RYLA 2016



I have written in this space more than once that being a District Governor comes with a  variety of perks.  (NOTE:  If you EVER get the chance to do this DG gig….do it!)   Being able to speak at RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership Awards) is certainly one of them.  In our District, Rotary clubs will sponsor one or two delegate to RYLA.  Many of them come from the club’s Interact club and some don’t.  All of the delegates are full of smarts, energy, and fun.  If you spend time with them I promise you will feel better about our future leaders.  These high school students are terrific!

Most of the time short video clips speak louder than words, and this is one of those times. Before you check out the clips of these extraordinary young men and women, let me thank this years District 7620 RYLA committee members, Rotarians Judy Cappuccilli, Ed Kumian, Mary Dudley, Rochelle Brown, Navin Valliappan, and Jimmie Gorski.  They do amazing work every year, handle all of the catastrophes that occur on a regular basis with perfect calm and understanding, and most importantly, manage to bring this program in on budget.  (Sorry….I’m a DG…..I couldn’t help the last comment.)

Enjoy the clips of the delegates:



Just one more.  These young leaders are amazing, aren’t they.  Definitely more mature than the Rotary District Governor taking the video!



The Best District Conference Ever

rotary program cover2

Thank you to Rotarian Darren Easton, Vice President and Creative Director of the Cyphers Agency, Annapolis, Md., for creating this amazing image.  How cool is this?

It’s getting on that time of the year where District Governor’s around the world, having finished their official Governor visits, now revisit their clubs to sell their District Conference.  DO NOT register for your District Conference because your DG signed a very expensive contract with a swanky hotel guaranteeing  the District will sell a minimum number of rooms at fancy hotel rates.  And don’t register because if the District doesn’t sell the minimum number of rooms the District will be obligated to pay many thousands of dollars in penalties with money that isn’t in the budget.  Pay no attention to the fact that the consequence of not selling enough rooms is the DG will be held in ridicule for the remainder of his or her Rotary career by everyone in his or her District.  Completely disregard that consequently the current DG will not be able to brag about his or her District Conference as a Past District Governor, to other PDGs who are also bragging about their District Conference, endlessly reliving the wild excitement of the event, while somewhat inaccurately inflating the attendance figures and generally claiming that theirs was the “best District Conference ever.”

Instead, register for the District Conference because Rotary District Conferences offer an extraordinary value proposition for those that choose to attend.  For most members, the Conference is a wonderful opportunity to see Rotary through a different perspective than the one they have from attending their club each week.   Interacting with Rotarians from around the Rotary District is generally educational, interesting, and fun.  That’s because, as surprising as it may seem, Rotarians themselves are generally (Four Way Test Alert…..I did say generally) interesting and fun….and sometimes educational.  Attending a District Conference is one of the best ways I know to learn from other Rotary clubs about the “best practices” that work for them.  Many Rotarians who attend the District Conference lean about best practices and other Rotary information from informed speakers and interesting breakout sessions.  Many other Rotarians find that the best time to steal….er…..borrow…..er…..discover  best practices is in the club-sponsored hospitality suites.  Here Rotary Clubs from around the District are busy offering free specialty drinks and desserts to Rotarians deeply interested in world peace.    After a couple of pops in the hospitality suites the true meaning of Rotary and frankly, life itself, is generally discovered by all concerned.  What fun!


Special thanks to First Lady, Linda Solow, for creating this amazing image.  How cool is this?

As we get closer to District Conference season, be kind to your District Governor.  He or she may take on a rather crazed look as the Conference grows ever closer and the terror of missing room guarantees looms ever larger.  You may notice a slight drop of drool escaping the corner of his or her mouth or evidence of an even larger drop on a shirt or blouse. Pretend not to notice.  They can’t help it.  Most District Governors at this time of year have no interest in world peace or “Being A Gift To the World,” or any of that other Rotary stuff. They are, in fact, much like the Maytag Repairman, simply waiting and watching for someone….anyone…..to register for their District Conference.

Ol' Lonely Maytag salesman Hardy Rawls.2003 to present. about to be replaced

If you are a member of Rotary District 7620 you are hereby officially invited to attend the District Conference on April 8 – 10 at the Hyatt Regency in Baltimore, Md.  If you are a RFA reader in the many foreign countries that follow this blog, you are also officially invited to attend the Rotary District 7620 Conference on April 8 -10 at the Hyatt Regency in Baltimore, Md.  And if you are a random person who has never heard of Rotary, who stumbled over this blog post while doing a Google search for “how to spell “conference” and who is reading this missive by mistake or some other tragic accident, you too are officially invited to attend the District 7620 District Conference.

