Stumbling Across a Movement: NewGen Peacebuilders Empowers Young Adults

American inventor Charles Kettering said “Keep on going, and chances are you will stumble onto something, perhaps when you are least expecting it. I never heard of anyone ever stumbling on something sitting down.”   On a Saturday in May 2016, I got off my tail, visited a neighboring Rotary District Conference and stumbled upon NewGen Peacebuilders, a movement led by Rotary Peace Fellow Patricia Shafer.  That Saturday meeting with Patricia was the spark for NewGen Peacebuilders in our Rotary District.

NewGen Peacebuilders is a program that centers on peace and conflict resolution, a Cause for Rotary Action.  The program forms a cohort of college or high school students through application & interview.  The program provides a series of weekend workshop/retreats, independent study and webinars covering conflict resolution, human rights, gender & race equality using nonviolent communication, conflict transformation and peacebuilding techniques.  Students form teams based on passions for issues – then apply techniques towards team peace education projects.  Peace education projects, like service projects, begin in the Community.  Think Global Act Local.  The result was peace education projects in communities like yours.

The program attracts those destined for international exchange, ambassadorial scholars, even Peace Fellows along their paths of diplomacy and world understanding.  We in Rotary expect to see these students again – each is worthy of our support.

Rotary District 7570 introduced the NewGen Peacebuilder program to college and university students in September 2017.  Our charter class of 21 students gathered from five Virginia Campuses including Mary Baldwin, James Madison, Washington & Lee, Virginia Tech, and Bluefield College.  An amazing cohort!  Meet our Charter Students in this “DG Moment” Video.

Weekend Workshops were held at Washington & Lee University.  The workshops were led by Rotary Peace Fellows and NewGen Co-Founders Patricia Shafer and Phil Gittins.  Students were assisted by a passionate group of District 7570 Rotarian Mentors having conflict resolution experience and skills, led by Bluefield Rotarian Assaad Mounzer.   Lexington Rotarians provided lodging and meals for students.

Classes involved facilitated group discussions…

Faciliatatd Group disc

Students selected and justified the most meaningful events towards peace:

Ranking of Events

Students unbundled major current issues using The Conflict Tree.  Check out this Basic Conflict Tree Explanation Here

Root Cause Analsis.JPG

Teams formed based on passions for various Core Issues.  Teams then set out to better understand the Core Issue components through Mind Mapping

Mind Mapping

Real-time research, data mining and mentor guidance resulted in a deeper understanding of the Core Issue.

Formation of Team Peace Projexts

More research….


….followed by discussion and synthesis of group peace education project proposals….

In Depth Discussion


Well considered team projects resulted.  For example, one project called Keep It Clean: Water Quality Awareness and Advocacy addressed the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and water quality in Staunton, Virginia.  Check out the short presentation Here

Capture Water

Another Project called Connected Across Culture: Facilitating Refugee/Police Dialogue – created a cross cultural awareness program including the Sudanese Community and Police in Harrisonburg, Virginia, resulting in new dialogue among 40 Sudanese Adults, 11 Children and five Officers.  Check out the short presentation Here


NewGen Peacebuilders has a place in our Cause for Peace & Conflict Resolution, and we look forward to expanding the program within our District and introducing the program to Rotarian friends beyond our District – hopefully next in Beirut Lebanon.

Consider “stumbling” into NewGen Peacebuilders.  You will meet amazing young adults and become more aware of community issues.  Contact Me for more.

Effective Healthcare in Appalachia: Our Mobile Vision Unit

Blank Skin MVU Truck & TrailerCropped

This unassuming rig will soon deliver vision care to over 1,000 Appalachian Neighbors per year  – thanks to the collaborative efforts of Rotary District 7570, The Rotary Foundation, Friends in Need, Appalachian Miles for Smiles, Remote Area Medical (RAM-USA), the Lions Club, The Health Wagon and Cigna Health.   Now there’s a partnership focused on doing good in our world!

We will reach patients who would otherwise not receive optical care from lack of local providers and/or inability to pay.  Patients will receive a comprehensive eye exam, eyeglasses (lenses to be ground on centrally located RAM USA equipment & frames provided by the Lions Club), referrals for diagnosed eye disease and general health indications (including hypertension and diabetes).  A comprehensive eye examination does a lot of good!

Cigna Health donated the 40 foot diesel-powered and air conditioned trailer.  Here’s a look at the inside prior to renovation – looks kinda tight!

Inside MVU blank

Rotary will outfit the trailer with three optical evaluation stations and one ophthalmic eye examination station.  Friends in Need will operate the unit alongside the Appalachian Miles for Smiles  The total renovation cost is $50,000 – including $10,000 being raised by Rotarians in local clubs and $40,000 in Rotary Foundation matching funds.   Rotarians will dedicate 860 hours to transform the trailer into a Mobile Vision Unit in the summer of 2018, the result much like the Dental Unit already in operation:

RAM Oral Surgery

How did this happen?  It started with a solid partnership with Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia Rotarians along with the founders of Appalachian Miles for Smiles.  We shared the vision that mobile health is an effective delivery system in Appalachia.  Next we visited the Remote Area Medical Health Fair in Wise Virginia, summer 2016:

Joe and John

Johnson City retired Orthodontist John Bradshaw (L) and Kingsport Pediatrician Joe Ley, both active Rotarians, toured the Wise health fair with then Rotary District Governor-Elect Dick Ray and were amazed at the scale and efficiency of the RAM event – treating  1,000 patients with comprehensive health services in three days.   Founded by Stan Brock (remember “Wild Kingdom”?), these are Huge Events

Dr Joe Bruce John

Led by RAM-USA Medical Director Dr. Joe Smiddy (L) and Rotarian Bruce Sites (R), we saw tightly coordinated intake, diagnosis and delivery of about 300 glasses per day as one part of the health fair.  The glasses were ground “on-site” at the health fair.

Making Glasses

It took multiple tents and examination areas for vision care at the Wise health fair.  A more mobile approach is for the Mobile Vision Unit to “be on the road” – arriving in the patient’s community, delivering free examination, diagnosis and prescription, and referring to partner practitioners/hospitals when needed.  Glasses are ground centrally and mailed to the patient within a few days.  Picture the Mobile Vision and Dental Units trekking along – doing good in our world!

Learn more about Mobile Health Delivery at The Health Wagon

Mobile Health was pioneered by The Health Wagon of Virginia – which continues in practice and provides program expertise based on 20 years of mobile health experience.  See this Moving 60 Minutes Overtime Segment

Get Involved!

Help fund the Mobile Vision Unit – Contact Me – Click “Contact” at the top of page.

Sign up for “hands-on” service — contact Friends in Need Healthcare – Bruce Sites