Grasping Chance Encounters

A service story sprinkled with serendipity – how we organized support for the first ever Rotary sponsored global peace education project in Beirut, Lebanon.

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!

Rotary Magic

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.

All Connected

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

NewGen Peacebuilders taking its Peace Education to Beirut, Lebanon

NewGen Peacebuilders (NGP) is a peace education and mentoring program for high school and university students. NGP is endorsed by the Rotary Action Group for Peace and is gaining momentum beyond eight USA-based and two International Rotary Districts in South America. We are seeking partners to introduce NGP to Beirut Lebanon, including a “train the Trainer” component to sustain the program. This will be the first time a Rotary Foundation Global Grant has funded peace education and mentoring in Lebanon.

Led by Rotary Peace Fellow Patricia Shafer, the program incorporates best practices in youth leadership, conflict transformation and peacebuilding featuring Team Action Peace Projects.

Capture Water

Peace Projects address core issues such as education inequality, poverty, environmental challenges, and refugee inclusion. NGP content reflects global issues and opportunities while adapting to local language, culture and circumstance.

Participants earn the NewGen Peacebuilder Certificate and gain hands-on experience in peace-centered problem-solving.

A recent graduate said “College history classes focus on preventing war, and that has its place, but I love the NewGen focus on promoting peace.”  Graduates align well towards Rotaract, Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarships and Rotary Peace Fellowships along their path of diplomacy and world understanding.

NGP Argentina Students

In 2017-18, NGP was introduced in D4920-Central Argentina, funded by a Global Grant sponsored by D5130-Northern California and the Rotary Club of Santa Rosa. The program introduced NGP in three locations near Buenos Aires.

The “train the Trainer” element will expand NGP into 12 Argentinean cities. The locally equipped NGP Facilitators are supported by passionate Rotarians, NGP staff, and a proprietary on-line training tool.  The Santa Rosa Club also introduced NGP into local community secondary schools creating opportunities for cross-cultural dialogue with Argentina participants.

Ranking of Events

Also during 2017, D7570 (Virginia/Tennessee) introduced NGP with a cohort from six universities within its district. District leadership has since expanded NGP into secondary schools.

Based on solid relationships with Rotarians in Beirut Lebanon, D7570 and D2452 (Lebanon and eight other Mid-East Countries) agreed at the 2017 International Convention to introduce NGP to a university level cohort in Beirut, building on the Global Grant model established in Argentina. The Host Partner is the Beirut Cosmopolitan Club and International Partner is D7570. After keynoting the 2018 Presidential Peacebuilding Conference in Beirut, Patricia Shafer gathered local citizens’ direct experiences from conflicts in Lebanon and Syria as the basis for the grant Community Needs Assessment.

We are seeking District & Club level Global Grant Supporters. The total Beirut Lebanon project budget is $97,000. We have $65,000 committed. Supporters will be invited to observe and participate in the Beirut Lebanon project and further understand the opportunity of the NGP program within their Communities, Districts and beyond. NGP Beirut will occur in Calendar Year 2019.


Eighty students from multiple universities and diverse religious and socio-economic backgrounds will be selected to participate in NGP Beirut.  Thirty project mentors, including Rotarians and Rotaractors, will bring passion and service experience.

Together, they will achieve a high level of community engagement in a 21st-century approach to peacebuilding.

The project includes three phases: (1) On-site and virtual training leading to Team Action Peace Projects; (2) Teams form across diverse backgrounds, select and implement Team Action Peace Projects based on shared passions. Teams share results with the broader community in understanding the role of Rotary in global peacebuilding; (3) “train the Trainer” to certify Local NGP Facilitators.

Please join our “Peace Train” – next stop Beirut Lebanon!

Additional Information


Thank You for Supporting NewGen Peacebuilders!