To attend Register Here

It’s going to be the best District Conference EVER!!!!!

final conv logo



“Extending” a new Rotary club…”A Dive into a Pool of Positive Energy”


You get to do a whole lot of fun stuff when you are a District Governor in Rotary.  But I don’t know if you get to do anything too much more exciting than “extending” or “chartering” a new Rotary club.  Nowadays, my DG classmates tell me its a lot easier to start “satellite” Rotary clubs than it is to start a club from scratch, and they are probably right.  But if you’ve ever watched a group of dedicated people come together to learn about Rotary, get to know each other, and figure out just what the heck their club is going to be, I promise you it’s a process that is amazing.  I recently had the opportunity to participate in the charter celebration for our District’s sixty-second Rotary club, the Rotary club of Downtown Silver Spring, and it was a joyous occasion.  NOTE:  Our District strategic plan calls for us to extend two new clubs each year.  Since I closed a club this  year does this count as one or am I still net zero?

I suppose what I like best about chartering a new club is that new Rotary clubs really “don’t know what they don’t know.”  Who or what is to stop these super enthusiastic Rotarians from making a gigantic impact on their community?  Why shouldn’t the members become life-long friends both in and outside of Rotary?  And why couldn’t they become true citizens of the world and become completely engaged with Rotary in all of its international majesty?  I will say it again…(sorry about this)….but there is no “Good Idea Form” to fill out in District 7620.  This group of 26 new Rotarians can do just about whatever they want to do to make downtown Silver Spring a better place, limited only by their skill, imagination, and willingness to work hard at making a difference.  Starting a new club is like taking a dive into a pool filled with positive energy.  At least for this one morning it seemed like there is nothing that this group of men and women can’t accomplish.

Here is a two minute video of Past District Governor, and District 7620 club Extension Chair, Ray Streib, giving the oath of office to the club’s officers.  You might note someone (possibly your RFA editor) calmly and politely asking Ray to hurry up with the speechmaking.  I might add that Ray has been involved with extending more than 20 Rotary clubs.  I might also point out that he doesn’t read from a script when he gives the oath of office….and neither should anyone else.

I think for once I am going to shut up and let the pictures tell the story here.  But I do hope that the new Downtown Silver Spring Friday morning breakfast club does not forget the culture of membership growth that allowed them to grow from a couple of people who wanted to learn more about Rotary, into a new club with 26 members.  I just looked it up and can report that the city of Silver Spring has a population of 71,000.  If we include the Silver Spring-Kensington lunch club we have about 40 Rotarians serving the needs of the city.  I’m just spitballing here, but I’m guessing that about 100 Rotary members would have a huge impact on the city, would get the attention of local businesses as partners, and would make an impression on city government.  Come on Downtown Silver Spring…you can do this!

Here is a quick interview with the new leadership of the Downtown Silver Spring club.  I wouldn’t bet against this club, would you?



L – R  Charter President of the Downtown Silver Spring Rotary Club, Carson Henry, District Governor Nominee “Uncle” Greg Wims, and District Governor Elect, Anna Mae Kobbe.


Club Extension Chair, Ray Streib, making certain that Club President, Carson Henry, doesn’t screw anything up during this important occasion.


New members praying that the speeches will be over soon so that they can finally eat some breakfast.

And finally, the actual Club Charter.  You might note my signature next to some guy named Ravi.  We didn’t have the original at the ceremony so we gave them a cheap copy in a nice frame that Ray had laying around in his basement.  The real Charter will be safely in the hands of the club’s officers shortly.







No…No….Don’t unsubscribe to Ready, Fire, Aim for heavens sakes.  Unsubscribe to just about everything else.  I’ve decided to take a shot at reducing my email clutter.  Why not join me?

We learned long ago that one of the hardest things to do as a District Leader is to communicate by email with the Rotarians in the District.  One possible reason for this is that some Rotarians might not be interested in just about anything we have to say as a District Leader.  This might be because they are so involved with Rotary at the club level that the “District” has become at best a distraction, and at worst, an annoyance.  A second reason Rotarians might not be interested is because District Leaders don’t have much of anything interesting to say.  (I know this couldn’t possibly apply to me, but I’m just sayin….)  In other words, what if we really ARE sending spam out to the Rotarians in our District?  If that’s the case, then shame on us.

But I prefer to think that the reason its so hard to communicate with the Rotarians in the District is that they, like me, find themselves overwhelmed with email messages on a daily basis.  I know I get more than 200 emails per day and some of my friends just laugh because they get even more than I do.  In my case, I get emails from non-profits, retailers where I bought something in the past five years, investment research (I’m in the business), and yes….wait for it….Rotary emails.  Rotary emails come from just about everywhere, including Rotary International, Rotary Clubs, Rotary District Leaders, leaders from other Rotary Districts, Foundation appeals for projects from around the world, etc., etc., etc.  I realize that I signed up to be a District Governor so all of the Rotary email is just another part of the gig.  But for the typical, ordinary Rotarian, who is frantically digging through their mail so they don’t fall too far behind, then maybe, just maybe, reading a Rotary email is just a little too time consuming in the overall scheme of things.

NOTE:  I just was watching Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in Joe and the Volcano before dinner, and writing this post made me think about the two of them in You’ve Got Mail.  Sorry guys, but this is one of the classic “chick flicks” and if you can’t stand watching this scene, I perfectly understand.  Can you imagine WANTING to watch a movie called You’ve Got Mail? I know I’ve got mail, ….about 200 of them….every stinking day.  Anyway, watching this scene makes me weep.  It does.  Really.


