My Rotary Moment

If you would like, you can play the video below to listen to Catherine read the following program. We encourage you to still browse through and not miss its visuals.


My heightened awareness of the power of Rotary came about during a District 9640 (Australia) conference in 2002 when as a partner to my Rotarian husband I was in the audience listening to a presentation by Rotary World Peace Fellow, Path Heang.Path told his very moving story of growing up in Cambodia during the Pol Pot regime and having been given the opportunity by Rotary to study Peace and Conflict Resolution, he could now work towards his goal of contributing to the rebuilding of his country through policymaking.

Cecelia – Sth Africa       Mayumi –Canada               Mneesha - USA

I was aware that Rotary International had a smorgasbord of programs and service projects as I had attended the annual conferences and one or two conventions at that stage but hearing that one such Rotary program involved people from countries, such as Cambodia, in Peace Studies was epiphanous. 

Path Heang

I had not heard the word “peace’ in any context other than the condition experienced by a country following a period of war and this idea of studying peace and particularly by people like Path who had experienced the brutality of violent conflict, seemed to me to be a very enlightened move on Rotary’s part and a wonderful way to utilize the powerful network of its international membership.


John- USA                           Robert - Uganda                Cassio - Brazil

University of Queensland-Great Court

At that point I was fully engaged in my career and unable to accept invitations from my husband’s Rotary club to become a member.  However, in 2006, I decided no-one was going to ‘ring a bell’ to tell me how much time I had left to accomplish some of the things I had on hold, so I joined Rotary and enrolled in the Masters International Studies (Peace and Conflict Resolution) at the University of Queensland to sit with the Rotary World Peace Fellows who had been awarded the Fellowship 

that year.

I had thought it would be interesting studying with people from many different countries with the experiences they would bring to the course.  I also wanted to gain an understanding of the course content for its usefulness in enabling these people to enter positions of influence in their countries.  What I hadn’t counted on was both witnessing and experiencing the changes to worldviews of all concerned.  There were few classes I attended where I didn’t hear the lecturers exclaim how fortunate they felt in being exposed to the breadth of experience and wisdom of their students -  these Peace Fellows.  

Kristin – USA             Andrea – USA                Mandi (MJ) - USA

This is not to say it was a ‘love in’ in any respect.  These were people who had very strong views and their experiences in dealing with conflict had them prepared to pose the hard questions and demand answers.  Being course work there were opportunities for role play and I can attest to being very uncomfortable at times in roles as diverse as an Al Jazeera journalist, a warlord negotiating with a rebel group; a Police chief in charge of a peacekeeping force – to name a few.  Gloves were off on all these occasions and no deference given to my ‘elder’ status amongst these much younger students. I found it quite tough and observed that many of them did also.  I concluded it was a rigorous course and one that would enable them to strike out to make a difference in their countries of origin, in whatever their chosen field.

Etsuko – Japan             Leah - USA

As well as joining the Fellows to test the course for its rigour I had joined Rotary to allow me to continue to support the Fellowship program and the individual Fellows as they encountered the various barriers to peace in their fields of endeavour.   At the club level I have been able to facilitate a number of Peace Fellows being invited to speak to members and at the District level I have held the position of Chair of the Rotary Peace Fellowship subcommittee for a number of years until recently when I had to relinquish it as I joined the Rotary Eclub of One World, which belongs to another district.  
In the Chairing role of the subcommittee in District 9640 I was delighted to be part of the sponsoring process of the applicants for the Peace Fellowship which enabled five very impressive individuals to gain entry to one of the six university peace centres.   This year we have sponsored two more very worthy applicants who we expect to gain admission to the Fellowship.

Perth – USA             Vadim-Ukraine

During this period of my journey alongside the Rotary Peace Fellows, I have had my belief in the course and the applicants confirmed repeatedly and continue to be grateful to Path Heang, Peace Fellow alumnus, of that first Fellowship year, for introducing me to the program that has provided such a focus for me personally as well as my Rotary service.   I am somewhat disappointed, however, by the slow take-up of the program by the Rotary International network which appeared to me initially to offer valuable leverage to these Fellows, as individuals in their respective fields, and to enable recognition for the Fellowship internationally.  The Rotary Peace Centre and the Rotary Foundation are attempting to address this situation as is the Rotarian Action Group for Peace; the latter having as part of its brief, the integration of the Rotary Peace Fellowship with Rotary.

