Ispent three days in Ontario, California, USA, in January with a group of passionate peacebuilders learning to be Rotary Positive Peace Activators.
The goal of the three-day training was to develop a worldwide network of peacebuilders to support Rotarians and Rotaractors in fostering Positive Peace in their communities. By 2024, Rotary will train 150 new Positive Peace Activators in six global regions, prepared to educate, coach, and accompany Rotarians in at least 1,000 presentations and/or workshops, and act as consultants on projects locally and globally.
The training is the next step in a growing list of Rotary peace initiatives that I believe are pushing Rotary to a tipping point. Our peace programs will begin rapidly expanding and will change Rotary forever as we go from being advocates for peace to something grander: active and effective peacebuilders.
In 2017, Rotary and the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) formed a strategic partnership. This alliance builds on IEP’s research into Positive Peace – the attitudes, institutions, and structures that shape peaceful societies – as well as Rotary’s grassroots work in communities globally.
In addition to our partnership with IEP, Rotary’s Peace Centers are expanding, Rotary Peace Fellows are taking on diverse roles, there is an online peace academy, and clubs and districts are increasing their reach with a variety of peace projects. Major positive peace projects occurred in 2019 in Mexico and Colombia.
The 25 activators who participated in the training with me were Rotarians, peace fellows, Rotaractors, and Rotary Global Scholars. We were trained on the IEP positive peace model and on facilitating meetings. We focused on skills that will enable us to lead education programs with Rotary-affiliated groups.
Rotary seeks to create the conditions for Positive Peace by funding and implementing thousands of local and international peace projects. The Rotary Positive Peace Activators will take a lead as advisors to assist clubs and districts.
This is our peace tipping point.
  • Support Rotary’s work in building peace through your generous gift (select the Endowment-Rotary Peace Centers from the donate menu)
  • Read more about Rotary’s partnership with IEP
  • Learn about the Rotary Positive Peace Academy
  • Contact Summer Lewis for more information on the Rotary Positive Peace Activators


By Chris Offer, Rotary Club of Ladner, Delta, British Columbia, Canada, and chair of the Peace Major Gifts Initiative

Three years ago, the nephew of one of my best friends was born with a congenital condition that required one hand to be amputated. As a result, he had trouble keeping his balance and when it came to taking his first steps, he fell repeatedly. He was unable to lift himself up with just one hand and would just cry until someone could help him get up.
Watching him inspired me to help. I gathered several of my best friends who, like myself, had knowledge in robotics. Never would I have imagined that I would end up making prostheses, with the little knowledge I had on the subject. But as we began researching, we developed a prototype for our first model prosthetic limb. It was incredible seeing our efforts come together into a hand-crafted prosthesis made out of wood and springs, with sensors carrying signals from the brain to the artificial limb.
The potential impact slowly began to dawn on us, as we realized we could help not only one person, but perhaps hundreds or thousands. In Mexico, there are more than 27,500 amputations a year and only 2,500 prosthetic limbs are produced annually. This means that less than 10 percent of the population has access to one. The problem is not a lack of production, but the high cost.
Experimenting with different kinds of technology, we looked for a bio-compatible material that would let us get away from having to use titanium, a very expensive material typically used in prostheses. We began working with ABS plastic, an opaque thermoplastic and amorphous polymer that can be used with 3D printing. By using thermoplastic polymers, we reduced the cost by more than 90 percent and also adapted our model to be a good fit for children. Our processes let children choose a robotic prosthetic limb with interchangeable superhero designs. To make our effort more sustainable, we began to look for strategic and commercial partners.
We teamed up with our university’s robotics team to present our project during a FIRST Robotics competition in New Orleans and received the Engineering Inspiration Award, which celebrates outstanding success in advancing respect and appreciation for engineering within a team’s school and community. The project was also nominated for a 2019 Rotaract Outstanding Project Awards
We continue to work with different organizations, including Rotary, who have offered us support since the beginning through our host club, to expand our project and help more people.
By Rafael Vazquez Barragan, Rotaract Club of Monterrey Cumbres, Nuevo León, Mexico

At the Rotary Peace Symposium and Peace Fellow Conference in June in Germany, 80 Rotary Peace Fellows had the opportunity to come together and share our work, insights and ideas for building peace. We also discussed how to work together more closely as a network of 1300+ peacebuilders, alumni of the Rotary Peace Fellowship program, from over 100 countries. We were convinced that there was a need to gather as a group of talented individuals: professionals with expert knowledge and vast experience, passionate about building a more peaceful world.

We emerged from the Hamburg gathering with an action plan to form a Rotary Fellowship for Rotary Peace Fellows, officially approved by the RI Board in October.  The Rotary Peace Fellow Alumni Association aims to unite Rotary Peace Fellow alumni, increase networking opportunities among Fellows, and facilitate collaboration with clubs and districts to expand the promotion of peace around the world. We envision a united Rotary Peace Fellow community, working together to expand peacebuilding and sustain peace in the world.

Many Peace Fellows already support each other, and many also already work with Rotarians on peacebuilding projects. One-third of alumni recently reported that they’ve collaborated with a Rotary or Rotaract club on a project, and 86% said that they are in frequent contact with the other fellows in their graduating class. Through our new organization, we can make sure that every Peace Fellow has the opportunity to work with Rotary networks and partners as they build peace in their personal and professional lives.

The Rotary Peace Fellowship Alumni Association is planning several networking events, and our members have already begun working with Rotarians around the world to plan district events aimed at generating peacebuilding projects. This is just the start of a brilliant path! Working together through a Global Board of Directors and Regional Coordinators, our new Fellowship starts to be an integral part of the Rotary family. Come say hello at our RPFAA booth at the 2020 Peace Conference in Ontario, California!

