<![CDATA[  The Rotaract Club of Washington D.C. - The Rotaract Report]]>Sat, 16 Dec 2017 15:08:01 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Rotaract DC Board Members Attend Rotary United Nations Day in Geneva, Switzerland]]>Sat, 02 Dec 2017 00:52:19 GMThttp://rotaractdc.org/the-rotaract-report/rotaract-dc-board-members-attend-rotary-united-nations-day-in-geneva-switzerlandPicture

Mimi Boussouf serves as the International Service Chair for Rotaract DC.

  Rotary and the United Nations have built a strong relationship through their tenure since 1945 when 50 Rotarians were part of the original 800 individuals to draft the UN Charter.  This month, Rotaract board members Amanda Silva (President), Rafik Bennacer (Public Relations Chair), and Mimi Boussouf (International Service Chair), travelled to Geneva to participate in Rotary UN Day. They were among an exclusive group of 600 Rotarians to participate in the two-day conference, which focused on fostering the long partnership between the two organizations. This annual event, normally held at the UN building in New York City, took place at the UN Palais in Geneva for the first time this year.  Rotarians, Rotaractors and Interactors, met with UN representatives to celebrate their joint efforts and inspire further collaboration in creating a peaceful and sustainable world.  The theme for this year’s conference  was ‘Peace – Making a Difference;’ which meant to highlight the work of people and organizations actively promoting peace, rights and the well-being of people throughout the world. The conference held workshops around this theme, and honored six notable Rotarians as champions of peace. The events’ overarching goal sought to encourage Rotarians to continue their global partnership with the UN and their efforts towards achieving the latest UN Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.

  The conference began with a fascinating workshop exploring the role of artificial intelligence in conflict resolution. Dr. Jean Marc Rickli presented on the realities of AI use through the challenges of war, and its future role in humanity, while Mr. Marc Oliver Gewaltig took a slightly opposing view exploring the benefits of AI and delving into its true definition.  After the panel discussion and instead of the traditional Q&A, Moderators Myrna Lewis and Justin Friedman facilitated an open dialogue between 50 participants in the audience to come on stage and represent their viewpoints for two perspectives on Artificial Intelligence presented during the panel: AI is good for humanity vs. AI will be the demise of humanity. The moderators wanted to demonstrate that everyone has the right to be heard, that every perspective and opinion is valid, and there is no fundamentally right answer.  The purpose of the dialogue between the two sides was to listen to all perspectives and statements and then when coming to a decision between the two, to mention what resonated or “hit home” amongst the comments made and what it helped you understand about yourself.
Rafik, Mimi and Amanda (left to right) pose for a pic at the Opening Ceremony at Rotary UN Day 2017.
  Rotaract DC President Amanda Silva participated in this activity. She chose to be on the side of “demise” because she believed that although AI can be good, at the end of the day, technological advances that are good are equally advanced with bad technological advances and those decisions are not made by the majority. The decisions on how technology advances and the purposes it serves are decided by a select few. When it came to sharing the final reflection, the two opinions that hit home the most were from the opposite dialogue that stated that AI helps increase human creativity and another opinion from her side that mentioned that the increase in AI also means a decrease in jobs for more people. She believed this meant that she identifies with the have-nots because everyone at the conference needs to recognize that they are among the privileged and as such although they may benefit from AI, they need to acknowledge that the majority may not benefit in the same way and that is something to be cognizant of.
The second part of the evening consisted of speeches from heads of government, parliament, and civil society.  They spoke about their perspective on how to ensure we work together to reach the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. The ultimate challenge presented to Rotarians and Rotaractors was; What can you do in your daily life that contributes to the grassroots movement of coming closer to achieving the SDGs? Secretary General of Rotary, John Hewko, confidently remarked that Rotarians in their global projects, global grants, and local community service projects, take steps every day towards achieving the SDGs.  The evening closed with an enchanting classical music concert performed by the talented UN Orchestra of Geneva, followed by a networking reception. 

  The second day of the conference opened with speeches from UN and Rotary leadership. Following their discourses were moving accounts of service by the six Rotarians Peace Honorees, who each made significant and impactful contributions to their communities in promoting a more peaceful world.  Interactors joined us for this discussion as well; where Interact International leaders presented their thoughts on peace and making a difference among the future generation of Rotarians. 

  In the afternoon, attendees broke out into discussion workshops.  President Amanda represented the club at Workshop 1; Sustainable Development, Peace, Rights and Well-being.  The workshop focused on the importance of diversity and perspective when working together.  Dr. Achim Wenmann, Executive Coordinator, Geneva Peacebuilding Platform, and Senior Researcher at the Graduate Institute’s Centre on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding (CCDP), noted the significance of having women and people of all ages included in this effort. Other speakers expanded on this by emphasizing that war comes from separateness and having decision-makers that do not reflect the reality of our societies. 
Opening Plenary/Day 2 Rotary UN Day; General Assembly Hall UN Palais des Nations
  International Service Chair Mimi and PR Chair Rafik represented the club at Workshop 3; Education / Science, a pathway to Peace for Young Leaders. Intended for Rotaractors and Interactors, this workshop focused on educating young people about methods of conflict resolution in hopes to achieve a more peaceful and happy future generation. Dr. Jean Best, one of the six peace fellow honorees, spoke about her the idea behind her educational ‘Peace Project.’  Through this project, she developed a curriculum for young people that teaches peace and conflict resolution skills to help them cope and make better life choices. Dr. Best proved that conflict resolution in our generation, must be looked at differently than theirs in order to account for the changes in social stresses, the presence of cyberbullying and suicide as the leading cause of death among young people. Another peace fellow, Kiran Singh Sirah, presented an engaging discourse on the uses of storytelling as a pathway to peace. As an example, he has used storytelling to help traumatized communities connect with their voice to end gang violence and ethnic conflict.

  The closing plenary honored attendees and conference organizers, and reflected on the impact Rotary has had in helping the UN achieve their previous developmental goals. As a result of Rotary and UN’s direct partnership in polio eradication, only three countries in the world remain polio endemic in which 40 cases were confirmed worldwide as of 2016. This is a 99.9% reduction from the 1980’s, when the world saw over 1,000 cases per day.
A repeated saying at the conference this year were words from international peace leader Mahatma Ghandi ‘There is no pathway to peace, peace is the pathway.’ Words that we as Rotaract DC members take to heart as we continue to prioritize the peace, rights and well-being of our community members through dedicated service.
​Rotaract DC would like to thank our parent organization, the Rotary Club of Washington DC, for their generous sponsorship of this event.
Amanda, Rafik and Mimi make new international Rotaract friends over Swiss cheese fondue!
<![CDATA[Rotaract Recap: 2016 in Review]]>Wed, 11 Jan 2017 00:18:01 GMThttp://rotaractdc.org/the-rotaract-report/rotaract-recap-2016-in-reviewPicture
Clare Fletcher serves as the Community Service Chair for Rotaract DC.

As we begin 2017 fresh, the Rotaract Club of Washington, D.C. would like to take a moment to reflect on the first half of this 2016/2017 Rotaract year. We certainly were busy building friendships, promoting peace and understanding, serving our communities, and giving to those in need! Our new board (Peter, Darien, Amanda, and Clare) were hard at work organizing events and recruiting new members.
We started off the year with a bash at our president's house! At this kick-off celebration, we hosted international visitors from Brazil, El Salvador, and Spain. We drank caipirinhas, played Kings and Thunderstruck, and salsa danced. Some friendships that started here will last forever!


As a tradition, and a D.C. classic, we had our 2nd annual bottomless Sunday brunch with the Rotaract club of Annapolis! We look forward to continuing these joint events and supporting this neighboring group of friends in service.

Our monthly meetings throughout 2016 played host to extremely impressive and enlightening speakers.
  1. In September, Ms. Clara Montanez, Senior Director - Investments at Oppenheimer & Co. Inc., offered to host the Rotaract Club for its meeting, with guest speaker Akash Bhargava, who delivered a presentation on millennial demographics in the workplace. 
  2. In October, Mr. Don Bergin, National Security Advisor and Counsel on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, shared his non-partisan insights on how work gets done in Congress, the process differences between the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, and various national security issues. 
  3. In December, Arzú Dominic Saucedo Sandoval, from the Rotaract Club of Celaya in Mexico, presented on his club's activities, on his time in D.C., and on a large service project he lead with us, donating to Central Union Mission a truck full of hundreds of pillows, sheets, and other bedding items left over from international students leaving the area after internships, study abroad, or other programs.

As one of our yearly hallmark volunteer events, we spent National Public Land's Day (September 24th) at Kenilworth Acquatic Gardens. We listened to girl scout's re-read President Obama's speech about public spaces and national parks, had some breakfast, and then got to work! 

The day was full of hard, but gratifying, labor. We dug up dirt and rebuilt the eroding banks around ponds in the park. Some other people were tasked with wading in the ponds to uproot and discard dying lily pads and invasive species.

After 4-5 hours of work, we gathered for a free boxed lunch at picnic tables in the park and then walked around the beautiful space together, happy with the impact we made.

Serving the community is part of our core mission as a group! We are happy to keep returning, year after year, to Central Union Mission and serve food to those in need.
Rotaract Club of Washington DC's members volunteered countless hours in our community this past year. We attended an Oktoberfest fundraiser for Cystic Fibrosis, a charity happy hour for Habitat for Humanity, and a Mardis Gras cultural event in DC. We sorted wigs being donated to women going through cancer treatments. 
And, of course, we participated in our regular re-occurring volunteer events like: Walter Reed Bingo with wounded veterans, Grate Patrol Food Truck run by the Salvation Army, and Citizenship Workshops for legal immigrants.
Our sponsoring Rotary Club, the Rotary Club of Washington DC, has always been an incredible and generous advocate for us. We are so lucky and thankful to be invited to their weekly Wednesday lunch meetings and to have such close connections with professional leaders in our community. This year, we hosted a joint Rotary/Rotaract Networking happy hour at Bar Louie in Chinatown. Business Cards were exchanged and we all had a great time!
We are also so fortunate to be sponsored by our Rotary Club to attend the annual Rotary UN Day Conference at the United Nations in New York every year. We stayed all stayed in SoHo to be able to bond and explore the city together. The conference was awe-inspiring, as always, learning from business leaders around the world about how to combine social impact with economic profit. We were briefed on the status of Polio and Rotary's role in eliminating the disease. We heard from Rotary's representative to the U.N. and learned about other Rotary projects to engage younger members of our community.

After the conference concluded, we distributed left over lunch boxes to the homeless around New York and then attended a happy hour with the Rotaract Club of New York.


At the end of 2016, we were happy to commit to a brotherhood relationship with the Rotaract club of Celaya Mexico. We are exchanging gift boxes that contain items representative of our hometowns, and we plan to do a service project simultaneously while skyping and tweeting with each other in our respective cities.

Finally, to round out the year, we came together for our annual Friendsgiving. This is an opportunity for our club to cook a family-style thanksgiving meal together, gather cans of non perishable food items to donate to local food banks, and to give thanks for the friendships we've made and the people who continue to make this club a great success. For some of our international members, this was their first ever taste of a traditional American Thanksgiving meal!
As you can see, The Rotaract Club of Washington DC had a great start to the 2016/2017 year! Let's work to make the second half even better!

Yours in service, always.
<![CDATA[Peter Danjczek and Josue Lopez Calderon Selected as Rotary International Convention Scholars]]>Tue, 24 May 2016 02:53:26 GMThttp://rotaractdc.org/the-rotaract-report/peter-danjczek-and-josue-lopez-calderon-selected-as-rotary-international-convention-scholarsPeter Danjczek and Josue Lopez Calderon selected to represent the Rotary Club of Washington D.C. and the Rotaract Club of Washington D.C. as Rotary International Convention Scholars in Seoul Korea May-June 2016.  ]]><![CDATA[Rotaract Recap: 2015 in Review]]>Sat, 06 Feb 2016 16:42:39 GMThttp://rotaractdc.org/the-rotaract-report/rotaract-recap-2015-in-reviewPicture
Chelsea Hodgkins serves as the Community Service Liaison for Rotaract DC

Happy New Year! As another year of service, promoting peace and understanding, and building goodwill and friendships begins, Rotaract reflects on its activities and progress in 2015.

It was a busy year for the club. Members gave back and improved the quality of life for people in the DC community through numerous service events. These included weekly volunteering with initiatives such as Salvation Army's Grate Patrol and Walter Reed Bingo, and participating in events including the Hostelling International’s Peace Conference, the DCPS Beautification, the first-ever Little League International Tournament sponsored by Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy and The Baseball Foundation, and the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) Day at the Anacostia River. The International Coastal Cleanup is a global service event, where thousands of people remove garbage from beaches, rivers, parks, and other public areas. In DC, our efforts contributed to the removal of more than 1,000 pounds of plastics, nationally, from waterways. 
The holidays were filled with much cheer and kinship. We organized a Friendsgiving Food Drive. This event brought together members of our club for a pre-Thanksgiving feast, some of whom were experiencing the American tradition of Thanksgiving for the first time, to donate canned foods to benefit Bread for the City’s Food Pantry
During Christmas, we spread the holiday spirit to our local and global communities. Members filled two shoeboxes to send to under-served children abroad through Operation Christmas Child and bought gifts for two children of a DC family living below the poverty threshold through Central Union Mission’s Adopt a Family program. During the Adopt a Family gift drive, the club hosted a small Christmas Party and invited the Rotaract Club of Metro Washington D.C. 
But that’s not all. Rotaract also promoted international peace and understanding through various initiatives, such as making a video of our favorite places in DC to share with international Rotaract clubs and launching a microloan campaign with Kiva international to lend money to entrepreneurs in need. The club welcomed the Rotaract Club of Bahrain to Washington DC, ensuring DC Rotaract’s visibility at their End Polio Booth within the ‘This is Bahrain’ Event. Later that evening Rotaract hosted a social for both clubs. 

This year, one of our goals was to continue strengthening the bonds between Rotaract and our Parent Club. Inspired by Rotary, the club has taken the lead on planning Rotaract’s first fundraising gala for 100,000 Strong for the Americas—a joint partnership between Partners of the Americas, U.S. Department of State and NAFSA. 
While service to the community is the foundation of what we do, equally important are the friendships we have built and the ways in which we have expanded our networks. Whether it was through events such as Friendsgiving, football potlucks, birthday celebrations, attending the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center, watching a Nationals baseball game for End Polio Now night, or tubing at Harper’s Ferry, each has allowed us all to connect and to strengthen our impact. 
In addition, last year we welcomed several new members to the club and have connected with members of the DC Metro, Chiapas (Mexico), Bahrain, and Sweden Rotaract clubs. All of this was achieved, while also creating a new website, implementing a blog and having six great speakers from the White House, the Organization of American States, Oppenheimer, and Central Union Kitchen enlighten the club with their insights. As we enter 2016, we will continue to seek ways to broaden our perspectives and pursue more ways to give back to our local and international communities.

<![CDATA[International Coastal Cleanup]]>Fri, 05 Feb 2016 18:10:45 GMThttp://rotaractdc.org/the-rotaract-report/international-coastal-cleanupPicture
Sage Melcer serves as the International Service Chair for Rotaract DC

On September 19th, 2015 the Rotaract Club of Washington D.C. participated in the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) Day at the Anacostia River. 
ICC is a day where thousands of people all over the world flock to beaches, rivers, parks, or any public place to remove garbage. This international event not only promotes environmental stewardship, but also promotes community well being, which can be seen in the wide ranges of age, race, and religion that come together to participate. The following are some of the cleanup results gathered from Anacostia alone:

Volunteers: 250

Pounds collected: 1,601

Distance covered: roughly 1 mile

Most prevalent items:

1.      Foam pieces (less than 2.5 cm): 2,091

2.      Plastic beverage bottles: 1,633

3.      Food Wrappers: 1,214

4.      Cups & Plates (Foam): 1,076

5.      Plastic pieces (less than 2.5 cm): 1,071
<![CDATA[No Quiet After the Storm: Powering Levant’s Self-Restoration]]>Tue, 25 Aug 2015 13:37:03 GMThttp://rotaractdc.org/the-rotaract-report/no-quiet-after-the-storm-powering-levants-self-restorationPicture
Silvia Fuselli serves as the Secretary for Rotaract DC

Never Let a Good Crisis Go To Waste” - Winston S. Churchill
The Middle East is consumed by chaos and violence more today than in its modern history. However, time when the dust of war settles will come to be, and the need for economic, social and human reconstruction will dazzle the eyes of anyone seeking high-yield investment opportunities. Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey should not miss the boat. As the largest commercial partners of Syria, home to its displaced human capital, as well as the most impacted by war and its repercussions, they could stand as the prime beneficiaries from the regional rebuilding by converting in opportunity what the crisis has made a necessity.
As the Syrian war enters its fifth year, the country teeters on the verge of collapse. Its economic foundations are virtually annihilated and its population has plummeted by 15%, as of the end of 2014. 10 million Syrians have plunged into poverty, while 3.5 million are malnourished. Furthermore, the country’s education sector has been decimated, with 3 million children forced out from school. From a 95% pre-war enrollment rate, now Syria displays the lowest in the world. 
The shock of war has redrawn the socio-economic profile of the Levant countries by disrupting the main trade routes as well as abruptly halting the intra-regional integration process. Between the early and late 2000s, indeed, the intra-Levant trade had experienced a seven-fold growth, touching an annual average of $29.7 billion between 2008 and 2010. Additionally, local governments’ diversion of national resources from productive investment to humanitarian assistance and defense spending has resulted in higher indebtedness and weaker economic growth expectations. Worse yet, the weaponization in the region is floating the spectrum of a trade war, as international players other than the U.S. and Russia are on the lookout for new markets to export military technology. China, notably, is spearheading the expedition
The monumental human displacement has remolded the demographics of the region. Those who have been fortunate enough to escape from atrocities in Syria have flocked to the adjoining countries, which were already striving to fulfill their development needs. In Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, nearly 4 million registered refugees are now putting tremendous pressure on economies, government budgets, public services, and infrastructures. Consequently, while poverty and vulnerability are tangibly growing among refugees, hosting communities are facing increasing hardship in accessing services and employment opportunities. Social unrest churns within a mounting humanitarian fatigue.
Refugees will not return to Syria anytime soon. They represent the most outrageous of all economic and social costs of a conflict that, along with the rampage of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or Daesh, have caused a reversal from years of relative economic growth, foregone trade opportunities, disruption of domestic economic structures, loss of productive and skilled labor, redistribution of wealth and resources, semi-collapse of public services, social tensions, endemic uncertainty and, not least, appalling deterioration of the security environment. The overarching question, then, becomes how proactively dealing with opportunities instead of actively addressing the crisis, how making the refugees an asset for hosting countries and helping unlock the region’s dormant potential.
In this regard, the private sector retains strategic value. Vibrant and dynamic, with a knack for innovation, entrepreneurial spirit, and appetite for business opportunities, the private sector can help reverse existing downward trends, such as youth unemployment, whose regional rate is the highest in the world. Businesses, however, cannot operate in an institutional and human vacuum. In fact, their scope and reach are often impaired by weak institutional frameworks, which fail to create investment-friendly environments, reduce uncertainty, and stir up investors’ confidence. Besides, private sector competitiveness is hindered by skill mismatches in the job market, with local employers struggling to find workforce with required qualifications, while the supply of low-skill labor has exponentially grown in the wake of the refugee influx.
Admittedly, job creation alone is not sufficient to turn the tide in the region. Increase in quality, alongside with quantity of jobs, is critical for economic modernization and expansion to take off. The implementation of sustainable and organic projects geared towards recovery and growth will require a more effective relationship between business world and education system. Structural imbalances between labor markets and workforce are by and large determined by poor education standards and low-quality school environments, which fail to provide young people with adequate skill-sets and training. The creation of professional development curricula and career-oriented schools, designed to fostering pockets of talented youth and helping them unleash their creative potential while developing in-demand skills, might envisage a greater involvement of the private sector in the education field, at least at the high school and college level.      
On the other side, the relaunch of the region calls for a credible commitment to a strong partnership between local governments and the international community. The region is tormented by an acute need of funding and multi- and bilateral support. Jordan and Lebanon, in particular, are the worst positioned in terms of access to multilateral aid: their status as “middle income countries” prevents them from qualifying for grants and funding opportunities earmarked by multilateral organizations and agencies. Albeit necessary, though, sheer injection of funding alone is not sufficient. Rather, alternatives to political turmoil and socio-economic disintegration can be engineered through deeper regional cooperation. For instance, greater intra-regional trade was already generating sizable gains to Levant countries prior to the crisis. Beside trade, infrastructure development figures as a strategic sector that the reconstruction effort should prioritize. Creating economies of scale, building joint-ventures, deepening interdependencies, and linking up core industries may prove a pivotal component of a comprehensive security strategy designed not only to triggering economic expansion in Syria and impacted countries, but also to countering violent extremism.    
This is a unique time in history where the Middle East can plot a new geopolitical trajectory and break the chain of the festering illnesses that have turned it into a hive of conflicts and incubator of homegrown threats with global reach. Capitalizing on the existing crisis to rehabilitate the region is the only way for Middle Eastern countries to prove to new generations, who have known nothing but war for the past 15 years, that it is realistic to place their hopes in a world after this one.