by Luis Pedro Fernández Smith

One hundred and twelve years ago in Chicago, a lawyer named Paul Harris decided with three of his friends, Gustavus Loehr, Silvester Schiele and Hiram Shorey, to create a club to forge community service through camaraderie and fellowship, a club they named the Rotary Club. Years later, Rotary began its international expansión that blossomed into an estimated 34,000 clubs with more than 1.22 million Rotarians.

Besides Rotarians, Rotary International created Rotaract, Interact, and Futuract/Earlyact to provide communities for different age groups.

Some of the most recognized programs in Rotary include End Polio Now, which was heavily involved in the eradication of Polio disease around the globe, and Rotary Peace Fellowships, where 100 professionals are selected every year from around the world to study abroad in one of their Peace Center universities in order to promote peace, conflict prevention and resolution in their home countries.

Being a Rotarian has been in my family history for more than three generations. My grandfather’s best friends, and the ones who buried him when he passed away, were his fellow Rotarians. After my dad had been Rotarian, my siblings and I presided over our own Rotaract and Interact Clubs.

When I applied to IPSI’s Bologna Symposium, I did not expect or even consider that there may be a connection with Rotary. However, as soon as I came to Bologna I had the opportunity to witness and enjoy the Rotarian presence. It has been a special experience. Some examples of Rotary influence I’ve felt throughout the symposium include how IPSI’s Founder, Cameron Chisholm, is a Rotary Peace Fellow Alumni. One of the speakers, Chic Dambach, has also been involved with Rotary. Two of the participants in the Symposium are actively involved Rotary Peace Fellowships and Rotaract. There was an also unconference about Rotary.

Out of all of these events, the one that caught my attention the most was Chic Dambach’s lecture. Chic Dambach is one of the mediators who achieved peace between the states of Ethiopia and Eritrea. His commitment and passion to peace was evident to all the participants in the symposium. You could feel how much he cared from his emotional exposition of the case. Personally, I felt in awe of him and the amazing things he has accomplished, as well as glad to feel how his connection to peace extends beyond the Bologna Symposium.

Paul Harris stated: “Whatever Rotary may mean to us, to the world it will be known by the results it achieves”. This means, that no matter our personal love to Rotary International, the world will remember our work through our achieved goals and our actions – no matter how big or small, that create an impact to our community or even to the world.

I was amazed to see with my own eyes and understand what a dream of 4 professionals, 112 years ago,  can accomplish. Connected through the years by several leaders that have helped to achieve cures for illnesses, create conflict prevention symposiums, and even obtain peace between states in conflict. I have the honor to call myself a proud Rotarian, and a proud IPSI Alumnus.