Back to reality.  Here’s where this unsubscribe thing comes in.  Have you tried it?  It’s one of the most satisfying, entertaining, and thoroughly enriching experiences you can have.  I compare it to the feeling you get when you go through the easy pass lane on the freeway and watch the suckers waiting in a long line of cars to pay the toll.  Or the feeling you get when you go to Disney World and use your Fast Pass and walk right up to head of the line.  It’s glorious!

Unsubscribing from an email solicitation feels even better, because it’s the gift that keeps on giving.  Here’s the thing, though.  Don’t confuse unsubscribing to an email solicitation or newsletter by going down to very fine print at the bottom of the email, with clicking the unsubscribe button at the top of your email browser which “blocks” the mail.  (Anyway, thats what my twenty-four year old son told me and he is my personal tech support and I try to do exactly what he says.)  If you hunt through the microscopic small print at the bottom of the mail you will find something that says “click here to unsubscribe,” or “safe unsubscribe,” or “change your email preference.”  Any of the above allow you to click on a box that says unsubscribe.  Many times a quick quiz comes up and they want to know why you unsubscribed.  There is no option to answer, “I unsubscribed because I am desperately trying to recover at least some portion of my sanity and/or some portion of my life.” Therefore I just click on “I no longer want to receive this email.”  Direct, to the point, and absolutely accurate.  Just not dramatic enough for me, but again…that’s just me.

Every time you do it you feel great.  I mean, you FEEL GREAT!  You gotta try this.  Even so, I’ve been at this for a couple of weeks now and it still doesn’t seem like my email garbage is getting any better.  But sooner or later it will have an impact, right?  Once you make a dent, you will find yourself sitting back with your favorite beverage, with a half smile on your face, without a care in the world, opening and reading your Rotary email.  I promise to only send Rotary stuff that is life changing, like the last one I sent about attending my District Conference.  That’s not spam….that truly is a once in a lifetime opportunity!

No time stress while reading Rotary emails.  Doesn’t that sound great?






Steve Jobs and Rotary…reading things that are not yet on the page.


I just got finished reading Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs.  The book has been sitting on my bookshelf for a couple of years, ever since I received it at our Rotary club’s gift exchange a couple of years ago.  We play that game where you can “steal” a gift from others up to three times, or you can choose from the gifts that haven’t been opened.  You know that game, right?   No offense to whoever wrapped this particular book but I’m pretty sure the book wasn’t exactly “new” when I opened it, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, with the release of the new Steve Jobs movie, I thought it might be a good time to finally get down to reading it.  So over the Christmas break I’ve been totally immersed in the incredible and compelling story of Steve Jobs.  As the Founder and CEO of Apple and Pixar, Jobs literally changed our world in more ways than I realized before I read his story. And, as your hard working RFA editor, I managed to find many lessons on Rotary leadership in the book.

Here is one of my favorite quotes from Jobs about his views on customer satisfaction:

Some people say, “Give the customer what they want.”  But that’s not my approach.  Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do.  I think Henry Ford once said, “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, “A faster horse!” People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.  That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.”

Here’s how this might relate to Rotary leadership.  When our task is to rethink how to make Rotary more relevant in our community.  How to reengage Rotarians in our clubs.  How to have more impact and make more of a difference in how we serve others, and how to attract the next generation to Rotary, perhaps the last thing we should do is to take a poll of our club members to see what they think the club should do.  It’s possible that they will say “they want a faster horse.”

Maybe what is needed is a leap in imagination. We need our Rotary leaders, at every level, to leapfrog what seems to be the desires of our customers (our current Rotarians) and create a vision that is so powerful that they realize that the new, bigger vision, for Rotary is what they wanted all along.

The Think Different ad campaign for Apple ran from 1997 – 2002.  To be honest with you I never paid that much attention to it before.  Think about Rotary as you listen to this message.  Breathtaking!  (By the way, that’s Richard Dreyfus doing the voiceover in this commercial.  Jobs also recorded the voiceover, but he decided not to use it for the commercial.  They played his recording at the memorial service for him after he passed.)

You might think I’m being overly dramatic, and maybe I am, but our organization allows us to do exactly this.  We have our own Steve Job’s right here in District 7620, and his name is Dr. John Sever.  What kind of dreamer…..or visionary…..or delusional person, would write a letter to the RI President, Clem Renouf, in 1979, and suggest that “we eradicate polio for all the children of the world?”  Sever, Renouf, and Cliff Dochterman, among many others, came up with a vision to eradicate polio more than thirty years ago.  They really did help the rest of us to Think Differently.  I wonder how they must feel today about what Rotary is about to accomplish?

Steve Jobs changed our lives.  Rotary, with our partners, is about to do the same worldwide.  It would be great if this year we all allowed ourselves to be “the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels…” Let’s reimagine Rotary this year.




