An Update from Rotary Scholar Catherine Ward

Catherine Ward, who recently graduated from Duke University, is a Rotary Scholar studying at the University of Cambridge. She is sponsored by Southwest Durham Rotary Club. Below is her first update after having arrived in the U.K. 

I am writing after having been in the U.K. for less than a week. However, it has been a packed week, and I have quickly fallen in love with the University of Cambridge. I am a member of Pembroke College Cambridge, which was founded in 1347 and is the third oldest in Cambridge. Earlier this week, I matriculated to both the college and the university. Matriculation is a formal ceremony in which you wear traditional academical dress and sign your name as an official member of both the college and the university. I have attached a photo from my matriculation. 

As a graduate ‘fresher,’ or new student, I have enjoyed learning more about university life from students already attending Cambridge. I have been grateful for the community atmosphere at my college – everyone has been incredibly welcoming. Moreover, I have enjoyed meeting with Rotary Scholars attending other colleges here at Cambridge. The Rotary community in East Anglia is quite strong, and I am doing my best to send the U.K. warm feelings from District 7710. The Cambridge Rutherford Club is hosting me during my time in the U.K.

I have begun my course, and during this term, which is called Michaelmas Term, I am preparing research on equity in education, a concept I am first probing philosophically before applying it to my interests in refugee youth. I have a spectacular supervisor, and I am taking a Research Methods Strand to enhance my research abilities. My MPhil group in the Education, Globalisation, and International Development track is a remarkably diverse bunch, with students from all around the world. I am excited to learn from individuals who come from different backgrounds than me over the course of this year. 

I can not put my gratitude to District 7710 into words. I will do my best to serve as an ambassador of goodwill while here and to grow in a manner that will allow me to impact basic education and literacy in the future.

Chris Lara – Summer 2018: My Applied Field Experience in Two Parts

Chris Lara is a second-year Rotary Peace Fellow  from Colombia hosted by Southwest Durham Rotary Club. He is studying at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy. Below is an excerpt from a blog he wrote about his applied field experience. I’ll link to the complete piece on the Rotary Peace Center blog. 

“We are in the business of aspirations. We are in the business of dreams. And optimism is synonymous with creativity. Furthermore, optimism is our responsibility” – Luis Miguel Massianu (quote to Francis Lethem)

Foreword: One Summer – Multiple Applied Field Experiences

We live with constantly changing technology and a global economy that demands a versatile, mobile and multidisciplinary workforce, able to respond quickly to disruptions in many facets of our lives.

Since the beginning of my fellowship, I have been constantly and intentionally out of my comfort zone, and as a result, I have developed a particular understanding of career pathways at this mid-career point in international public service. I have realized that even for personal/professional development we need more connectivity awareness, planning, financing, leadership and coordination: professional management for superior impact.

During the last year at the Sanford School of Public Policy, I have undertaken academic projects related to the role of policy in responding to the shifts on nature of employment and the future of work. Specifically, in addressing the ways policy is responding to those changes and how personally we prepare for it. That is something that has triggered my curiosity and this applied field experience (AFE) was an opportunity to turn theory into practice.

My AFE encompassed a variety of interests that I have developed throughout my academic and professional careers. In addition to completing two academic courses, during the last three months, I have had the opportunity to work on two consultancy projects with two clients, operating from seven different cities1 I worked on the identification, outreach and coordination of the necessary partnerships, I held meetings with more than 30 stakeholders, and laid the groundwork for advocacy opportunities for future Rotary Peace Fellows (RPF) and Institute of Economics and Peace/Global Peace Index Ambassadors, as part of my role as IEP GPI Ambassador.

One of the most interesting aspects of my AFE was the opportunity to explore the possibilities for use of technology for emergency preparedness and response with the PAHO-World Health Organization office for the Americas at its headquarters in Washington DC and The Hague Humanity Hub in The Hague and Zurich.

In addition to two consultancies during my AFE, I was a fellow with the Duke Global Policy Program in Geneva (blog on my experience) and I participated in an intensive summer course on communication and leadership at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. In Geneva, I participated with former and current RPFs in the founding meetings of the Rotary Geneva Peace Forum – hosted at the Geneva Center for Security Policy (GCSP), as well as in Tokyo and New York, where I advanced partnerships with key organizations (Peace Boat / EcoShip and IEP).

