Reflections of 2015

holiday team photo

(From left) Nora Beamish-Lannon, Nick Smith, Michelle Gasparian, Maura Rogan, Christine Sanders (front left) Melanie Davis, Renee O’Keefe.

As 2015 comes to close, the Regional Leader Support team wanted to take a moment and share a reflection on the gifts of 2015 and what they are most looking forward to for 2016.

2015 has been a year of true blessings. Our staff team continued to develop, with several colleagues moving into new positions and new talents joining our group. I have been fortunate to work with an amazing team to support your good works in your communities and globally. On a personal note, I’ve loved watching my daughter grow into a true toddler, and I’m looking forward to completing my MBA in 2016!  – Christine Sanders, Manager

2015 was a year of endings and beginnings for me.  In August, I left a volunteer management position at a social service organization that I held for seven years and joined Rotary.  Three weeks later, my oldest child left home for college.  I am happy and grateful to report that both of us are very happy in these new chapters in our lives.  We are working hard, learning new things every day, and meeting wonderful people! I am looking forward to supporting you and your important efforts in 2016! – Maura Rogan, Senior Supervisor

In 2015-16, I celebrate my 15th year anniversary and attended an amazing celebration   dinner hosted by our Rotary International General Secretary John Hewko. I enjoyed getting the opportunity to celebrate our milestones with other colleagues dedicated to supporting the volunteers and RI’s organizational goals. I’m looking forward to the next 15! – Melanie Davis, Regional Rotary Foundation Coordinator Specialist

In 2015 I celebrated my tenth anniversary with my partner with a trip to Scotland, and marked my one year anniversary with Rotary International. Next year I will complete my MFA in Creative Writing (a poetry collection due in Spring 2016), and will enjoy continuing to learn about Rotary and how to support our amazing volunteers.  – Nick Smith, Rotary Coordinator Specialist

This year I was able to attend my first Rotary Convention in my hometown of São Paulo, Brazil.  It was a wonderful opportunity to see our largest event up close, as well as to spend some time with my family afterwards.  I look forward to seeing what new adventures are in store for 2016, working with you all to make a real difference in the world! – Michelle Gasparian, Rotary Public Image Coordinator Specialist

stpehanie and arlo

Endowment/Major Gift Advisers Specialist, Stephanie Norton with her son, Arlo. 

2015 was the happiest year for me. I am thankful for my health, my husband, my parents, sisters, nieces, nephews, friends, and for my beautiful baby boy Arlo. I’m looking forward to working with all of you when I return in 2016! – Stephanie Norton, Endowment/ Major Gifts Advisers Specialist

I had the good fortune to join the amazing team at Rotary in the start of 2015. The time spent here this past year has made me so thankful to work for an organization whose volunteers are doing such inspiring work throughout the world. I look forward to more learning and growing in 2016! – Nora Beamish-Lannon, Administrative Associate

2015 brought me my son, Emmett, and the opportunity to work with the experienced Regional Leader Support team of Rotary. I look forward to growing with Rotary and connecting with each of the regional leaders as they dive into their roles and serve their communities in 2016. – Renee O’Keefe, Senior Engagement Associate

To our regional leaders, we thank you for your commitment and service. Please share your gifts of 2015 in the comments below, and we look forward to the many gifts of 2016!


Why is The Rotary Foundation important?

By Usama A. Barghouthi, RRFC, Zone 20B

Without projects, a Rotary Club would be a “meet and eat” social club, trying to keep members engaged while trying to attract new members to their weekly meeting. In Zone 20B and in District 2452, speakers are not easily found, so the club patiently waits for the next interesting speaker to come about. But meetings and speakers will come and go, and the club returns to what it was doing, meeting and eating.

In the Rotary Club of Amman-Petra, Jordan projects bring enthusiasm for its members. We look for projects with a large number of beneficiaries, projects that change lives, projects that have long-term effects, and projects that make us proud. It is with these projects that The Rotary Foundation enters. It is like the magic wand that gives the club the power to do the unthinkable- the power to be a change-maker, a life-changer, and have an effect on lives.


