W hen Hurricane Mitch ravaged Central America in October 1998, Rotarians were among the first to respond to the cries of victims who lost virtually everything in one of the worst storms of this century. Some Rotarians, such as Governor Mario Vald,s of R.I. District 4250 (Honduras), even risked their lives to rescue people who were being crushed by mountains of mud. Around the world, Rotarians coordinated relief efforts to send money, food, supplies, and other assistance in an effort to help (see pages 44-47). One Rotarian, Valerie Sullivan of Payton, Arizona, U.S.A, worked alongside local Rotarians in Honduras to sort and distribute donations of clothing and food. She witnessed first-hand the terrible destruction of Hurricane Mitch, comparing its devastation to that of a war.
These Rotarians, serving on the front lines of a natural disaster, are truly the epitome of "Service Above Self." It is this selfless spirit of giving that makes me proud to be a Rotarian. As Rotarians, we are in a unique position to help people around the world in times of crisis. We can draw upon the vast resources and connections of more than 1.2 million club members in 159 countries. Around the world, we are working together through The Rotary Foundation of R.I., World Community Service, and other Rotary programs to improve the standard of living for thousands of people in desperate need.
Rotary can serve as a powerful force for good in a world torn apart by violence and misunderstanding. In the wake of increased tensions, failing economies, and the unexpected eruptions of war, our commitment to world peace and understanding is more critical than ever to our global survival. Rotary's mission has always been to promote international peace, a dream that crosses cultural and geographic barriers. Because the organization of Rotary is non-political, non-partisan, and non-religious, its reach extends far beyond local borders. As illustrated in the case of PolioPlus, Rotarians can assist governments in achieving their humanitarian goals. For example, Rotarians helped pave the way for health care workers in Peru to enter guerrilla-held areas and immunize children against polio.
As Rotarians have proven in the case of Hurricane Mitch, the Rotary spirit prevails even in the face of great adversity. During World Understanding Month, celebrated each February, consider how you can Follow Your Rotary Dream and reach out in a spirit of peace and understanding. Whether it's contributing to PolioPlus Partners, hosting a Youth Exchange student, or reaching out to the victims of a natural disaster, we can all do our part to provide a better, more peaceful world for our children.
In the words of poet Edwin Markham:
There is a destiny that makes us brothers.
None goes his way alone.
All that we send into the lives of others
comes back into our own.
—James L. Lacy