Archive for International

The United Nations honors six Rotary People of Action: Champions of Peace at Rotary Day at the United Nations, Geneva, Switzerland, 10 November 2017. These Rotary members and Rotary Peace Center alumni are all involved in projects that address underlying causes of conflict, including poverty, inequality, ethnic tension, lack of access to education, or unequal distribution of resources.

By Taylor Cass Talbott

Thanks to generous support from Rotarians all over Oregon, my husband, Brodie, and I were able to attend Rotary Day at the Geneva United Nations in November. We were invited so that I could receive one Rotary International’s People of Action: Champion of Peace awards.

Each year, Rotary presents six People of Action awards during Rotary Day at the United Nations and focuses on a different theme each year. This year was the first time Rotary held the event in Geneva rather than New York, and the first time that Rotary included peace fellows (two of us!) as awardees.

After sleeping off our jet lag, our first day in Geneva was spent at the United Nations, where we were given a historical tour and an intensive public speaking training. Fellow Peace Fellow Kiran Singh Sirah and I finished the day at a dinner with top donors to Rotary’s peace initiative, and I enjoyed the opportunity to chat with RI President Ian Riseley and his wife, Juliet.

The following day kicked off the Rotary Day event. We were broken up into three different groups to give presentations in three separate UN meeting halls, so I was not able to hear presentations by most of the other awardees and only my workshop was live-streamed. UN representatives who spoke on our panels placed considerable emphasis on the importance of inclusion, which was very validating because our SWaCH project is a perfect example of socially and economically inclusive development.

My presentation is still online, and you can find it about 1hr and 20 minutes into this video:

That night, Rotary held a celebratory dinner, and we had the chance to socialize more with the other awardees and their spouses. I have since been in conversation with the other Champions of Peace to discuss how we all might collaborate on projects in the future.

Many thanks for your support in getting us to Geneva. It has planted many new seeds for peace-building, and it meant a lot to be honored for our SWaCH waste picker project [in Pune, India].

I encourage you to read more about the other awardees, who were all very impressive:

(Pictures: Taylor outside the UN headquarters in Geneva; with all six who won the Champion of Peace award.)

Taylor with SWaCH members at a press conference for the Red Dot Campaign
Celebration of the United National International Day of Peace (Sept. 21) included an announcement that Taylor Stevenson, Portland Pearl Rotary’s first Peace Scholar, has been named a Rotary International Peace Champion.

Taylor is one of six global champions being honored Nov. 11 on Rotary Day at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. The event honors those who make a positive difference in their community, their country and around the globe.

Taylor Cass Talbott in the slum community where she and Brodie livedTaylor will be honored and will celebrate with current RI President Ian Riseley, RI directors, foundation trustees, leaders from the United Nations and renowned humanitarians.

Taylor developed a Rotary Foundations global grant to improve sanitary conditions for waste collectors in Pune, India. Waste collectors together handle 20 tons of unwrapped sanitary waste every day. Stevenson collaborated with SWaCH, a waste-collector cooperative, to create the “Red Dot” campaign, which calls for people to wrap their sanitary waste in newspaper or bags and mark it with a red dot.

This helps waste collectors identify sanitary waste and handle it accordingly. Stevenson developed all the educational imaging for the campaign. She also secured in-kind offerings of support, including free training space and campaign printing.

Pearl Rotarian Anne Oneill, who is the past chair of the International Service committee and served as PPRC’s point person for the Pushing for Peace, Sanitation and Dignity for Pune’s Waste Pickers, said this of Taylor, “Taylor Stevenson is a master of working with and building on the support of local institutions, and is a fierce advocate of society’s most marginalized. For the project, Taylor developed all of the educational imaging used for the campaign, liaised between various stakeholders in a foreign culture, and even lived in the slums with the waste pickers in order understand their lives better.”

We are proud and honored to support Taylor in her peace-building work and that Portland Pearl Rotary and District 5100 are able to be a part of it. Taylor would like to extend her gratitude to Portland, Pearl Rotary, Anne Oneill, District Governor Renee Campbell, and Past District Governor Michael Caruso.

We look forward in hearing Taylor’s latest updates on the Pune waste pickers’ project when she speaks to Pearl Rotary on Tuesday, Oct 3.