Provisional RPFAA Board Members Erin Thomas and Magdalena Zuritarecently joined Rotary clubs in Oregon, USA and Argentina and are already very active with planning peace programs in their clubs and districts. The entire board is very committed to finding bridging opportunities between Peace Fellows and Rotarians wherever they exist.

Are you also passionate about peacebuilding? Write to us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we will keep you updated as we expand our activities. We aim to have board elections, a website and regular newsletters sometime in 2020.

Let’s work together on promoting of peace around the globe through the RPFAA!


By Erin Thomas, Magdalena Zurita, Wes Hedden, Yung Nietschke and ElsaMarie D’Silva,

Rotary Peace Fellows and Provisional Board of Directors for the Rotary Peace Fellowship Alumni Association

Bring your project ideas to life with guidance from a Rotary Action Group:

Get support for your initiatives from these partners, too:

  • The Institute for Economics and Peace, an independent think tank, helps Rotarians, Rotaractors, and Rotary alumni address the causes of conflict and create conditions that foster peace. Use IEP’s Rotary Peace Academy — a free, online learning platform that includes interactive lessons and tools — to learn how to apply new peacebuilding methods and mobilize communities to address underlying causes of conflict. Learn more and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to get involved
  • Mediators Beyond Borders International works with clubs, districts, and Rotary alumni to build a more stable future by improving a community’s capacity to heal from conflict, reconcile differences, and prevent the escalation of issues. MBBI trains Rotarians, Rotaractors, and alumni to be peace facilitators and project leaders who can assist clubs with community assessments and peace projects and connect them with peacebuilding resources. Learn more (PDF) and contact MBBI to get involved.
  • Peace Corps provides opportunities for Rotary and Rotaract clubs to work alongside U.S. Peace Corps volunteers, training in humanitarian development to empower communities and connect them to resources that can brighten their future. By working together on water and sanitation, economic and community development, or basic education and literacy projects, Rotarians, Rotaractors, and Peace Corps volunteers lay the foundation for peace, stability, and prosperity. Read the Rotary-Peace Corps partnership fact sheet and inspirational stories of Rotary members who have been affected by the partnership.

Join the conversation in a peace-related discussion group and post your club’s completed project on Rotary Showcase.

10 years into the Rotary-USAID water and sanitation partnership, here’s what worked, what didn’t — and why

By Photography by

An old piece of railroad track is laid across a pit toilet. The walls are crumbling. The stench is overwhelming. It’s the only toilet for a school in rural Ghana, and most children refuse to use it. They do their business outside instead — or quit school altogether.

This is an all-too-common experience: Half of Ghana’s population lives in rural areas, and only 10 percent of those people have access to basic sanitation. Two-thirds can obtain safe drinking water — after a 30-minute round trip.

Since 2009, Rotary has been working to fix those deficiencies through a partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The partnership combines the business skills and local community leadership of Rotarian volunteers with the technical expertise of USAID. Rotary is contributing $9 million to the $18 million partnership; outside of eradicating polio, it is Rotary’s largest partnership effort. “We wondered how these two organizations could come together and exploit the synergy between them,” says Rotarian Ron Denham, a member of the Rotary-USAID steering committee.

Ghana was one of three pilot countries when the program kicked off. Projects were implemented in two phases: Phase 1 concluded in 2013, and Phase 2 will end in 2020. “As a result of this partnership, we’ve been able to reach out to some very deprived communities,” says Emmanuel Odotei, WASH management specialist for USAID/Ghana. “If USAID had tried to do this alone, or if Rotary had done it alone, we would never have achieved as much as we have today.”

Throughout, the focus of the program has been on accomplishing three goals: improving sanitation and hygiene in schools and health facilities; increasing community access to safe drinking water; and advocating for ample government financing of WASH — that is, water, sanitation, and hygiene.

“We wondered how these two organizations could come together and exploit the synergy between them.”

By the numbers

Rotary-USAID in Ghana

(projected through 2020)

174 latrine blocks (primarily in schools)

166 community hand pumps

6 mechanized boreholes

3 reticulated water systems

Benefiting more than 160,000 people



The installations and the number of people who benefited from the program were significant. But that’s only part of the story. The partnership also trained school health educators and community-based hygiene promoters to lead behavioral change campaigns that would deter open defecation (see page 38). It helped establish local committees to manage the water and sanitation systems after Rotary and USAID departed. And it empowered community leaders by showing them how to go to their district assemblies and demand that funds be allocated — and used — for water and sanitation services. “Rotarians are very well-connected,” says Alberto Wilde, the director in Ghana for Global Communities, a development agency contracted by USAID to implement the program in Ghana. “It’s easier for us to make changes in policy if we have the right people who can open doors with decision-makers.”

The scale of the program demanded the close involvement of more than 100 Rotarians. Roughly 30 of Ghana’s 50 Rotary clubs participated, and each of those clubs assigned members to remain engaged throughout its involvement. Each club supervises the implementation of multiple projects, some of which might be a six-hour drive away along dirt roads that are impassable in the rainy season. “Rotarians are making big sacrifices for the projects,” says Ako Odotei, a member of the Rotary Club of Tema and the Phase 2 chair of the host committee of local Rotarians directing the partnership alongside USAID. “These projects are their babies.”

Last summer, representatives of the partnership toured some of the communities where it had implemented projects. As is the case globally in the water and sanitation sector, some of the projects were successful and some were failures. Most were somewhere in between. Some of the lessons learned are described on the following pages — lessons that can help ensure success in future programs.