My Thailand Story

Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to Bangkok, Thailand, to visit my son who is currently enrolled in a study abroad program through his college.   Prior to my visit, I

Paula and her son, John in front of the Grand Palace in Bangkok

searched for an English speaking club to visit in the city.   A very helpful Rotarian named Douglas Riach of the Bangkok South club, suggested that I visit the Rotary Club of Bangkok, the oldest club in the city.  This club was established in 1930.  I made my way to their luncheon meeting at the Grand Hyatt Erawan, a beautiful hotel in a very modern section of the city.   The club members were very friendly and receptive.  Mr. Riach, who met me there and introduced me to a few of the members, also stayed for lunch.  In addition to members of the club from Thailand, several of the members of this club are international conducting business in Bangkok or, they are affiliated with embassies in the city.   During the meeting, some Roteract students spoke from a Thai school who assist students in need.  I was delighted to meet the new president of the Bangkok Club, Kallaya Leeissarapong.  Kallaya introduced me to another member, H.E. Ana Maria Ramirez, the ambassador to Thailand, from Argentina.I was moved by the service projects of both the Rotary Club of Bangkok and of the

Paula presents the Fairfax Rotary flag to Bangkok Rotary Club President Kallaya Leeissarapong

Bangkok South Club.   Here in the United States, we often lose sight of the fact that polio vaccinations are still part of Rotary service projects in other parts of the world.The Rotary Club of Bangkok has sponsored polio vaccinations in Thailand, was involved in a flood relief program which was of particular concern after the floods in the area last year and the club takes on extensive clean water projects.   The floods did affect the clean drinking water so, these projects were conducted in tandem.  Several of the Rotary clubs continue to work together on the clean water projects in the schools.  This is of particular concern in the rural areas of Thailand.  Another concern in Thailand is the spread of HIV/AIDs in the south.  Several Rotary clubs were involved in this three year project which raised awareness of the problem in two southern Thailand provinces.

Paula’s daughter Genny (left), with Paula and members of the Bangkok Rotary Club

I was also impressed with the involvement of sponsors in the Bangkok Rotary projects.  These sponsors make so many wonderful service efforts possible for the needy in Thailand.  Some of the sponsors for the Bangkok South club’s Coins on Silom project include the 3M company (3M Thailand), the Bangkok Hospital, BP and a major coffee company in the area.  Mr. Riach is the fundraising director for the Bangkok South club and is responsible for many successful projects.

Bangkok South also partners with a Rotary club from Italy and with the Martha’s

Paula receives the Bangkok South Rotary Club flag from Doug Riach

Vineyard Club in the U.S.!

As the Rotarians learned when they visited this wonderful country of Thailand for the RIconvention in May, Rotary International was introduced to Thailand through a Canadian Rotarian and is supported by the King and Queen of Thailand today.  See story below:

To broaden its role and to develop a truly international stature, Rotarian James W. Davidson of the Rotary Club of Calgary, Canada, was appointed by Rotary International as General Commissioner for the formation of Rotary Clubs in Asia. In the course of his nearly three-year odyssey, he chartered 23 clubs in 12 countries, from Turkey to Thailand.  During an audience with H.R.H. Prince Purachatra, Davidson was able to discuss the concept of Rotary.  H.R.H. Prince Purachatra was so impressed with Rotary’s ideals that he proceeded to arrange the first English speaking organizing meeting of RC Bangkok, which was held at Phya Thai Palace, BangkokH.R.H. Prince Purachatra Krom Phra Kampaeng Bejra was elected the Club’s Charter President and on November 28, 1930, Rotary Club Bangkok received its Charter document No. 3392 from Rotary International.  On December 23, 1931, H.M. King Prachadipok, Rama VII, graciously attended the banquet held at Phya Thai Palace Hotel with H.R.H. Prince Purachatra as President of the Club.   By letter received on September 15, 1955, on the occasion of RC Bangkok’s Silver Anniversary, H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, graciously consented to honor the Rotary Movement by becoming the Royal Patron of Rotary in Thailand.   It was also at this time that the Constitution and By-laws of Rotary International were first translated into Thai by Luang Sitsayamkam, Past President of the Rotary Club of Bangkok.   On February 27, 1969, H.M. The King graciously presided over the gala fund-raising dinner of Rotary Club Bangkok.   On December 15, 1980, RC Bangkok celebrated her Golden Anniversary and 50 years of the Rotary movement in Thailand at Suan Ambhorn Palace. Their Majesties King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit graciously presided over the function.  In 1990-91, on the occasion of Rotary Club Bangkok’s fifth cycle, constructed the Music Pavilion in Rama IX Garden to benefit the public and honor the Royal Patron of Rotary in Thailand, H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej who is well known worldwide for his talent in music.   H.R.H. Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn addressed the Rotary gathering on November 23, 1990 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Rotary movement in Thailand and graciously accepted to be an Honorary Member of RC Bangkok.