Let The Force Awaken Your Rotary Club


I don’t want anyone to think that I’ve been caught up in last weekend’s Star Wars mania.  I haven’t.  However, I do think someone needs to point out that Leia, Luke, Han, and Chewy, were actually Rotarians in a Galaxy Far Far Away.  Yes, it’s true.  And I have the video to prove it. I present to you the final scene of Star Wars Episode IV, A New Hope, where Luke and Han receive their Paul Harris medallion from District Governor Leia.  It’s notable that even though Chewy gave enough to the Foundation to qualify for his Paul Harris, Director, George Lucas, did not include his award in the final cut.  Many Star Wars fans have been puzzled (well…pissed off is a better term) by this for years.

Most of us could learn a few lessons from Princess Leia in regards to the awards ceremony itself.  I’ve been to countless awards ceremonies in Rotary clubs in our District, and I’ve yet to hear a John Williams score, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, while pinning a Paul Harris pin, or a new member pin, or any other pin, on one of our members. Why not?   The least we could do is crank up some sounds as background music from someone’s smart phone.

Also notable is the fact that the Paul Harris pendant awarded to Luke and Han Solow….er Han Solo, is attached to a ribbon that she gracefully puts over the head of the recipients who slightly bow to receive their medal.  This is much preferred to the awkward fumbling that almost always occurs when affixing pins to men and women’s clothing.  Virtually all male District Governor’s live in abject fear of having to affix a Paul Harris pin, or new member pin, on a female Rotarian wearing any kind of a low cut dress.  For me, wisdom and self preservation require simply handing the pin to the woman and letting her put the pin on by herself.  I recently had the misfortune of putting a Paul Harris pin on a man’s suit coat only to have him whisper to me that I owed him for a new coat because I did not put the pin in the suit’s lapel slot.  Oy!

Check out this ceremony.  Awesome.

I might add that if you go to see Episode VII, The Force Awakens, don’t expect to see these characters looking anything like the characters in this clip.  Instead you will see these characters after they’ve aged enough to be…..in your Rotary Club!  That’s right!  Luke, Han, and Leia have aged to be the exact demographic of our average Rotarian.  As you watch them on screen it will occur to you why all Rotary clubs need to be thinking about their next generation of Rotarians.  It’s not that we can’t get it done any more, but one look at this bunch will confirm that their club definitely needs to “awaken.”  In fact, new members are “THE FORCE” that can awaken a Rotary Club.

So, If you haven’t already seen it, (you probably have), check out the newest Star Wars movie about aging Paul Harris Fellows and how they need a new generation of Rotarians to awaken the Force.  Too much fun!!!



14 Steps to an AMAZING Community Service Project


61.  The number of Official DG visits that this DG has completed.  Since it is also the number of clubs in District 7620, it means that I’m DONE.  Finished.  Toast.  Complete. Nothing left to do but mail it in.  Take a nap.  Write my memoirs.  And…file my expense report.  Or….maybe just have more time to cause a lot more mischief around here.  What fun!

61 is also the number of one of the most famous home runs ever hit.  Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s single season home run record with his 61rst home run on the last day of the 1961 season, long before steroids made a mockery of home run stats.  I wanted to show you the clip of Maris’s home run here but I can’t get the YouTube clip to play, so instead, I present to you what is definitely, and without argument, the most amazing home run ever to grace a movie….Roy Hobb’s game winner in the Natural.  It just doesn’t get better than this.  It wasn’t Maris’s number 61, but it should have been.

OK.  I can’t help myself.  I hated this guy when he was with the Yankees, AND when he was with my beloved Orioles, but his home run in the 1971 All-Star Game was as close as you could come to Roy Hobbs in real life.  Off the transformer on the roof of Tiger’s Stadium! Unbelievable really.  (Only 46 seconds.  I promise to get to Rotary stuff in less than a minute.)  Too bad the camera man couldn’t track the ball hitting the transformer.

Back to Rotary.  I promised to get back into HOW TO actually plan and implement a community changing, high impact project, since this blog has focused on the subject more than a few times. Most recently, The Magic of Thinking Big in Rotary, featured a multi-District International project.  In my club visits I’ve been asked how do you do a LOCAL project that meets RI President Ravi Ravindran’s mantra, “Solve a huge problem in your community and your PR and membership problems will solve themselves”?

Here’s the answer in 14 startling easy steps.

