Leveraging our skills to support refugees

By Quentin Wodon, Club President of the Rotary Club of Washington Global, USA

A few months ago, we chartered the Rotary Club of Washington Global with the goal of becoming a “knowledge club” within Rotary. We are a new, dynamic, and friendly club. More than two thirds of our members are women, and 40 percent are under the age of 40. While we have a core group based in Washington, DC, USA, our membership is global, as members can attend meetings online. But what is perhaps our most distinctive characteristic is the fact that many of our members work in international development. We are hoping to use our professional skills to provide pro bono support to nonprofits, Rotary clubs, and other organizations implementing projects in the developing world.

Being a “knowledge club” may sound like a lofty ambition, but we have just made one small step in that direction. For World Refugee Day, we released the Washington Global Rotary Refugee Report 2020 available on our website. Three days later, with the help of Rotarians Rich Carson and Lara Bersano, we organized an event with the Organization of American States (OAS) on the refugee crisis in Latin America. Speakers included the Secretary General of OAS, two Foreign Affairs Ministers from Colombia and El Salvador, and representatives from the private sector and civil society. A link to the recording for the event, including a video message from John Hewko, is available here.

Rotary members have done great work with refugees all over the world. The main objective of our report was to showcase this work, so that others could be inspired by stories of Service Above Self. The report also includes excerpts from a report by the OAS and from the latest Global Report from The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) which provides key facts and statistics on the global refugee crisis.

In our report you’ll find stories of:

  • Refugees from Venezuela who were helped by Rotarians
  • Rotary projects that provided food and improved education and health facilities for both local residents and refugees in a Colombian city near Venezuela’s border.
  • Rotary projects that supported refugees from Venezuela in Brazil through Operation Welcome.
  • The creation of a Rotaract club in the largest refugee resettlement area in Uganda.
  • Rotarians who helped the integration of Syrian refugees in Canada and Germany.
  • Rotarians who provided relief and wheelchairs as well as supported education for children in Syrian refugee camps in Turkey.

What are the next steps? We will produce similar reports on other areas where Rotary members are doing great work. But on refugees specifically, we are exploring the feasibility of proposing to the board of Rotary International the creation of a Rotary Action Group (RAG) on refugees. Members of the RAG would use their expertise to help clubs and districts globally plan and implement projects in this area. We will hold a brainstorming session on 11 July. If you have an interest in joining such an Action Group, please let us know by filling out this short form or sending me an email.

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