuaded his club, the Rotary Club of Somerset, Pennsylvania, to host a visit from Isis Mejias of the Rotary E-Club of Houston and Alberto Paniz Mondolfi of the Rotary Club of Barquisimeto Valle Del Turbio, Venezuela. The Somerset Rotarians raised roughly $3,000 for Incubadora Venezolana de la Ciencia (Venezuelan Science Incubator, or VSI), a nonprofit research-ing infectious diseases. VSI used the money and a Somerset Rotarian’s donation of anti-parasitic drugs for a mission to La Pica, Venezuela, where children were administered the medicine in February.


In the early 2000s, Helmut Falter was dismayed to see subpar scores by German students in reading, mathematics, and science. Falter, a member of the Rotary Club of Aachen-Frankenburg and the longtime head of his family’s bookstore chain and publishing house, decided to take action. In 2004, Falter and Monika Schröder, a primary school teacher, unveiled Lesen Lernen – Leben Lernen, or “Learn to Read – Learn to Live.” To improve reading comprehension, the initiative provides books to students ages six to 13 and instruction manuals for the teachers. About half of all Rotary clubs in Germany participate, notes Falter. On 6 December, the millionth book in the flagship effort was delivered in a ceremony in Aachen.

Image courtesy of Food Plant Solutions Rotary action group

Humans eat only 150 or so of the world’s estimated 10,000 available edible plant species.


Taking a page from the illustrated guides of Audubon (birds) and Taylor (plants), a Rotary Action Group has developed its own field guides and partnered with aid providers in more than 30 countries to educate people about the benefits of better diets through locally available, nutritious plants. “Picture guides are ideal for those with low levels of literacy, both adults and children,” says Karalyn Hingston, executive officer of the Food Plant Solutions action group.

“Our materials focus on empowering people, particularly women, through education, so that they can then make informed choices on what to feed their children to enable them to grow healthy and strong,” Hingston says. “Our work is underpinned by the Food Plants International database developed by Bruce French, an Australian agricultural scientist. This database contains information on over 31,000 edible plants for all countries of the world.”

The Rotary Club of Hobart, Australia, and District 9830, using District Designated Funds, recently contributed about $7,000 to the group to take its message to people in the Philippines with the publication of a series of illustrated field guides. The booklets, highlighting 40 edible plants, were distributed by the Muravah Foundation.


More than 400 primary and high school students took the field over five days of team contests sponsored by the Rotary Club of Vratza. “Nine years ago we started with the idea for a sports competition, which has turned into a tradition,” says club member Vesko Vasilev. The soccer, basketball, volleyball, and other events are organized by club members and overseen by professional judges to heighten the stakes. The club tapped about $4,000 in club funds to stage the most recent event, in October. The local Interact club helped out with water distribution and awards ceremonies.


• This story originally appeared in the July 2020 issue of The Rotarian magazine.