This blog will be divided into two parts: in part 1, I will present my personal and professional motivations, how this experience fits into the big picture and why it is an instrumental element and a benchmark of this two-year fellowship at Duke University as a Rotary Peace Fellow. In part 2, I will present my clients and give an outline of the substantive issues, and what are my expectations in regards to the impact.

PART 1 (a reflection)
Towards ‘The New Way of Working’

“Back to the beginning –the ‘why?’

On World Humanitarian Day, Sunday 19 August 2018, the United Nations Chamber Music Society performed a benefit concert for Yemen at a church in heart of Manhattan. With opening remarks by the Ambassador of Yemen to the United Nations (UN) and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), all proceeds from the concert were directed to Mercy Corps, to help support the most vulnerable people in Yemen. At present Yemen has a more than 2 million internally displaced persons, over 280,000 refugees, and 8.4 million people on the brink of famine.

Exactly one day before my return to Durham, this event symbolically marked the end of my AFE, and couldn’t have been more well-timed: the concert for Yemen was one day after the unfortunate decease of former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, and the same day as the commemoration of the unfortunate events in Iraq, back in August 2003, where the Canal Hotel in Baghdad (UN compound) was bombed with a death toll of 23 UN officials/friends/colleagues, including, unarguably, the loss of a true role model: Sergio Vieira de Mello.

The heart of the eclectic repertoire performed by the chamber music was the ever-enigmatic sound of the oud3. It brought back memories of my first professional commitment with the humanitarian endeavor. It was the fall of 2009 in Ramallah, in the occupied Palestinian territories, when I was eager to engage in international cooperation work. But my fate was on different coordinates: a few weeks after arriving in Palestine, I received a job offer to serve the “we the peoples” mandate at the Emergency Services Branch of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

2009-2010 was a soothing winter in Geneva, and even though I was at the center of the UN global humanitarian coordination, no one could imagine the devastation and overwhelming effects of the emergencies which occurred in the following six months:

Between January and February 2010, two major earthquakes hit the Americas with catastrophic consequences: a 7.0 earthquake in Haiti on 12 of January and an 8.8 earthquake in Chile on 27 February taught us that we never know if we are actually prepared. The first earthquake, due to its impact and the second, due to its intensity, became turning points in the way the emergency response systems were to be implemented.

Additional ‘out of scale’ disasters occurred that year: as a result of heavy monsoons in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, Punjab and, Balochistan regions of Pakistan, more than 20 million people were directly affected by large-scale flooding, and my office at the Surge Capacity Section of UN OCHA was at the forefront of the UN coordination.

Additional ‘out of scale’ disasters occurred that year: as a result of heavy monsoons in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, Punjab and, Balochistan regions of Pakistan, more than 20 million people were directly affected by large-scale flooding, and my office at the Surge Capacity Section of UN OCHA was at the forefront of the UN coordination.

The following year at New York HQ with the Coordination Response Division of UN OCHA, I worked first on the preparations for the hurricane season in the Caribbean, and then after, with the UN Peacekeeping Operations (UNDPKO) Office of the Rule of Law and Security Institutions on advocacy to ban antipersonnel mines and the first sketches of essential regulatory framework for a peace agreement in Colombia. That period epitomized the intermezzo of my participation in large crises: my next assignment was meant to be with the global Ebola outbreak response in West Africa… and the Crisis in South Sudan -right before traveling to Durham, exactly one year ago.

These experiences provided me with invaluable insights and the sense of urgency to improve our way of work. Bridging the spurious divide among development, humanitarian, peace & security and public health sectors never was a theoretical issue but a very tangible one: in order to save lives we should do more with less and at the same time tackle the determinant and amplifier factors of poverty, humanitarian crises and social unrest (climate change, attacks to multilateralism, weakening of international leadership and governance, corruption etc.).

My experience in past humanitarian complex emergencies, natural disasters and public health crises has shown me that no crisis is alien to political circumstances and there are not apolitical ways of responding to them. But there is a moral compass, a corpus of doctrine that supports the hard task of brokering and convening. A world organization that with all its imperfections represent the noblest aspirations of humankind serving as a moral and humanizing force through the powerful notion of ‘we the peoples’.

The oud has stopped, its enchanting sounds have faded away and I am here in the heart of Manhattan, with the firm conviction that now more than ever before, that multilateral mandate from humanity should be strengthened and protected, as we cannot turn back the clock to simpler times.

Read about the rest of Chris’ experience on the Rotary Peace Center blog here.

