Peacebuilders from around the world gathered ahead of the 2022 Rotary International Convention, not only to reflect on Rotary’s extraordinary response to conflict this year, but to strongly reinforce our commitment to creating environments where peace can thrive. flourish.
The Rotary Presidential Conference in Houston: Service to Bring Peaceon June 3-4, began by recognizing Rotary’s support for peace in Ukraine and highlighted the effect Rotary’s vast network has had in providing rapid humanitarian assistance in the country and to millions of people who fled their homes.
Rotary General Secretary and CEO John Hewko, whose parents were born in Ukraine, spoke at the opening session of Rotary’s Disaster Response Fund and how donors quickly contributed more $15 million to provide Ukrainians with water, food, shelter, medicine and clothing.
“In the midst of this terror, destruction and loss of life, we see extraordinary acts of kindness, humanity and dedication,” Hewko said. “And that gives me, and I hope each of you, great optimism for our great organization and for our future.”
Hewko’s parents emigrated to the US state of Michigan after World War II. His father, Lubomyr “Lu” Hewko, joined the Rotary Club of Clarkston, where he organized several projects to help Ukrainians. After Ukraine declared independence in 1991, Lu Hewko helped found the first Rotary club in the capital, Kyiv. John Hewko, a founding member of this club, lived in Ukraine in the 1990s and helped draft the country’s new constitution.
Following Hewko’s remarks, Myroslav Gavryliv, a member of the Rotary Club of Lviv, Ukraine, shared how clubs across the country have stepped up to coordinate relief supplies and how members are helping their neighbors. He was among several Ukrainian members taking part in the convention.
It was the cornerstone of six Presidential Conferences around the world and gave attendees the opportunity to network with other peacemakers and hear from people committed to peacebuilding in different ways.
ShelterBox CEO Sanj Srikanthan explained how Rotary and ShelterBoxwho are partners in disaster relief, working together to respond to crises of all kinds.
Azim Khamisa, author and activist, spoke about the creation of the Tariq Khamisa Foundation after her son was killed by a gang member in 1995 while delivering pizza. The foundation is guided by principles of restorative and social justice to help people choose forgiveness and compassion over revenge and bitterness.
Other speakers included Dr. Gary Slutkin, the founder of Healing violence around the world; Julia Roig, the founder of The Horizons Project; and Kiran Singh Sirah, former Rotary Peace Fellow and President of the International Storytelling Center.
Rotary Peace Fellowships train up to 130 dedicated leaders each year to become effective catalysts for peace. The Rotary Academy for Positive Peacecreated in partnership with the Institute for Economics and Peace, introduces people to the framework of peace being more than just the absence of violence.
Peace is the cornerstone of Rotary’s mission and is inherent in all the work our organization does, said Celia Cruz de Giay, president of the Houston presidential conference and former vice president of Rotary International.
At the closing session of the peace conference, Rotary International President-elect Jennifer Jones joined UNICEF USA Executive Director Michael Nyenhuis in announcing a partnership to empower girls. The issue has been one of the concerns of Rotary President Shekhar Mehta. presidential initiatives and will remain a priority for Jones.