Rita–USA             Sheunesu-Zimbabwe

The Rotarian Action Group for Peace (RAGFP) is currently developing a mapping system that will enable the Rotary Peace Fellows’ locations and those of the Rotarians and Rotaractors, members of the RAGFP to be available to each other and to organisations engaged in peace projects.  It may be helpful to explain here that the intention of the RAGFP executives is to define ‘peace’ in its broadest sense and very much in accord with the six areas of focus.


When the Peace Fellows speak to Rotarians at clubs and conferences they gain their admiration and respect.  Commonly they ask ‘’what can we do to support them”?   The fact that Rotarians cannot apply or allow their direct relatives to apply; the role of Chair of the subcommittee of the Peace Fellowship is not a mandatory appointment; the funding for the Fellowship is currently provided by the Foundation – soon to have a separate fund; the Fellows are not seen as potential Rotarians in the short term – and most too old to be Rotaractors, certainly places limits on the Therefore there are still many districts that have not sponsored a Rotary Peace Fellow; there are too few alumni who have been invited to join Rotary and too few of the Peace Fellows have gained leverage from the international community’s understanding of the value and prestige of the Fellowship.


However, this situation is improving with the efforts of the Rotary Peace Centre and TRF strategic plan  to increase promotion of the Fellowship and the RAGFP mapping system is well on the way to becoming available to bring the Peace Fellows into the Rotary network.  The Rotary Eclub of One World is itself contributing through the Rotary Peace Fellow Outreach Program which was instigated last year through the auspices of PP Dick Strayer, PP Amanda Richards and affirmed by President Dawn O’Bar and myself as Chair.   There are currently four Peace Fellow alumni members of the Eclub and the open invitation to this group from the executive holds great promise in attracting many more in future.

                                                                                                           Vikas- India                     Ville-Veikko- Finland

There are also changes to the application process for the Fellowship that should enable more Rotary clubs and districts to offer sponsorship to Peace Fellowship applicants.  Initially it was only possible for the district to sponsor one applicant. Now it does not disadvantage any applicant to have been sponsored amongst a number of applicants.  Two, three and five applicants from the same district in the same year is the norm.  And, recently, the Peace Centre at RI is channeling applications received from people who are not able to gain sponsorship from a Rotary club for the many reasons possible in that scenario.  These applications are then sent to those district personnel who have expressed an interest in assisting this process so it has become possible for districts to sponsor applicants from countries other than their own; people they may never meet but who will remain grateful forever to these Rotarians for this extraordinary opportunity.  This process has enabled D9640 (Australia) to sponsor two successful applicants last year from African countries and this year they are in the process of sponsoring a Sri Lankan candidate, currently working in South Sudan.  A truly amazing example of the power of Rotary International!

There are six universities with Rotary Peace Centres; five of them offer a Masters degree to the successful Rotary Peace Fellowship applicants:  
The University of Queensland (Aust); Uppsala University(Sweden); International Christian University (Japan); University of North Carolina (USA); Bradford University (England) and Chulalongkorn University in Thailand offers the three month Professional Certificate course. Each of the university websites has information on the Rotary Peace Centres and the individuals who have attended the courses.  The site has all other information, including the application form for download.  This year the Rotary Peace Centre has moved to accepting online applications which is another innovation that will greatly enhance the ability of the district subcommittee members to process applications.  It surely couldn’t be easier ‘to make a difference’- and what a difference it could make in having these amazing people working on our behalf for peace.

Class X11 currently at University of Queensland


Peace Fellows Chulalongkorn – Rotary Peace wiki

Rotary Peace Fellow, Geysar Gurbanov, Duke University.(8:52 min)
Rotary Peace Fellowship – ICU Japan 2010-2012 (3:19 min)

Rotary Peace Centre-  Peace Fellow Locations


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