Joining Together to Help a Local Homeowner in Need

Service Above Self Task Force

This past Saturday, some of us from the Fairfax Rotary Club came together to help a Fairfax City family in need of a new handicap access ramp for their home.  The old ramp was falling apart; too dangerous even under the best of circumstances.  I arrived just in time to see that work was clearly underway . . .the saws were humming, the hammers were hammering, and in general a flurry of activity was all around!  Here we were, a few local citizens, doing our part to help a neighbor in need.  While I was never known for my skills with a saw, someone handed me a paint brush and away I went to help put a fresh coat of paint on the shed – I was happy as a camper because I love to paint!

John Brice builds ramp

The experience reminded me that everyone in our 100+ member Rotary Club is not only needed but relied upon.  We’re here to make a difference, even if it’s just one small project at a time.  While I didn’t have an opportunity to actually meet the homeowners that day, I couldn’t help but wonder what the family’s lives were like.  I kept thinking that if we could complete this one project today and give that family member a safe way to enter and exit her home, imagine the positive change we will cause.

I love this year’s Rotary theme and think it kind of ties into what we did Saturday.  Reach Within to Embrace Humanity.  And as our Rotary International President, Kalyan Banerjee recently said, “However long we have been in Rotary, we must always

Walt, Laura, Susan & Verne painting the shed

strive to grow as Rotarians – to find ways to help others, and to bring about all the positive change we can.  For this, more than anything is what makes our Rotary service worthwhile.”  He’s so right.


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

May You Live in Interesting Times

My friend Darity Wesley recently sent me some words of wisdom.  She said living in revolutionary times is not easy.  The Chinese have a blessing that also serves as a curse: “May you live in interesting times!”  Revolutions demand that we renounce those ideas and conceptions which keep us from moving forward. One of the most difficult things for us to do as members of the human species is to let go of old beliefs and perceptions.  History has shown that we are often willing to live unhappy, limited lives—or even die—rather than to change our beliefs, to see things in a new way, to release the old in favor of the new.

In parts of the world where peace initiatives keep breaking down over and over again, it is the rehashing of past grievances (whether religious or ethnic) that continuously stirs the fire of revenge.  Once revenge is accomplished, the opposing group wants the same thing and the strife goes on.  The only possible solution is to renounce vengeance.  It is only through forgiveness that we can find peace and freedom.

By releasing past injustices, past prejudices, and past hurts we can move forward.  Gandhi said that if everyone practiced the eye-for-an-eye morality, soon “the whole world would be blind.”  Perhaps it is natural to want to do to others what they have done to us, but it is not good enough.  It is not the way of spiritual advancement.  It was certainly not the way of Jesus.

It was his way to love the enemy, turn the other cheek, go the second mile.  He could renounce “natural” feelings in favor of spiritual ones.  Two thousand years ago he told us how to break the chain of recurrent strife and showed us the perfect example in the way he dealt with his own life.  He held out the promise of a perfect world.

Almost a century ago, another spiritual leader was envisioning a “new heaven and a new earth.”  Charles Fillmore wrote in the “Renunciation” chapter of The Twelve Powers of Man, “The earth is slowly regaining its equilibrium and will in due season be restored to its pristine golden age.”

But what is standing in the way of this miracle coming to pass?  Could it be us?

All our positive and determined efforts to make our lives and the world better may not  succeed unless we make the preliminary move of renunciation, of formally and voluntarily giving up whatever old ideas we are holding and starting with a clean slate.  I think Darity is on to something, do you?

Posted by Susan Ireland, Fairfax Rotary Club PR 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

January is Rotary Awareness Month

It’s a New Year, and a perfect time to consider all of life’s new possibilities!

Have you been considering doing something new with your life this year . . .maybe joining a service club that helps people both in your local community and people all over the world?  Most people have heard about Rotary, but not as many know the incredible advantages of becoming a Rotarian.  Since January is “Rotary Awareness Month,” I thought I would share just a few of them with you. 

The Opportunity to Serve  Rotarians provide service at both the community and international levels. Service programs address health-care needs, hunger and poverty, illiteracy, disaster relief, and environmental cleanups, to name a few. Members experience the fulfillment that comes from giving back to the community. 

Professional Networking  A founding principle of Rotary was to provide a forum for professional and business leaders. Members are leaders in business, industry, the professions, the arts, government, sports, the military, and religion. They make decisions and influence policy. Rotary is the oldest, most prestigious service club organization in the world. 

Personal Growth and Development  Membership in Rotary ensures continuing personal and professional development. Leadership, public speaking and communication, organization and planning, team-building, fundraising, and teaching are just a sampling of the skills that can be exercised and enhanced through Rotary.

Friendship  Fellowship was a primary reason Rotary was started in 1905, and it remains a major attraction. Today, with more than 31,000 Rotary clubs in over 165 countries, Rotarians have friends wherever they go. Rotary helps to build community as well as enduring friendships.

Cultural Diversity  Rotary International is an association of local clubs in many countries. Clubs are open to members of every ethnic group, political persuasion, language, and religious belief. Rotary clubs contain a cross-section of the world’s leaders. They practice and promote tolerance.

Good Citizenship  Membership in Rotary makes one a better citizen. Weekly Rotary club programs keep members informed about what is taking place in the community, nation, and world.  Rotary’s expansive network of clubs and programs provides extensive opportunities for service and interchange. 

World Understanding  Rotary members gain an understanding of humanitarian issues and have a significant impact on them through international service projects and exchange programs of RI and its Foundation. The promotion of peace is one of Rotary’s highest objectives.

Entertainment  Every Rotary club and district hosts parties and activities that offer diversion from one’s personal and business life. Conferences, conventions, assemblies, and social events provide entertainment as well as Rotary information, education, and service.

Family Foundations  Rotary sponsors some of the world’s largest youth exchange and educational exchange and scholarship programs. Rotary clubs provide innovative training opportunities and mentoring for future leaders. They involve family members in a wide range of social and service activities.

Ethical Environment  Rotarians practice a 4-Way Test that measures words and actions by their truthfulness, fairness, goodwill, and benefit to all. Encouraging high ethical standards in one’s profession and respect for all worthy vocations has been a hallmark of Rotary from its earliest days.

 So there you have it!  There’s lots of advantages to being a Rotarian.  If you would like more information, contact a local Rotary Club in your area.  Go to

                                                   posted by: Jennifer Rose, Fairfax Rotary Club Secretary

Do Americans Spend More on Charity in Hard Times?

This is almost unbelievable, but I recently read an article in Harvard Business Review that stated “In Hard Times, Americans Spend More on Charity and Cigarettes.”
Knowing how hard all of us Rotarians work to raise money for the important causes Rotary supports, I thought this was kind of good news (the support of charities, not necessarily the cigarettes!)

The article went on to say that in a recession that shrinks GDP by 2%, consumers increase their charitable expenses by 32%—about the same proportion by which they reduce their expenditures on jewelry and watches (35%), according to Wagner A. Kamakura of Duke University and Rex Yuxing Du of the University of Houston, who studied purchases by more than 66,000 U.S. households over two decades. Consumers also increase their tobacco expenditures by 16%. People are more likely to start smoking (and resume smoking after quitting) in recessions than in good times, the researchers say.

Source: How Economic Contractions and Expansions Affect Expenditure Patterns

posted by:  Susan Ireland, Fairfax Rotary Club member