Members of the Rotary Club of Amman-Petra prepared food packages with the Jordanian Foodbank (JFB) in July 2014.  From left: RRFC Usama Barghouthi, Rima Tantash, JFB member, Rafic Hamarneh, Ghassoub Kawar, Yousef Nusseir, JFB member, JFB member, Yousef Batshon. Front: Amjad Nasser and son. 


Educate your districts and clubs on the ways to support Rotary. But don’t stop at just educating and giving. Increase your impact by connecting with other Rotarians and spreading the word about projects happening in your region. Here are some simple best practices to try:

  • Maintain a shared list of Rotarians who visit your club or you visit theirs, then reach out to them for help with your projects.
  • Reconnect with Rotarians you meet in business meetings, conferences and conventions, tell them about what projects are taking place and how they can get involved with Rotary.
  • Join Rotarians in action groups and collaborate with experts in a particular field.
  • Talk to your governor, district leaders, district committee chairs, and senior Rotarians about ways to grow your club and increase your impact.

So as we celebrate #givingtuesday, support projects in your community, your country, in your world by donating to The Rotary Foundation and grow your relationships with districts and clubs in your region.

One Rotarian’s dream for education in Nepal

Check out this great project that RC Malcolm Lindquist has been project managing since August 2013.

Service in Action

By Malcolm Lindquist, member of Rotary Club of Brownhill Creek, Australia, and Zone 8 Rotary Coordinator

Malcolm LindquistWhen my friend David Rusk, a primary school principal in Adelaide, Australia, fell in love with the disadvantaged children in Kathmandu, Nepal, little did I know the path on which it would lead me.

Through his connections with the Rotary Club of Dillibazar in Kathmandu, David had established relations with several schools leading to the creation of a teacher development program and financial sponsorship of about 80 disadvantaged students in the Nepali community.

Then, by chance, David visited an orphanage on the outskirts of Kathmandu run by a saintly woman, Mother Rajan Bishwokarma. She had established the orphanage in 2007 which cares for more than 50 Dalit (untouchable) children and founded the Nepal Deprived Women Uplift Centre organisation. David immediately saw the urgent need for a school to accommodate the children from the orphanage.

David Rusk David Rusk

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The internationality of Rotary – Meet Stephanie Urchick

UrchickHailing from Western Pennsylvania, USA, Stephanie Urchick has spent her career working in higher education and college administration. A Rotarian for 23 years and a member of the Rotary Club of Canonsburg Houston Southpointe, USA, she shared with me her motivation for joining Rotary and who she’d most like to interview in the world.

You mentioned earlier that when you were younger, you thought you’d move away from Pennsylvania. Why did you end up staying there?

When I was younger, my dream was to join the Foreign Service or work for a government intelligence agency. I was really focused on international service but when I graduated from college with a degree in international affairs and was waiting for my application to go through, I found a job near my hometown and I’ve been here ever since.

What first attracted you to Rotary?

In 1991, I was asked to go to a meeting by a female acquaintance. Women had only been Rotary members for a few years and I wasn’t sure what to expect besides the usual stereotypes. I asked her what Rotary was. She provided a really great description of what Rotary was – that Rotary clubs are involved in both community and international service – and what Rotary did. The international aspect of Rotary was what really enticed me to join and its part of what has made me stay.

I experienced the internationality of the organization firsthand when two young women participating in a Group Study Exchange stayed with me. We spent a lot of time talking about our similarities and differences and I thought, “How would I have ever had this opportunity, to meet people like this if it wasn’t for Rotary.” And I realized: I wouldn’t have.

As a member of the Rotary Foundation Trustees from 2012-14, you probably asked people to contribute to The Rotary Foundation on a regular basis. What do you say to convince them that the Foundation should be their charity of choice?

I always tell people that it is the only charity where you can give and get back. The money that a donor contributes comes back to your club so that you can do projects and help people around the world.

That’s very true and something that is unique to Rotary. Speaking of service projects, of all the ones you’ve had an opportunity to work on, which has been your favorite?

