As I look back on 2020, I reflect on how our lives have changed. The global COVID-19 pandemic brought pain and loss to many of us. And for almost all of us, our daily lives, family time, and work also changed this year. But we’ve made it to the end of this difficult year, not on our own but by reaching out to one another, as we always do in Rotary. With each passing year, I become prouder of our organization.
I will choose to remember 2020 as a year of great change and strength for us; Rotary didn’t stop, despite the pandemic. We removed obstacles, found new ways to connect, and embraced new approaches to service, such as online projects and virtual fundraising. I have invited two Rotarians to share their stories about how Rotary grew stronger this year.
When the pandemic shut everything down, our emerging e-club was already providing digital service, including internationally. Fourteen U.S. women and I, members of multiple Rotary clubs, were using WhatsApp to mentor women entrepreneurs in rural Costa Rica, helping them to grow their ecotourism business, RETUS Tours [the subject of the magazine’s May cover story, “Nature & Nurture”]. The project has grown, with 30 Rotarians now providing consulting and help with the RETUS website and social media. Most importantly, we continue building relationships and empowering these women to transform their own lives, and we are doing it online. I’ve even helped one of the women, Rosa, prepare a presentation in English for an online international conference. While our engagement with the Costa Rican women still requires some hands-on activity, the most transformative impacts haven’t had to be in person.
— Liza Larson, Rotary E-Club Engage and Rotary Club of Plano East, Texas
I was president of my club when COVID-19 hit, and many members didn’t yet have Zoom. Only 10 of our 53 members participated in the first Zoom meeting during the pandemic. I thought that reaching out and getting guest speakers from around the world to engage our members would help. Many Rotary leaders, a Rotary Peace Fellow, and even RI President Holger Knaack visited virtually and spoke to our club. Meeting attendance improved, while we reduced running costs by cutting out meals. Some members who worked outside our city and had missed our meetings even rejoined us. Registering our online meetings on My Rotary enhanced contacts with clubs across the world, and the joint meeting addressed by Holger attracted more than 300 visitors. We also raised more funds as members and visitors contributed to our projects. To continue being flexible for all, we are now offering hybrid meetings. For me, 2020 has been the best year in Rotary as I’ve made many new friends.
— Blessing Michael, Rotary Club of Port Harcourt North, Nigeria
These stories should give us all reasons to be optimistic about Rotary in the year ahead. We are not just surviving; we are gaining strength. We are discovering how resilient our organization truly is. We are seeing for ourselves how Rotary Opens Opportunities — even during pandemics — to grow, connect, and engage our members and the communities we serve.
From our home in Ratzeburg to yours, Susanne and I would like to bid you and your family the warmest of season’s greetings. We can’t wait to see the good things that 2021 will bring.