  1.  Decide to make a huge impact on your community because as President Ravi says, “The time is now.  It will never come again.”  The next line is “Be a Gift to the World” but you already knew that.
  2. Go to your club’s Board and get them to agree that solving a major problem in the community should be the MOST IMPORTANT element of your strategic plan.  What is the VISION for you club?  What do you want to accomplish?  All of the other rubbish about growing by net one or two members will have to be revised upwards when you come up with an answer that your club is PASSIONATE about.
  3. Have a Club Assembly and inform your membership that the Board has decided it’s time to have a much bigger impact on your community.  Get the member’s feedback and support.  Sell them on a vision that is awesome, magnificent, and inspiring.
  4. Give your club no less than six months and as much as a year to assess your community needs and find strategic partners both in and out of Rotary.
  5. Meet with the largest private business in your town and find out what THEY think is the biggest problem is in your community.  They will probably have a full-time employee whose job is to be a community liaison.  Let him or her know your Rotary club  might want to partner with them to solve the problem THEY think is most important.  Develop a relationship with him or her.  (Your town will have many branch offices of businesses where the home office is located outside of your town.  Find businesses where the home office is located in your community.)
  6. Meet with the next two largest private businesses (public employers are OK too but not as good as private employers) in town and let them know what the largest private business thinks is the biggest problem in town.  Ask them, “IF OUR CLUB IS A PARTNER with the biggest business in town to solve this important community problem,  would you be interested in being part of the deal?
  7. If businesses one through three by size won’t meet with you (they will, but I’m just sayin) then keep going until you find businesses that WILL meet with you.
  8. Meet with city and local and government officials and find out what they think are the biggest problems in town.  Ask if they agree with the opinions of the largest businesses in your town.  Local clergy will also have some great ideas, as will lots of other people, but I don’t want to make this list too long so I’m cheating and mentioning them all here under #8.
  9. Meet with the local Rotary clubs in your area and get their opinions about community assessment.  IF OUR CLUB PUT TOGETHER A PARTNERSHIP with the biggest three businesses in town, would your club(s) want to partner with us to increase Rotary’s impact on the project?
  10. Call your new friends at the LARGEST business in your community and ask them, “would they consider a partnership with you to solve either a) the problem they wanted to solve, or b) the problem that you uncovered in your assessment, IF you could bring the two other prominent businesses AND three or four other Rotary clubs to the table?”
  11. Form a committee consisting of a public- private partnership of community leaders, including government, business, and Rotary, to develop a plan of action for your project.
  12. When designing your project, make sure to tick off the following boxes to accomplish ALL of your objectives.  1) Does the project solve an important problem in your community? 2)  Does your community recognize this as an important problem?  3) Will your project engage your Rotary members?  Will it give them a real “hands on” role that will spark their enthusiasm? 4) Can you promote this project and does it have the kind of “optics” that make for a good PR campaign? 5) Can you build a highly visible fundraiser or other event around this project to further promote Rotary in your community?
  13. You now have a project that offers Rotary’s expertise, sweat equity, and PRESTIGIOUS BRAND, alongside of a large company’s ability to obtain financing and provide PR, alongside of local government’s approval that this project is meaningful and impactful.
  14. Execute!

That was easy, wasn’t it?  Join Leaders.  Exchange Ideas.  Take Action.  Someone in your town is going to want to solve the biggest problems in your community.  Why shouldn’t your club take the lead in finding out who they are?  We can do this!



Washington Post article: By tracing cellphones, Pakistan makes inroads in war against polio


A Pakistani health worker administers a polio drop to a child during a vaccination campaign in Peshawar. (A Majeed/AFP/Getty Images)

I’m probably going to get into trouble for this… (sigh).  If anyone from the Washington  Post objects to me reprinting their article on Polio Eradication that appeared in the Post on November 18th, contact me and I will gladly take down this post.  (Note to Washington Post:  Please don’t sue me because I still have to make my Paul Harris Society contribution to the Rotary Foundation for this year.)  I thought Tim Craig’s reporting was fantastic and the news continues to be positive.  I know my RFA readers will be disappointed that Rotary (once again) isn’t more prominently mentioned in this article, although a quote from Aziz Memon, chair of Rotary International’s Pakistan PolioPlus Committee, is included in the discussion about women being an important part of a successful new strategy to reach Pakistani households.   You will be glad to know that RI’s PR department is gearing up for a worldwide public image campaign about polio eradication once we’ve got this thing licked.  In the meantime, enjoy this account of what is going on with Pakistan’s effort to eradicate polio.

November 18

In a surprising turnaround, Pakistan appears to be finally getting a handle on its polio epidemic, thanks to unorthodox tactics such as tracking residents’ cellphones.

The 85 percent decline in new cases this year is boosting confidence that Pakistani officials are on pace to stop the spread of the virus here, perhaps as early as next year. If Pakistan can achieve that goal, the world will take a major step toward becoming ­polio-free.

In late September, the World Health Organization declared that polio was no longer “endemic” in Nigeria, leaving only Pakistan and Afghanistan on the list of countries where the crippling virus continues to spread.

The revelation that the CIA had used a fake vaccination campaign to gain intelligence on the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden in 2011 had been a huge blow to Pakistan’s efforts against the disease, especially in areas where Islamist militant groups were strong.

But as the militants have loosened their grip on Pakistan’s northwestern tribal belt, health officials are vaccinating hundreds of thousands of children for the first time.

As a result, Pakistan has reported 40 new polio cases this year, compared with about 240 at this time last year. Pakistani officials say they believe they are on track to vaccinate nearly all children younger than 5 by next summer.

“If the next few vaccination rounds are implemented, and we continue to reach all the children we need to reach, we should be home very soon,” said Mazhar Nisar, head of Pakistan’s emergency polio office. “The key challenge had been security, but now the government has taken that on head-on.”

Many international health experts remain skeptical that Pakistan can rise to that challenge, citing bureaucratic obstacles and uncertainty that the country’s improved security can be maintained. Last month’s earthquake, which killed more than 200 and left tens of thousands of residents homeless, served as a reminder that Pakistan has a reputation as a magnet for crises that quickly distract political leaders and relief organizations.

