Rotarians share their Atlanta meet experience with club members Dottie Wamsley and Bonnie Branciaroli from RC Elkins recount the major highlights of Rotary International's annual convention.

Rotary Club of Elkins members Dottie Wamsley, left, and Bonnie Branciaroli shared information with their local club members after taking part in the Atlanta Convention.Photo: Beth Henry-Vance
Rotary Club of Elkins members Dottie Wamsley, left, and Bonnie Branciaroli shared information with their local club members after taking part in the Atlanta Convention.Photo: Beth Henry-Vance

Two Rotarians who attended the Rotary International Convention in Atlanta shared some of the highlights of their trip on Monday with their home club.

Dottie Wamsley and Bonnie Branciaroli said the convention, which took place from June 10 to 14, was an overwhelmingly positive experience that attracted more than 40,000 Rotarians from more than 130 countries.

“I’ve been in Rotary since 1990, and this was the first time I’ve gone to the International Convention. It won’t be my last,” Wamsley said following Monday’s noon meeting of the Rotary Club of Elkins (West Virginia, US — District 7530).

“It was wonderful. You couldn’t believe how nice everybody was.”

Wamsley travelled to the convention with her husband, Bob, and Branciaroli traveled with her husband, Mark.

Branciaroli said the convention felt like a city within a city, where people from so many different countries gathered to attend workshops, listen to speakers, make new friends and learn about many of Rotary’s humanitarian projects.

“I’ve never seen so many people in my life in one place,” Branciaroli said.

“What excited me the most was to see all the cultures from all over the world, and everyone there had the same goal.”

She said service, goodwill and peace are some of the main themes of Rotary, and it was amazing to see so many people who want to accomplish good works.

Wamsley agreed, and referenced Rotary International’s Four-Way Test of the things members think, say or do, which includes: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

“You see 40,000 people that believe that. … It renews your faith in mankind,” Wamsley said.

Rotary has led the effort to end polio worldwide, along with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other partners.

During the convention, Bill Gates and Atlanta Rotary President John Germ announced a $450 million commitment to end polio.

“In 2016, fewer children were paralysed by polio than ever before, thanks to the dedication of Rotary members and our partners,” Germ said in a news release.

“The paralysis of even one child by a preventable disease is unacceptable, and I’m proud to see our members redoubling their commitment to ensure we reach every single child with the polio vaccine.”

Thirty years ago, polio paralysed more than 350,000 children each year in more than 125 countries.

Today, the highly contagious virus has been eliminated in all but three countries: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.

There have been five cases so far in 2017, according to a news release.

Some of Rotary’s other humanitarian projects include education programmes at six Rotary Peace Centres; Project Peanut Butter, which helps alleviate hunger in Africa and other areas of the world; the ShelterBox project, which provides supplies to victims of natural disasters; and Rotarians Against Malaria, which has distributed more than 11 million mosquito nets to homes in Paupa New Guinea.

This was the 108th annual international convention, and more information is available online at www.rotary.org and www.riconvention.org.

Branciaroli said she already has registered for the next convention, which is scheduled for June 2018 in Toronto, Canada. 

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