Hands down, a maternal health project that my Rotary club did in southeast Poland. Through a Matching Grant, we worked with Polish clubs to build a mammography and biopsy unit in a local hospital. By partnering with Siemens in Germany, we were able to get supplies and machines donated and the staff trained. This project was done in 2000 and many women didn’t have access to the right equipment to obtain a diagnosis of breast cancer early enough to save their lives. The unit performed 5,000 mammograms per year – can you imagine the amount of lives that have been saved during that time? I attended the dedication ceremony as part of a Rotary Friendship Team and it was really special seeing the difference this was going to make in women’s lives.

It’s always great to hear about people helping others – if you could interview anyone around the world, who would it be?

I would interview Bono from U2. I would ask him two things: first, what made him choose his celebrity to help solve world problems? And second, what are his tips for encouraging normal people to serve the world. Because that is what I am – an ordinary person who is trying to make the world a better place.

If you could change anything about Rotary, what would it be?

I would make meetings less expensive so more people could attend and enjoy them. There are so many good ideas and connections that come out of large meetings such as the Rotary International Convention. However, it’s hard to pick and choose what I am able to go to. It makes for some very tough choices.

Finally, as TRF Moderator for this year’s 2015 Regional Leaders Training Institute, what is the one thing you are most excited about?

I am very excited to try a new format for this training with only incoming volunteer leaders. These leaders will have many fresh ideas and energy that is contagious.

These groups are so important to the work that Rotary does. They are like a quilt – each group is one piece and together they can do more than just one piece alone.

“Tell, do, and see the difference” – Meet Barry Matheson

Barry MathesonBorn to British parents in Sweden, Barry Matheson currently lives in Norway and has an internationality that is not uncommon within our organization. In terms of languages, he always says his thoughts are in Norwegian first, than English. While he was in Evanston in January, we discussed what Rotary means to him and what he’s most excited about for the upcoming 2015 Regional Leaders Training Institute.

Barry, what is your occupation?

I am in musical performing arts management. I currently own one of the oldest Norwegian performing arts companies, Continental Artist Management, representing a diverse group of clients from recording artists to composers and songwriters.

When was the first time you realized you were a Rotarian?

I joined Rotary twenty seven years ago for the professional network it provided me. But, it wasn’t until I participated in a Rotary event in St. Petersburg, Russia, 10 years after I joined Rotary, that I truly “got” what Rotary is. All of a sudden, I could see the needs of others with my own eyes, which was an incredible experience. I witnessed what Rotary was doing and accomplishing. I could also see what more could be done to help others and I thought, “This is where I can contribute and make a difference”. “This is what Rotary is about – tell, do, and see the difference.”

What is one thing you wish you could change about Rotary?

Our attendance requirements. Right now, there is too much focus – at least in my region – on club meeting attendance. Many current, and potential members, want Rotary to be about participation in projects, community events and engagement in exposing Rotary to the “outside world”. I believe we should be measuring engagement, participation, and living our brand as an alternative to attendance at club meetings.

Speaking of engagement, tell us about your favorite service project you have worked on?

Every second year, through a national multi-district project, we hold a two-week camp for young people with a physical disability. It’s held in the mountains, by a large lake, and we accept candidates from all over the world. During those two weeks, campers have the opportunity to meet new people, work together to solve problems, and, most importantly, test their physical limits. It’s a truly life changing experience. I have seen young people stretch their capabilities beyond imagination, which in turn will give them self confidence in all situations in life that and will follow them throughout the rest of their lives.

If you could interview anyone around the world, who would it be and why?

I would like to interview the top religious leaders of all faiths, starting with the Pope since he’s the most accessible. I would ask them, “How can you use your influence, to make a difference to build peace? What do you need from others?”

Why are the regional leader groups important to the work that Rotary does around the world?

Regional Rotary Foundation coordinators, Rotary coordinators, Rotary public image coordinators, and endowment/major gifts advisers are the best toolkit a district could want. They have the knowledge that the district governors, and additional district leadership needs to help increase all areas of Rotary.

At this year’s training, we’ll be focusing a lot on teamwork. It’s a tremendous opportunity to have the incoming regional leaders train with the directors-elect and incoming trustees. I think this will really raise the bar and allow the groups to focus on how to support each other to achieve goals.