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Vol. 14, No. 27, January 7, 2002

The Rotary Foundation Update

Rasmussen, Sheeran
John Sheeran (R) talks with PDG John Rasmussen after Friday’s meeting.

Past District Governor John Rasmussen, one of the best presenters in District 5030, gave an update about his passion, The Rotary Foundation. John is twenty-one times a Paul Harris Fellow, is a Benefactor, and has been in Rotary 26 years. He has held many positions in Rotary International, and he is currently a member of the North Seattle Rotary Club.

“It’s always a pleasure to visit one of the premier Rotary Clubs in the District. I’m speaking about the BBRC. You do things right! Today, Rotary has a presence in 160 countries with 30,000 clubs … and they meet weekly. Each week we see our friends where we meet because we believe in the purposes and ideals of Rotary.”

John continued, “I love the Rotary Foundation. I understand how it fits into the object of Rotary. Part of our mission is the advancement of world understanding, peace, and goodwill. Our main asset is that each Rotarian chooses to get involved and the other asset is the Foundation. It has an amazing scholarship program. The Ambassadorial Scholarship gives wonderful training which people take back home and put to use.”

Once, when talking with a young scholarship holder, John asked ‘What did the scholarship mean to you?’ The answer was: “You meet people, study with them, become great friends, and you don’t drop bombs on your friends.’

In Bangledesh, many Rotarians have learned about the power of micro-banking and have helped spread this solid program all over the world. One of the new programs offered is Rotary Centers for Peace and Conflict Resolution.

Group Study Exchange is a successful cultural and vocational program, with 586 people involved last year. When these people travel, they see needs for special projects. When they’ve returned home many have sponsored grants and start-up humanitarian programs through their hometown Rotary Clubs.

Rotary clinics have helped to lessen the tragedy of landmines. There are dozens of different grant programs, under different names. John said, “The Bellevue Breakfast Rotary Club needs to identify projects, link up with other Rotary Clubs and apply for these grants. Projects for clean water and sanitation, reforestation, building and equipping orphanages, housing, and shelters for the homeless are just a few of the many projects helping people around the world.

Another new program is Rotary Volunteers, where RI pays travel and per diem in countries where projects are located and allows for Rotarians to see first hand exactly what the project needs to be successful.

An example of the Rotary Volunteer was Roger Saboo, past RI President, who volunteered to go Africa with a medical team. He was not a doctor, but his fondest memory of Rotary was the humanitarian project PolioPlus. His effort with that of the medical team has helped to nearly eradicate the disease. “A half billion dollars has been spent on eradicating polio by the member of Rotary. Today, fewer than 11 countries and only a dozen cases are being reported. Rotary plans to finish this project by 2005, the 100th anniversary of Rotary International.” Little noted in the press was national immunization days in Afghanistan this past November and December.

“Our purpose is to build understanding, goodwill, and peace. To do this, you must fund it.

Our annual program fund provides the energy to support these vital projects. Every Rotarian should make donations at least once a year. Last year there were 500 matching grants that did not happen, because the Foundation ran out of money. We must be moved to action. There are so many needs.”

Rhetorically, John asked, “How or where do we learn commitment? Do we have to suffer some sort of personal tragedy to learn commitment? I like to look at this as ‘giving until it feels good.’ Asking every Rotarian to make the commitment that makes you feel good is a great way to celebrate our membership in this great organization. I have been on a track to add a Paul Harris fellowship each year. In my early Rotary days, I hadn’t hit my peak of what felt right, but on my birthday, I decided to make a gift to the Rotary Foundation for $1,000 and I’ve been able to do that the past 21 years.”

John reminded members not to overlook the Endowment (Permanent) Fund. “The income is appropriated, while the principal grows. You can donate assets to Foundation – cash, stocks, bonds, etc. Any current large gift of $10,000 or more will get recognition as a Benefactor. All of us can afford to be benefactors.”

Rasmussen closed his presentation saying, “Our responsibility as human beings and Rotarians is to participate in something wonderful that makes a difference in this world. Winston Churchill once said ‘You make a living for what you make, but a life from what you give.’” For his presentation, President Goldfarb issued a certificate to John showing a gift of 600 pounds of food to Rotary First Harvest.

Thanks to Chuck Barnes for his introduction.