I  recently  spent a few days  on the  east coast to catch up with family, friends and my fiftieth high school reunion.  But the highlight of the trip was Rotary Day at the United Nations.  The theme of the event was working with refugees and immigrants.  There were 470 participants from 23 countries. Five Rotarians were acknowledged as being Rotary People of Action because of their work with this worldwide issue. 

People become refugee and immigrants typically due to a specific group of causes:  conflict/violence, persecution, disaster and climate change.  But even as this group is forced to leave their homes, a key characteristic is that they are still hopeful.  Kerri Murray - President ShelterBox USA noted that there are currently 88 million displace people and that currently 25 people are displaced every minute.  Their main need is finding a safe place to call home and interesting enough their second concern is education for their children, even while they reside in refugee camps.  A number of presenters also noted the main misperception of this group of people is that they will become a burden on the country of their resettlement home; in reality this  group as a whole are very entrepreneurial, both at the small home town level and at a larger corporation level that creates jobs for citizens in their adopted countries.

Rotary is challenging us as  Rotarians to engage with supporting and welcoming this group of people into our communities.  This makes me proud that the Denver LoDo satellite group has committed their focus for the coming year to doing community service project working with  local agencies who help resettle refugees and immigrants.  Also, when I turn my  Rotary hat around, as the President of Retuned Peace Corps Volunteers of Colorado, we as an organization are also focused on service projects supporting refugees and immigrants as part of our three year strategic plan.

RI President Mark Mahony commented that Rotary clubs are doing their part to help alleviate the global refugee crisis with projects that help bring water and health care to refugee camps, funds for families to move to safer countries, and more. Over the last several years, clubs and districts have used roughly $3 million of global grant funds toward refugee-related projects and scholarships.

I would encourage all club members to take this to heart and volunteer when we schedule refugee/immigrant community service project for our club.  Your time and help is needed.