Participate in Rotary’s Vehicle Donation Program

How the Vehicle Donation Program works

  • Rotarians generate vehicle donations through family, friends, and associates
  • Melwood Charity Car Donation Center (District 7710’s Partner) accepts cars, trucks, motorcycles, and RV’s
    • As a rule there must be a clean vehicle title; towing is free to donor

To donate simply call the Rotary 7710’s toll-free number I- 855-527-2232, or go online to:

  • Donor names Rotary Club to be credited for the donation
  • Melwood’s Call Center assigns the vehicle to a local towing and auction company
    • Donor provides vehicle title and keys to the tow truck operator; towing receipt left with the donor
  • Once the vehicle has been picked up, a receipt will be issued to the donor using Southwest Durham Rotary Club Foundation letterhead. Vehicle sale information recorded and reported monthly to Southwest Durham Rotary Club Foundation; club is advised by SWDR Foundation
  • Upon sale, auction proceeds are forwarded to Melwood and management fees are deducted
  • Residual forwarded to Southwest Durham Rotary Club Foundation for distribution to Club and/or beneficiary projects
  • Melwood  processes  donor acknowledgement letter along with  required  IRS  I098C tax forms
  • Melwood provides ongoing promotional support for District 7710 and participating Clubs
  • Donation files are maintained by Melwood for a period of three years

Fundraiser: Wine Raffle

It’s that time of year again! We’re holding our annual wine raffle fundraiser later in March, and we’re selling raffle tickets. Tickets are $10 each, and prizes are various bottles of wine — the grand prize is wine for a year — that’s 52 bottles of wine, donated by our fantastic sponsor, Sam’s Bottle Shop in Durham. There will be at least 10 raffle winners, with other prizes ranging from one to twelve bottles of wine per winner. The winning tickets will be drawn live at our event on March 29th, which will be held at Sam’s Bottle Shop at 6 p.m. Everyone is welcome to attend.

All money from the raffle fundraiser will go to the Southwest Durham Rotary Foundation, which puts money back into projects the club members work on both locally in Durham and across the world. Help support a good cause, and you could win a fantastic wine prize! If you’d like to buy tickets, please contact us at before March 22nd. 

Service Days at Urban Ministries

On February 2nd, members of SW Durham Rotary club served breakfast at Urban Ministries, a community and homeless shelter in downtown Durham. On February 24th, SWDR and members of the downtown Durham Rotary club had a day of service at Urban Ministries as part of a district grant project in which we purchased a new commercial stove and ice maker for their kitchen. We paid for the meals, prepared and served breakfast, and planned, prepared and served dinner that day. Dinner was a special cookout meal with hot dogs, hamburgers, and all the picnic fixings, plus an ice cream sundae bar. The Rotary clubs love working with Urban Ministries and hope to continue working with them for many years to come. A photo album from both days is below.

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2016-2017 Rotary International Annual Report Now Available

The 2016-2017 Rotary International Annual Report is out! 

In the report you can:

  • Get updates on Rotary’s on-going mission to eradicate Polio
  • Read updates about new flexibility clubs were granted in regard to structure and operations thanks to proposals passed in 2016
  • Get news on the new website and the People of Action campaign
  • Learn about how Rotary’s goal of raising $300 million in honor of Rotary’s recent 100th birthday (spoiler alert: the goal has already been surpassed)
  • Find out how Rotaries across the world responded to disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and fires
  • Learn about how Rotary is working on clean water and basic sanitation issues worldwide
  • Meet new Peace Fellows
  • And more!

Get the whole report here.

Service Project Update: Urban Ministries Shelter Room Makeover With Lotta Love

On November 18, members of Southwest Durham Rotary, the Rotary e-club of District 7710 and other area Rotary clubs came together to spend the day renovating family bedrooms and a family common room at Urban Ministries in downtown Durham. Urban Ministries is a community shelter providing food, shelter and support programs for those in need in the Durham Community. Families staying in these rooms, often single parents with young children, stay here for up to 90 days while permanent housing and jobs are worked out. 

The rooms, before renovation, have an industrial feel — cement walls, linoleum floors, fluorescent lighting. They are functional but not particularly homey. Each bedroom suite has four twin bunk beds and a bathroom. The family room is a larger room where residents can hang out, eat, watch TV, kids can play and so forth. 