I enjoyed my visit to Thailand and will always treasure the new friends I made there.

Posted by:  Paula Kelley, Vice President Fairfax Rotary Club


Polio Eradication – Are We There Yet?

Did you know Rotary’s top philanthropic goal is to eradicate polio worldwide?  Since 1985, Rotary members have contributed more than $900 million and countless volunteer hours to help immunize more than two billion children in 122 countries. Rotary has also been a spearheading partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative since 1988, along with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is also a key supporter of the initiative.  Rotarians have worked to match a $355 million challenge grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Rotary and its partners have reduced polio cases by 99 percent worldwide, from 350,000 cases in 1988 to less than 2,000 in 2008!  An estimated five million children have been spared disability, and over 250,000 deaths averted.  However, polio continues to threatens children in parts of Africa and South Asia, and remains endemic in Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan.

Rotary club members worldwide are cautiously celebrating a major milestone in the global effort to eradicate polio. India, until recently an epicenter of the wild poliovirus, has now gone for more than one year without recording a new case of the disease. India’s last reported case was a two-year-old girl in West Bengal State in January 2011. The country recorded 42 cases in 2010, and 741 in 2009.

The world must remain committed in order to achieve a polio-free world. The threat of polio anywhere is a threat to children everywhere.  If we don’t stay the course, experts say polio could rebound to 10 million cases in the next 40 years, negating the world’s $6 billion global investment.

Rotary is committed to fighting polio until every child is safe from this devastating disease.  In addition to Rotary’s fundraising efforts, hundreds of Rotary members travel at their own expense every year to join fellow Rotarians in polio-affected countries to immunize children against polio during national campaigns.

Posted by:  Dr. Laura Hills, President Rotary Club of Fairfax

Do You Know Someone Who Will Change the World?

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview an outstanding young woman from right here in Fairfax, VA.   Lauren Conn is a Rotary World Peace Fellow in the process of completing her Master’s Degree at Universidad del Salvador in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  I have no doubt she will change the world.

First, a little background:  Rotary Peace Fellows are leaders promoting national and international cooperation, peace, and the successful resolution of conflict throughout their lives, in their careers, and through service activities.  Fellows can earn either a master’s degree in international relations, public administration, sustainable development, peace studies, conflict resolution, or a related field, or a professional development certificate in peace and conflict resolution.  Here’s a video about the Rotary Peace Fellow program – very cool and worth watching.

SI:  So Lauren, what have you enjoyed most about your time as a Rotary World Peace Fellow?  LC:  Serving as a Rotary World Peace Fellow has enabled me to accomplish several life goals: living abroad for an extended period of time in a different cultural and linguistic context, studying development from a Latin American perspective, and advancing in my career in international development.

SI:   How do you feel the program will help you and what do you hope to accomplish as a result?  LC:  I’m so pleased to report that the Rotary World Peace program has already helped me accomplish my goal of advancing in my career in the field of international development – even before graduation!  I have been offered a position with the Inter-American Development Bank, the largest source of multilateral development financing and technical assistance in Latin America and the Caribbean to reduce poverty and inequality.  I am thrilled to return to the Washington area to work in their Education Division on expanding access to quality education to children and youth of the region.

SI:  Congratulations!  I’m curious, how did you hear about the program and what caused you to apply for it?  LC:  In 2006 when I was teaching in the Virginia public school system, the Fairfax Rotary Club supported my application to the Rotary Cultural scholarship program.  I first learned of the Peace Fellow program when I went through my orientation as a Rotary Scholar.  I spent three months in Quito, Ecuador in the summer of 2007 which was truly a life-changing experience that deepened my interest in education issues in the context of international development.  My mentor and friend, Verne Tuininga, and the Fairfax Rotary Club then sponsored my candidacy for the Rotary World Peace Fellowship so that I could further pursue these interests through graduate studies.  I began my Master’s program at the Universidad del Salvador in Buenos Aires, Argentina as a member of the Class IX Peace Fellows in March of 2011 and will graduate this summer with a degree in International Relations with a concentration in Economics, Development and Cooperation.

SI:  Tell us a little about you and your background.  LC:  I am a hometown girl, born and raised in Fairfax.  In fact, I grew up in my father’s childhood home where my parents still live in Fairfax City.  I am the oldest of the three; my younger sister and brother and I are all graduates of Fairfax High School (also my father’s alma mater).  I earned a BA in Hispanic Studies (05) and a Master’s in Education (06) from one of Virginia’s great public universities, the College of William and Mary.