Taylor and Brodie 7-28-16Let’s get Taylor and Brodie to Geneva!
We are beyond excited that Taylor has received this very distinguished honor from Rotary International and United Nations. We have informed Taylor that as a Rotary club and with some assistance from District 5100, we would pay for all of Taylor and Brodie’s (Taylor’s husband) air and ground transportation from Portland to Geneva, Rotary International already has housing taken care of. Our goal is to raise $2,318. We have a nice start of $380 [through Sept. 27]. Taylor and I are able to accept cash and checks made out to Taylor Stevenson. Additionally, I will be attending the peace-builder club meeting in October to also try and solicit funds from them, as well as District 5100.

Taylor’s Rotary connection to the Pearl club
Taylor Cass Talbott (previously Taylor Stevenson) is an artist and program designer who uses art and waste to contest the social and economic exclusion of marginalized people. She completed a Master’s in Peace Studies as a Rotary Peace Fellow in Tokyo from 2011-13. While working as a waste reduction specialist in rural Bhutan from 2013-16, the Portland Pearl Rotary Club contacted her with an interest in collaborating on a Rotary International Global Grant. Taylor agreed, going on to develop a peace and sanitation project with the SWaCH waste picker cooperative in Pune, India. When the “Pushing for Peace” project was approved by Rotary International, Taylor and her husband, Brodie Cass Talbott, worked with SWaCH in Pune for 8 months helping to implement the project. You can learn more about her work and the Pushing for Peace project at:

Here’s text of RI announcement
The Sept. 21 announcement of the award to Taylor Stevenson included notice of the event and bios of the six peace champions. Here’s a link from Rotary International:

This February Sunbridge Solar packed their bags and headed for a once in a lifetime trip to Colombia and the Amazon to work on two different solar projects. Before leaving, even contemplating a project in the Amazon invoked a mixed sense of concern and excitement. And Colombia itself still had many of us worried with visions of abductions and cocaine trading.

We arrived late at night greeted with Colombia hats and a giant Colombia flag by our ever-jubilant partners and guides, Natalia Gomez and Edwin Lasso, owners of the recently formed Solosolar. The streets after midnight in Bogota on a Sunday are completely deserted. Literally completely deserted, as in zero people…which is slightly unnerving for a city of 10 million.

We started our first project early the next morning, so much for recuperation time. We arrived at Foundacion San Mauricio, an orphanage that is home to 1,200 kids ranging in age from 2-18. There are very few solar arrays in Bogota so to install a 12-panel system is a pretty big deal. The roof was a challenge. It was made of some kind of reinforced papier mache/asbestos mix. In fact, while trying to retrieve a Frisbee for one of the kids, one of our guys stepped in the wrong place and fell straight through the roof. Luckily, he was okay although the poor kid who asked him to get the Frisbee felt pretty terrible.

After some creative efforts and way too many hours spent visiting dozens of electrical supply houses in Bogota, we completed the job. Of course, the best part of the job had little to do with the actual installation work. Every lunch we got to eat with the kids and practice our terrible Spanish, and then run around and play with them afterwards. This system cost about $5,000 in material cost which Sunbridge Solar donated along with all of the labor. The energy saved equates to around $1,200 per year which is enough to support two more kids at the orphanage.

Our next project was in Colombian Amazonas. To get there, you take a direct flight from Bogota to Leticia and the hour and a half flight takes you about a world away. From the mountains to the tropics, Leticia greeted us with its funky backpacker vibe and humidity. We stayed at Habitat Sur, an organization that wears many hats: non-profit supporting local indigenous communities, ecolodge and jungle tour operator. The lodge was incredible. My brother, Doug, was the lucky one to stay in a tree house cottage perched in the rainforest canopy. The toilet was guarded by a giant tarantula.

The project site was a twenty-minute walk from the road side through the jungle to the indigenous community cultural center. The communities in this part of the Amazon have more or less been absorbed by Western society, so the cultural center worked to protect the language, customs and skills of the indigenous communities. They often meet at night with no light to conduct their meetings or classes.