Lotta Love, a non-profit started in the Triangle area by interior designer Charlotta Sjoelin, designs updates for rooms in area shelters that make them more comfortable and homey for the families staying there. This not only makes the families feel good, but it also helps prepare them for their permanent homes. With Charlotta’s design help and the assistance of a district Rotary grant, we remade these rooms by painting all the walls, adding new bedding and towels, hanging artwork and curtains, and adding rugs, storage and lighting. To the common family room, we painted the walls and installed a new TV and wall mount, built a large new kitchen table and benches, a wall bar with seating, a kids play area and some additional seating.

Below are photos of the day we spent making over the rooms, including some before pictures and some photos with the deserving families. It was great to meet them, especially the kids, who were very excited about their new rooms. 

UMD Makeover With Lotta Love
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Service Project: Urban Ministries Shelter Room Makeover With Lotta Love

On November 18, in partnership with Lotta Love, Southwest Durham Rotary, the Rotary e-club of District 7710 and other area Rotary clubs will renovate four family bedrooms and one family common room at Urban Ministries in downtown Durham. Urban Ministries is a homeless shelter that provides food, shelter and support programs to neighbors in need within the Durham community.

Lotta Love is an organization founded by Charlotta Sjoelin, an interior designer, which works to make shelters into more safe, dignified and inspiring living spaces for the residents who stay there. Lotta Love has helped make over rooms at many area homeless, women and children’s shelters in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area, and has assisted others in starting their own chapters in cities across the United States.

With the help of a district grant, we will paint all the rooms, replace all bedding and towels with brand new linens, add art, rugs, lamps, mini fridges and other home items to the bedrooms. To the common area, we will also add a breakfast bar, a new large table and seating, a new TV and a children’s play area filled with toys and games.

Volunteers are needed for painting prep, painting, light carpentry work, moving furniture and setting up beds, hanging artwork, etc. A link to sign-ups will be posted shortly. 

If you have questions or wish to make donations to this project, please contact Sara Abrons here.

Hosts Needed for Rotary Youth Exchange Student in Durham

Consider participating in Rotary’s International Youth Exchange program! You have the opportunity to bring an international experience directly into your home. By hosting an exchange student this year, you and your family can expand your world horizons and knowledge, and be an active contributor to building international peace.

Rotary International’s Youth Exchange program benefits both the exchange student and the host family, as unique insights are gained into another culture on a personal level that you cannot get any other way.  

This year, the Southwest Durham Rotary Club is hosting a great young man from Brazil, João Indi. He is a junior at Jordan High School. We are seeking two host families for 90 days each, beginning after Thanksgiving to mid-February and mid-February through the end of the school year in June 2018. It is preferable that families live in the Jordan school district, or be able to transport him to and from school each day. 

Please consider the possibility of opening up your home and sharing your life with João. You and your family can be a positive force for peace and understanding in this world and develop life-long international friendships.

Students like João are carefully selected by Rotary clubs overseas. This is an approved program through the U.S. Department of State that has been successfully operating since the mid 1950’s. 

Interested in learning more? Please contact Bill Fine with any questions you may have and to set up an interview: 410-493-9467 or 

Here are two YouTube links on Rotary Youth Exchange from the eyes of participants:


Southwest Durham Rotary Club Sponsors Rotary Youth Exchange Students

Southwest Durham Rotary Club is sponsoring its first Rotary Youth Exchange Student. Grace Abels, who recently graduated from Jordan High School in Durham, is spending a year in Arequipa, Peru. She left in July, and came to speak to SWDR earlier that month to talk about her upcoming trip. She will be attending school, traveling and volunteering with other Rotary exchange students, and staying with local host families. When she returns next year, she will attend Duke University. She’s also a Rotary Youth Exchange legacy — her father Jon was an exchange student to Sweden when he was in high school. Jon is involved with the Rotary Peace Fellow program at Duke. 

Club member Bill Fine, who is very involved with the Rotary Youth Exchange Program, recently told the District 7710 newsletter, “If your club is yet to get involved with Rotary Youth Exchange, I highly suggest that you do. It is tremendously rewarding experience for the students, host families and host clubs. This is how Peace breaks out, one person at a time.” 

SWDR is also hosting an incoming student from Brazil, João Pedro Santiago Indi, who recently arrived and is now attending Jordan High School. 

Host families are needed for João for later in his year here. You do not have to be a Rotarian to apply, but you do need to live in the Jordan High School district. If interested, please contact Bill Fine by email here.