This is a story of how a good idea, mixed with Rotary ideals and excellent timing, is making a difference - as a Rotarian Action Group. It all started after a yoga class in Homer, Alaska in the winter of 1999 - a town with a population of about 5,000 people. One of Homer's nicknames is "the end of the road".

Reported by Christopher Edwards


Homer, a small coastal town on the Kenai Peninsular in the south of Alaska, is also called “The Halibut Fishing Capital of  the World” and “The Cosmic Hamlet by the Sea”.  The population seems to have a good sense of humour.  Some residents drive around with a car sticker saying “Homer – a quaint drinking village with a fishing problem.” 


However, there is a serious side to Homer.  For example, it has been holding a health fair since 1984.  The 28th Annual Rotary Health Fair sponsored by the Rotary Club of Homer-Kachemak Bay in partnership with South Peninsula Hospital was held at Homer High School on 12 November 2011. A new feature of this year’s fair was a 28 ft inflatable colon to walk through.  The idea was for people to learn how to prevent and detect colon cancer.

The Health Fair aims to help people to take responsibility for their own health and has the motto – “Prevention is the Intention”.  It has become an annual one stop centre of health information and tests for the local community. On average about 10% of the population of Homer and the surrounding area normally attends the fair.  In 2011 they performed 1,000 comprehensive blood tests, plus numerous specialised prostate, thyroid, vitamin D and blood type tests.


Homer’s Rotary Club is part of District 5010, which coversAlaska, Canada's Yukon Territory , and Russia east of the Ural Mountains. 11 time zones in three countries.

Will Files, one of the members of the Rotary Club of Homer-Kachemak Bay, gave a presentation to members of the Rotary E-Club of London Centenary weekly evening meeting on Thursday, 27 October 2011 shortly before attending his own club’s weekly lunch meeting.  Will co-chairs the World Health Fairs, a Rotarian Action Group (WHF).  He gave details of the origin and work of the Health Fairs Action Group but also drew attention to the special opportunities for Rotary eClubs to become involved in the activities of one or more of the 15 Rotary Action Groups.  As it happens, a member of Rotary E-Club of London Centenary, Haagen Cumlet, who lives in the outskirts of Copenhagen, Denmark, is a co-founder of one such Rotarian Action Group, the Global Network for Blood Donation (GNBD).    

The story of the World Health Fairs, a Rotarian Action Group starts in the winter of 1999 when Will and Martha Ellen entertained another couple for dinner at their house in Homer. They discussed the problems faced by their many friends in Yelizovo on the Kamchatka Peninsula of the Russian Far East after the collapse of the rouble. Yelizovo is the Sister City of Homer and the poor health of its people was one of its major problems in the 1990’s.  Will and the others wondered if it would help to set up health fairs in Russia.

 Health Fair volunteers in Kamchatka in the Russian Far East

In November 1999, three people from Yelizovo came to observe the health fair in Homer. They were highly motivated by this and returned to produce the first ever health fair in Russia, which had numerous educational booths and screenings. This was in March 2000 and was attended by over 1,000 people. Many people saw health care professionals for the first time in their lives. Later in the year 2000 representatives came to the Homer Health Fair from 4 Russian towns.   By the end of 2005 with the help of 17 Rotary clubs a total of 125 health fairs had been organised in Russia attended by over 55,000 people. 

 Health fair volunteers in Vladivostok

Since then the World Health Fairs, a Rotarian Action Group has spread its influence even wider across the USA and the world.  There are now 12 health fair centres in Russia and two in Mexico.  Health fairs promoted by Rotarians are now being held in China, Fiji, the Philippines, Mongolia and Thailand. 

 Dental bus in Figi

As for Homer, it may be a little too fanciful to describe it as a “cosmic hamlet” but today it could accurately be called “a coastal community with a global outreach”. 

Editor's footnotes:
If you want to find out more about the Rotary World Health Fairs Action Group go to

For more about the Rotarian Action Groups, click here.

Will Files can be contacted at e-mail: