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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Peter 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.
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.
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:
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
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.