But Hamid Jafari, director of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative for the WHO, said Pakistan’s government has shown progress as it lurched onto a war footing to combat the disease.

“You see the senior officers of security agencies, and the Pakistan army, now sitting with program managers in emergency operations centers co-planning and co-coordinating,” Jafari said. “You get a very good sense that all the ministries of the government are involved.”

That coordination began late last year as Pakistan’s army pressed into North Waziristan, which had been controlled by Taliban militants and was largely off-limits to vaccination teams.

When more than 100,000 families were evacuated from the area, they were stopped at roadside checkpoints and forced to take a drop of the polio vaccine.

Later, when the displaced residents were registered at refugee camps, they were given a surprising offer: free SIM cards for their phones.

Unbeknownst to the recipients, health officials used the SIM cards to track them as they resettled in other parts of the country. Their locations were mapped in new polio-eradication command centers. When clusters of residents from North Waziristan were identified, teams were sent out to again administer the vaccine.

“We were able to trace them, map them and follow up with them,” said Safdar Rana, head of Pakistan’s Program on Immunization.

The controversial strategy was combined with outreach to religious leaders, the creation of community health centers and a renewed push to put women — not men — on the front lines of the campaign to eradicate polio. But as with many other aspects of life here, the battle against polio is inextricably linked to efforts to overcome the threat posed by Islamist militancy.

Attacks on polio vaccination teams, provoked by the CIA ruse in 2011, resulted in the deaths of 74 people from 2012 to 2014, including 41 last year. So far this year, however, the number of deaths has dropped to 10, according to government figures.

With security improving, health officials are able to vaccinate more children. They estimate that just 16,000 to 18,000 Pakistani children are still “inaccessible” to vaccinators compared with the half-million who were out of reach two years ago.

Back then, that large reservoir of unvaccinated children in North Waziristan and a few other places threatened to become an incubator from which the virus could spread to other countries.

In 2013 and 2014, for the first time in more than a decade, 36 new infections were reported in Syria while two cases surfaced in Iraq. Health officials said they believe the virus was transported to the Middle East from Pakistan. The new cases horrified the WHO, which began publicly shaming Pakistani leaders to step up their response.

Since then, Jafari said, there has been considerable progress in the global fight against polio. The last reported case in the Middle East was in April 2014. The last reported case in Africa was in Somalia in August 2014. Nigeria has not reported a new case since July 2014.

But the gains made in Pakistan this year are threatened by continued insecurity across the border in Afghanistan, Jafari said. To be declared “polio-free,” Pakistan and Afghanistan must go three years without any reported cases, he added.

Vaccinators have been unable to reach 30,000 to 60,000 Afghan children because security has worsened in eastern provinces, Jafari said, in part because Pakistan’s military has driven thousands of militants across the border. So far this year, 13 new polio cases have been reported in Afghanistan, a slight increase over last year’s pace, Jafari said.

The continued potential for cross-border spread of the ­virus has health officials gearing up for a new fundraising drive. The five-year, $5.5 billion budget for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative will be depleted at the end of 2018. An additional $1.5 billion will need to be spent to continue the campaign through 2019, Jafari said.

In Pakistan, the money has helped pay for 2,000 community health centers that entice parents with basic health-care services and provide an opportunity for medical staffers to vaccinate children.

Pakistani officials also report success in recruiting 4,000 “community volunteers,” with a special focus on attracting women to the jobs who become the public face of vaccination campaigns in their neighborhoods. In conservative areas, mothers are more likely to invite another woman into the house than they are a man.

“This has been a game-changer because now they are able to reach households we missed earlier,” said Aziz Memon, chair of Rotary International’s Pakistan PolioPlus Committee.

Officials also arranged a series of meetings with religious leaders to try to enlist their support in combating rumors that the vaccine can make children sterile or gay.

As for the tracking of North Waziristan residents, Rana said the SIM cards were initially designed to give the government a way to notify the displaced residents about when they could pick up cash assistance payments. Intelligence agencies also had an interest in keeping tabs on where the displaced residents were, according to government officials familiar with the matter.

But when someone suggested that the SIM cards could also be used in the fight against polio, Rana said that his office, the army and the country’s telecommunications office quickly implemented a plan that involved the tracking of about 75,000 families.

“We saw an opportunity, and we took that opportunity,” Rana said. “We will continue to look for opportunities to finish this job.”

Read more:

Muslim scholars join vaccination effort as violence hinders Pakistan polio drive

CIA vaccine program used in bin Laden hunt sparks criticism

Polio fighters in Pakistan struggle against myths and realities

Shaiq Hussain contributed to this report.

Tim Craig is The Post’s bureau chief in Pakistan. He has also covered conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and within the District of Columbia government.

