This article first appeared in Milwaukee Rotary’s “Rotary WAVES” newsletter in November 2010.
Rotary Day at the United Nations is an annual conference which many of our members have attended over the years! (every year has a different topic / humanitarian focus)
The Rotary International United Nations Day was a whirlwind trip from Milwaukee to New York City and back in what felt like an incredibly short amount of time, despite the number of new things learned and Rotaractors and Rotarians met.
The day focused on the 2010 Rotary International mission and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of the United Nations. Several speakers gave equally informational and riveting presentations regarding topics such as educating women worldwide to decrease infant mortality rates, bringing water to the nations where it is needed most, combating the spread of HIV and AIDS and working together to fight polio. As we listened, several of our members noticed the theme of getting women and children better access to information, whether it was directly in the form of education, or less direct in the form of better health care. Getting the story straight from those individuals who are working so closely to the issues day in and day out, to Beth Althoff of Rotaract Milwaukee, “surpassed [our] expectations.” Rotaract Milwaukee Vice President, Amy Haffner, found that “hearing the information from the RI and UN members who are so passionately involved in resolving these issues was refreshing, and, although their stories were often heart-wrenching, their passion for their work alone made it seem that the [MDGs] were possible to attain.”
Several Rotaract Milwaukee members also noticed the UN’s goal of building more partnerships to increase their effectiveness in remote regions of the world. Rotaract Milwaukee’s President, Stacy Osten, noted that this is “something that Rotary has long done,” a sentiment echoed by UN speakers who mentioned the Rotary Foundation’s PolioPlus program as an example program for not only meeting a desperate need of local people, but also for coordinating efforts worldwide and outsourcing specialized work to those who are experienced in the skills needed. “Though we live in an age plagued with problems across the globe, the relationship between RI and the UN will continue to be a reminder of the hope that exists in this world,” Rotaract Milwaukee’s Immediate Past President, Will Mak, noted. Becky Curtis of Rotaract Milwaukee commented that collaboration such as that between RI and the UN “can more effectively address some of the world’s most serious issues,” which is exactly what we are seeing today, and will only continue to see more of.
Aside from the informational stories told throughout the day, RI UN Day was an excellent opportunity to meet Rotaractors and Rotarians from around the world. By meeting Rotaractors from Italy, Canada, Florida, New York and other locations around the world, we built better friendships that will not only help us as individuals grow into more worldly professionals, but that will also help our clubs be able to grow over time. We built a small, concentrated community within New York City of individuals committed to fellowship and service and bridged a few continents in doing so.
Special thanks to the Rotary club of downtown Milwaukee and the A.D. Robertson Fund for the United Nations for their generous support of Rotaract Milwaukee members attending this event!
Written by Amy Haffner, with contributions from Beth Althoff, Becky Curtis, Carol Alexander, Will Mak and Stacy Osten