A Chance Encounter
My friend Assaad Mounzer and I were sharing box lunches at Wytheville Community College under the maple trees. We were facilitators at the summer 2016 Rotary Leadership Institute, enjoying the decompression of friendly chat. I asked Assaad the special service question – “what’s next for you in Rotary?” He reflected a moment then shared his dream to take peace education to Beirut through NewGen Peacebuilders. Assaad has family roots and Rotary friends in Lebanon. Assaad was then well underway organizing NewGen Peacebuilders in our District. Assaad meant it! I said “let’s do it”!
Together we would develop a service story gathering project partners and earning a Rotary Foundation Global Grant – a story bridging supporting Districts, Clubs and Rotarians for Peace.
The bridge must first connect Project Partners – our Rotary District 7570 in Western Virginia / Northeast Tennessee with District 2452 in Lebanon – along with six other countries (Armenia, Bahrain, Cyprus, Georgia, Jordan, Palestine, Sudan and United Arab Emirates). The bridge would feature NewGen Peacebuilders as a solid service partner. Beyond that, the bridge would require supporting spans then unknown.
NewGen Peacebuilder Magic
NewGen Peacebuilders is an amazing program that frames and applies peace building skills used by Rotary Peace Fellows. It is led by Rotary Peace Fellow Patricia Shafer. The program forms teams delivering peace building projects. Each project can morph into a long-term service opportunity for Rotary – a service return on investment! In Rotary we have an effective and scalable partner in NewGen Peacebuilders. More about NGP Here.
Promoting Peace Education projects carries unique challenges. Beyond visualizing the project, partners must understand the program benefits. Fortunately, Patricia often delivers keynotes at Rotary Conferences – indeed I met Patricia at a conference in Asheville, North Carolina!
Patricia, Assaad and I share a common beliefs in force of serendipity – an unplanned fortunate discovery during an adventure. Serendipity brought us together! We must be mindful of such chance encounters. When grasped, serendipity leads to beneficial relationships – and service opportunities crystallize! Past Rotary International President Barry Rassin calls it Rotary Magic.
Share your passion -> good things happen. Rotary Clubs and Districts have treasure chests of underachieved ideas needing support. Rotary Foundation matching funds are a large part of the solution – but the service opportunity exceeds our resources. Rotary Clubs and Rotarians fill the gap. The “bottom line” is that attracting the financial and service support for a global project is a daunting task. How do we do it? Believe in Rotary Magic – connected by a Passion for Peace!
A Solid Foundation
In January before their appointed official year of service, District Governors-Elect from around the world assemble under one roof for training. All 530 Governors joined by partners – the ultimate Rotary networking and learning opportunity! In a chance encounter during our Assembly in January 2017, my wife Ginger & I had breakfast with counterparts from D2452, Governor-Elect Christina Covotsou-Patroclou and her husband Patroclos. Enjoying our company, we expressed hope to meet again – perhaps Virginia/Tennessee, perhaps their home country Cyprus in a friendship exchange.
Five months later, at the June 2017 International Convention in Atlanta. Assaad & I met with George Beyrouti of the Beirut Cosmopolitan Club and NewGen Director of Operations Elizabeth Peacock. That meeting is pictured above. George, a friend of Assaad’s, brought deep experience in global projects as Deputy Director 2452 Governor. Elizabeth brought experience in organizing the NewGen program. Overlooking Centennial Park, we committed to deliver NewGen Peacebuilders to Beirut Lebanon, partnering Rotary Districts 7570 in Virginia/Tennessee and 2452 in eight countries including Lebanon. We shared passionate support.
Bridging Rotary Districts, Clubs and Rotarians sharing a Passion for Peace
We shared our fledgling service opportunity with Rotary Friends in District Leadership having a passion for peace.
- Leaders from five Rotary Districts committed:
- District 7570 Western Virginia / Northeast Tennessee – District Governor Tim Carter committed to the project, since he believed in the program, having seen NewGen Peacebuilders locally for college students, under Assaad’s direction.
- District 2452 Lebanon: District Governor Christina, hearing from George, shared a belief in the program.
- District 7600 Eastern Virginia Past District Governors Chuck Aranson and Stephen Beer became early supporters having heard Patricia at a District Conference – their District Foundation Committee believed in the program.
- District 5950 Minnesota: Past District Governor Tim Murphy, serving as Rotary International President’s Representative at our 2018 District 7570 Conference, met Patricia as a keynote speaker – quickly grasped and believed in the program. Tim spearheaded Minnesota support.
- District 6560 Central Indiana: George reached out to his friend – past District 6560 Governor Salim Najjar, from Central Indiana. Salim quickly grasped and believed in the program. Salim spearheaded Indiana support.
We introduced the program to Rotary “friends and family” – both Clubs and Rotarians.
- Five Rotary Clubs in Lebanon pledged support, responding to George:
- Grant Host Beirut Cosmopolitan Rotary Club, typically sponsoring multiple global projects each year.
- Rotary Club de Beyrouth, the original club chartered in Lebanon. Beyrouth is the French pronunciation of Beirut.
- Rotary Club of Tripoli-Maarad, a small club that makes a big difference on the local, regional and international levels.
- Rotary Club of Kesrouan, located a little north of Beirut and supporting local and global projects since its founding in 1978.
- Rotary Club of Saida, located on the Mediterranean coast south of Beirut – the club celebrated its 65th anniversary this year with multiple community and global projects.
- Eight Rotarians in the Southeastern US pledged support:
- Tom Smith, Past District 7680 Governor and long-time supporter of NewGen Peacebuilders, arranged for support from his home Charlotte South Club. Charlotte is the home of NewGen Peacebuilders.
- Rich Graves, Past District 7630 Governor, Maryland & Delaware. We introduced Rich to Patricia Shafer at a Rotary Zone Institute.
- Shelley Brouillette, President 2013-14 Johnson City, Tennessee Club. Past District 7570 Foundation Annual Fund Chair. Shelley has Hands-on experience with global projects in Kenya and Tanzania. I saw Shelley’s passion for global projects first-hand in Kapsowar, Kenya.
- Paula Alston, President 2013-14, Blacksburg Virginia Club. Past District 7570 Area Governor. Paula led a 2018 Group Study Exchange Team to Southern Caribbean.
- Gary Tucker, District 7570 Area Governor 2016-18, Kingsport Tennessee. Member of the District Action Group for Peace.
- Marc Hudson, District 7570 Area Governor 2016-2019, Harrisonburg-Rocktown Satellite Club, Virginia. Marc became a NewGen Mentor when the program was introduced to Lexington, Virgnina. Considerable hands-on global project experience as an optometrist.
- Mark Fenyk, District 7570 Area Governor 2018-20, Marion, Virginia Club. Member of the District Action Group for Peace.
- Philo Hall, President 2017-18, Blacksburg Virginia Club. Member of the District Action Group for Peace.
George, Assaad & I pitched in a bit as project sponsors.
This service story is sprinkled with serendipity – chance encounters that crystallized to support what will be the first ever Rotary sponsored peace education global project in Lebanon! All connected by a Passion for Peace, five Rotary Districts having 12,500 active members, five clubs and eleven Rotarians support this project.
Thank you sincerely for your Passion for Peace!
Thank you for grasping chance encounters!
Join us as the adventure continues!