A Great PR Idea for Multiple Rotary Clubs

2015 Rotary cover


Rotarian Becky Mangus and business partner, former Rotarian Cathy Yost, own the Business Monthly.  Each year they do a Rotary Salute that promotes Rotary and the various Rotary clubs that serve the Howard County and Anne Arundel County area.  This year’s insert is 16 pages full of articles about Rotary Youth Exchange, Rotary Tidbits, short pieces about the Rotary Foundation and Rotary International, our District’s Young Professional Summit and Peace and Conflict Transformation workshop, a nice story about polio eradication, and a variety of articles about club projects.   The ads are purchased by Rotary clubs and Rotarian-owned businesses in the area.

The insert is a wonderful PR tool and it can be used as a stand alone piece to educate potential members about Rotary.  It’s a great handout for club visitors.  The real beauty of this insert is that the clubs buy ads each year that pay for the piece, so any local newspaper could do the same kind of thing.  Why not see if your local paper would be willing to create a Rotary insert paid for by ads about the clubs that participate?  If you are in the local business community, you read the Business Monthly.  Last month their 75,000 readers learned about Rotary in a format that was impressive and, unlike Facebook, doesn’t scroll down the page and disappear.  (Which is one of those not to be forgotten benefits of traditional media.)  Thank you Becky, Cathy, and all of the clubs that participate!

Each year the District Governor buys an ad (of course) and gets the privilege of writing the District Governor’s Letter for the Rotary Salute.   I thought I would share my letter with all of my long-suffering RFA readers.  Would a message like this resonate with the readers of your local paper?  As you will see, I have no problems making bold predictions about Rotary membership.  In this case, I predict Rotary membership is about to explode higher.  Why?  Well….read on.


Oct masthead.indd

Rotary Membership Is About to Dramatically Increase

I believe Rotary membership is about to dramatically increase in Howard and Anne Arundel counties, and across the rest of Rotary District 7620 in Maryland, the United States and around the world. An increase in Rotary membership would be welcome news for the local and international community, because Rotarians have been consistently improving the quality of life in Howard and Anne Arundel counties, and in the state of Maryland, for close to 100 years.

Why am I so sure that membership is going to increase? There are a number of forces at work that are going to make Rotary membership extremely attractive to individuals looking for an opportunity to serve.

One reason to be optimistic about the growth of Rotary in Maryland is an increasing awareness that the unique value proposition of Rotary is still highly valuable for many concerned citizens. Rotarians seek to do community service both locally and around the world. Additionally, While helping others, Rotarians develop strong relationships that help them to develop their business and community interests over time.

Finally, because Rotary clubs meet on a systematic basis, the clubs are wonderful venues to form special and long-lasting friendships. This combination of service, networking and fellowship has been the “secret sauce” of Rotary since the organization was founded.

So what is different today?

For the first time in years, Rotarians are recognizing that Rotary clubs have an opportunity to effect extraordinary positive change in their local communities by working together. Howard County currently has seven very active Rotary clubs. Anne Arundel County currently has nine active clubs.

Traditionally, each club independently approaches community service through a variety of projects. In the case of Howard and Anne Arundel, I estimate that there are a collective total of more than 50 small and important service projects completed each year.

As these clubs begin to better coordinate their efforts, their work is going to be more visible to their neighbors. The scale of the projects they do is going to increase, the impact on local community problems will be dramatic, and Rotary’s efforts will consequently be more newsworthy.

In short, communities are going to be reminded that Rotary is a powerful force for good, and interested parties will want to participate.

Rotary itself is recognizing that without a more proactive approach to promoting itself and the work we do, as well as a new approach to scaling the service work we do through partnerships, the organization is in danger of losing its brand as one of the world’s preeminent service organizations.

With an urgent new focus on promoting change in Rotary clubs worldwide, Rotary International is asking Rotary clubs to be more creative and innovative in meeting the needs of a new generation of members. With clubs finding ways to significantly reduce membership costs while at the same time increasing the flexibility of attendance requirements, Rotary membership will once again have to be considered by anyone who is serious about making a positive difference in his or her hometown and around the world.

At the same time Rotary is recognizing a need to change, other forces that are positive for Rotary are emerging. Baby Boomers are now becoming “empty nesters” and for the first time are considering how they can “give back” to the community.

For many, an accident of history has meant that they weren’t called to serve in the armed forces. And for many, our secular society has not offered them an obvious way to serve others while they were focused on family and career. For this group, Rotary represents an important opportunity to “give back” in terms of time, expertise and treasure. They will find that Rotary’s core value proposition uniquely fits their need to serve, to network and to meet new and interesting like-minded people.

Interestingly, baby boomers are also finding that their social networks are beginning to unravel.  As they reach retirement age, many are realizing that their friends from the kids soccer and other school-oriented pursuits are leaving town to chase the sunshine…or the kids and grandkids.  Rotary as a place to find and build new friendships is an interesting value proposition for boomers seeking to rebuild their networks.

While baby boomers are finding themselves with time on their hands, echo boomers and millennials are faced with a time crunch. Careers for both parents, along with the demands of parenting itself, make time management a precious commodity. Many are hiring career and/or life coaches who counsel time-crunched young professionals to join leads clubs and other networking organizations to maximize their time and form important relationships.

This group is about to find out that Rotary is the best dollar-for-dollar networking opportunity in town. In fact, Rotary has been called the “original social network.” Rotarians have been influencers in their town and business community for years, and doing community service side by side with a Rotarian is the best way to develop real and rewarding relationships. In addition, many young professionals will benefit from real-world opportunities to practice leadership skills afforded to Rotary club members.

Finally, Rotary International is on the brink of pulling off what is perhaps the single most important achievement in public health history: the eradication of the wild polio virus. After 36 years of diligent work, the partnership of Rotary International, the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control, UNICEF, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is getting very close to achieving its goal. As this achievement becomes recognized, Rotary will receive an unprecedented amount of well-deserved public recognition, again spurring service-minded people to learn more about the organization.

All of the above is providing a powerful cocktail for membership growth in Rotary. If you would like to learn more about Rotary, visit www.Rotary.org. You will find a Rotary club that meets either in the morning, at lunch or in the evening, in a location near you. Visit one soon. You will like the people that you are going to meet.


     Ken Solow, District Governor

     Rotary District 7620

Becky/Cathy 2
Business Monthly owners Becky Mangus (L) and Cathy Yost



The Magic of Thinking Big in Rotary


When asked, “why doesn’t Rotary spend more money on PR?”, RI President Ravi Ravindran responded with the easily predictable answer, “We don’t have the money to do a massive media campaign.”  But what he said next was worthy of our attention.  Speaking to a Town Hall Meeting of forty District 7620 Club Presidents, he related the following advice.  “If you want to solve all of your membership and PR problems, find a solution to a major problem in your community.  We have many smart Rotarians in our clubs.  Come up with the plan and the sweat equity to get the project done.  Don’t worry about the money.  The money will find you.  When the community understands that Rotary helped solve an important problem in your town, all of your membership and PR problems will be solved.”

My initial thought upon hearing this advice, coming from a guy who built what…twenty two elementary schools and a hospital in his home country of Sri Lanka, was ARE YOU KIDDING?  Who is going to teach our clubs how to do deals like that?  But the more I think of it, the more I think he is exactly right. What important, impactful, community changing projects are we involved with in our Rotary clubs?  And how do you figure out how to do such a project?  Who do you partner with?  How do you assess the big needs in your community?  How do you get the funding?  I’ve come to the conclusion that we might not be thinking big enough in Rotary, at least at the club level.

While I’m on the subject of The Magic of Thinking Big, let me strongly recommend you read the classic book on the subject by David J. Schwartz.  It’s one of those books that might change your life.

Here’s a real life “big idea” story that just happened in Zone 33-34.  When the DG class of 2015-16 first got together as DGN’s, they took the measure of each other and realized that collectively they had a remarkable lack of ego.  As they got to know each other better the notion of doing a service project together was broached over an appropriate number of beverages at a hospitality suite at the following year’s Zone Institute in Asheville, NC.   After watching a spellbinding presentation by Marion Bunch, Founder and CEO of the  Rotary Action Group, Rotarians for Family Health and Aids Prevention (RFFHA), at that same Institute, Marion was asked a simple question.  Since we had 29 Districts in our Zone, and if hypothetically all of them contributed $2,000 of DDF to a project, and if we got matched by TRF dollar for dollar, then we would be dealing with a chunk of change of about $116,000. The question was, “hey…can we do a deal with you where we can fund a Rotary Family Health Day for about a $100,000 price point?”

Guess what?  The answer was yes and the Zone 33-34 Ghana Family Health Day project was born.  As it turns out, no one at Rotary International knows of another project that was funded (as it ultimately turned out) by 22 Districts.  Not clubs.  Districts.  Yes, different DGs in the Zone handled the fundraising in different ways, with some getting club contributions.  But most found a way to fund the project using District DDF.  The Ghana Rotary Family Health Day project benefited 40,000+ Ghanians.  The total cost of the project was $114,000.  My District’s investment in the project was $3,000 of DDF.  I hope you will take a second to watch this three and one half minute video about how this got put together.

NOTE:  The video itself was conceptualized, written, and produced, in about three hours at this year’s Zone Institute in San Destin, Fla.  The video itself is a tribute to how a big idea can come to fruition when you have motivated, talented, and passionate Rotarians involved.  We are rewriting the script to focus more on Rotary clubs and I will post the final version on RFA when its complete.  In the meantime, take a look at this.

If you happen to be looking for a great program for the month of November (Foundation Month), why not check out this award winning documentary produced by RI all about RFFHA and Family Health Days.  It’s twenty four minutes long and perfectly tells a story about a Rotarian who learned about thinking big.  (Click on About Us and then Documentary.)

Let’s try to take RI President Ravi’s advice and think bigger.  After all, there is nothing limiting the scale of the service projects we take on other than our own imagination, our skill, our ability to create partnerships, and our determination.  Since its Foundation Month, it might be a good time to remember that if you want to do a BIG project, the Rotary Foundation is standing by to help.   All you need is a great idea that falls into one of the six areas of focus, a bunch of qualified partner clubs who share your vision, a strong international partner, and someone who can write a grant.  Why not?  Let’s do this!!