SI:  Anything else you’d like us to know?  LC:  I am deeply appreciative of the opportunities that Rotary has given me and deeply admire the incredible humanitarian work by the Foundation and Rotarians worldwide.  I’m very proud to be a part of the Rotary family and look forward to being a lifelong Rotarian.  In my professional life and through Rotary service I hope to provide students from our community and communities across the globe with quality educational experiences that will no doubt transform the trajectories of their lives just as mine have.  I also would like readers to know that Rotary is a networks of individuals who are deeply committed to the global fight against poverty, preventable disease and inequality, and to the idea of service above self. 

Footnote:  Upon graduation, Rotary Peace Fellows work in a variety of areas, including grassroots and local nongovernmental organizations, national governments, the military, law enforcement, and bilateral and international organizations such as the United Nations, World Bank, International Organization for Migration, and the Organization of American Studies.  Graduates of the Rotary Peace Centers program also benefit from the support of a worldwide network of more than 500 alumni committed to building peace.  Through the Rotary Peace Centers program and The Rotary Foundation, Rotarians increase their effectiveness in promoting greater tolerance and cooperation among peoples, leading to world understanding and peace.

Posted by:  Susan Ireland, Fairfax Rotary Public Relations Chair

Why I Joined Rotary

My name is Marcus O’Malley and I recently joined the Fairfax Rotary Club. I grew up in Warrenton, Virginia and I am the sixth of seven children from an Irish family. I went to James Madison University and before graduating, entered a Microsoft competition. Four Computer Science students flew out to Redmond, Washington and won the national competition. This led us to decide to create a business called Immerge Technologies, which is still in existence today. During my time at the company I accepted Christ and it changed my life. I desired to become community focused and help others; this escalated when I heard Reverend Desmond Tutu speak of a need in South Africa for adults to come to volunteer time to work with kids in the community.  The work involved helping those desolated by AIDS to have mentors, be encouraged, and assisted in growing up. I was later nominated and selected to be part of a GSE team. However, upon praying about it I thought that I wouldn’t be able to impact the community in the way that I wanted to via the GSE group and regretfully declined the position.

In September 2008 I sold everything and moved to Cape Town, South Africa where I spent a year doing missions work. I worked with youth in the community from starting a Bible study with kids, to playing soccer and just hanging out and learning about the community. We  went on mission trips to rougher areas of South Africa to try to help and minister. We raised money to buy food, toys/games, learning tools, equipment and more to help folks that were starting after school programs, working with the homeless or under-served, orphans and other great programs. I used my skills as a designer to help with business cards, fliers, websites and marketing concepts for local entrepreneurs. Some days we made a bunch of hot dogs and drove around handing them out to the hundreds and thousands of homeless people in the area. It was an incredible journey and then I returned in September 2009 to be with my family and start a new business doing web development and marketing. I moved to Fairfax in January 2010 and reached out to the local Rotary club in which Irby Hollands invited me to and then Dr. Laura Hills encouraged me and shared about the passion of the group to do bigger and greater things domestically and abroad. I was invited to join up shortly thereafter and am really excited to be a part of Rotary moving forward.

 Posted by Marcus O’Malley, member of The Fairfax Rotary Club

Fairfax Rotary Club Supports Great Causes Both Home and Abroad

Recently, The Rotary Club of Fairfax Donated $1,000 towards ShelterBox, an International Disaster Relief Organization which helps people who have lost their homes due to natural and man-made disasters.  Every $1,000 donated helps a family of up to 10  regain their sense of safety, comfort and dignity.

Currently, an area of concentration for ShelterBox is Somalia, where the organization is partnering with the Women And Health Alliance (WAHA) International, setting up medical villages for displaced families at refugee camps, following the massive displacement of families fleeing famine and conflict around the country.

Badbaado Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camp is one of the largest in the African country’s coastal town of Mogadishu. WAHA International has set up a health center there with a hospitalization facility using disaster relief tents donated by ShelterBox, providing primary health care consultations and improving maternal health care services.

The ShelterBox tents not only provide a clean sterile area for the medical staff to work in, but also allow patients to be hospitalized while staying with their families rather than being separated. Pregnant women also have privacy when having antenatal consultations and giving birth.

Dr. Sinan Khaddaj, WAHA International Secretary General said, “These relief kits have made a dramatic difference to the well-being of hundreds of Somali families in dire need of assistance in Mogadishu.”

The pharmacy, consultation rooms, delivery room and small hospitalization unit are all housed in ShelterBox tents. Half of Somalia’s eight million people are facing acute food shortages and a lack of proper shelter and livelihoods. Some 1.5 million people are classed as IDPs, with more than 400,000 living in and around Mogadishu. ShelterBox and WAHA International have replaced old shelters in camps constructed of tarpaulin and sticks with ShelterBox tents providing shelter, warmth and dignity to thousands of displaced families.

                                        Posted by:  Susan Ireland, Fairfax Rotary Public Relations Chair