We were requested by the community who is partnered with Habitat Sur to install a small scale off-grid solar system comprised of three panels, four batteries and a small inverter. The cost of the system was $3,000. Before leaving I started a Gofundme campaign to cover these material costs. We surpassed our goal and raised $3,300 in four days, thanks in part to the generous contributions of six Rotarians who donated over $700 to the cause.

We completed the system and finished with just enough time to enjoy an Amazon river cruise, which was undoubtedly the highlight of the trip. In a protected lake next to the Amazon we all jumped in the river as pink dolphins splashed around nearby. We celebrated our successful projects with our partners at Solosolar and know that this is just the beginning.

Pictures—The Sunbridge crew and Solosolar on the Amazon River; Orphanage at San Mauricio; Jordan and Edwin installing in the Amazon

(P.S., as requested by newsletter editor: In 2015, Sunbridge Solar traveled to Nepal and worked alongside Gham Power to install a solar water pumping system in the far West region. Sunbridge Solar’s next international efforts will see our return to Nepal to work with our partner to install a 75kw solar water pumping system, the largest such project in Nepal to date.)

2017-18 logo, RI

Rotary’s incoming International President, Ian H.S. Risley, has called for us, as Rotarians, to “Make A Difference.” Portland Pearl’s answers to President Risley are:

Portland Pearl Rotary makes a difference in the lives of waste-pickers in Pune, India.

Portland Pearl Rotary makes a difference in the lives of young girls completing their education in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Portland Pearl Rotary makes in a difference in lives of Portlanders by delivering and serving food through Meals on Wheels and Transition Projects.

Portland Pearl Rotary makes a difference by offering educational scholarships and awards of merit to students.

Portland Pearl Rotary makes a difference by establishing one of the only Social Justice committees in District 5100.

Portland Pearl Rotarians make a difference by fostering supportive, healthy, dynamic relationships with fellow members and our community.

Portland Pearl Rotary makes a difference by growing leaders.

As we get closer to the new Rotary year, roughly 14 weeks away, I as your incoming president have been thinking a lot about how we will make a difference in the new year. We will continue to be a diverse and fun-loving club, which works towards bringing about positive changes in our local and global communities, or as Lou Radja calls it, “glocal.”

I want to make a difference by showing up for our club and to you as my fellow friends and family in service and peacemaking. I want to make a difference by celebrating who we are, what we do and why we do it. I know we’ll make a difference in the coming year because with all of us together, nothing can stand in our way. Our future is bright.

—Much Love, Tara

Water Scholar Reports From Europe

Aaron Lee NCR
by Aaron Lee, Delft, Netherlands

Dear Portland Pearl Rotary and friends:

I write this from my desk at Deltares (Delft, the Netherlands), where I have been working as an intern for the past 3-4 months. Deltares is a research/consulting institute that specializes in water resources worldwide under the government ministry, Rijkswaterstaat.

I am blessed to have this opportunity to work at what I consider the “Mecca” of the water engineering field. This internship is providing me the guidance and resources to perform my thesis research. An abbreviated title of my research is, “Predicting long-term river adaptation to dam removal.”

As the title suggests, I am investigating how a river changes when reservoir sediment that have been impounded for many years is suddenly available to fluvial processes. This study extends to the impact on salmon habitat by using the 2007 Marmot Dam removal on the Sandy River as a case study.

Although the study is based in Oregon, I am able to perform all work remotely by computer. I am making use of state of the art software and data centers to model the Sandy River over a longterm period (5 years). In the coming months I will have a final thesis report to share, complete with the model.

The past four-month period has been a drastic contrast from my coursework at UNESCO-IHE. It’s been an experience to devote all time and energy into one project, but also difficult to not have as much time for family and friends. But of course, this is a lifetime struggle to balance.

The initial year I sent you photos of travel and friends, and now I have substantial work to share…just last week (Feb 2-3), I participated in a conference hosted by the Netherlands Center for River Studies (NCR). Along with two colleagues from UNESCO-IHE, I presented my research to an audience of professionals, professors and students that also specialize in river studies. It was unique to share the story of Marmot Dam (and dam removal in general), which I believe to be an issue of great importance for the future.

Once in a while I step back to reflect on what this experience has been and also what it will lead to. With all the angst, struggle and sadness present in the world, I believe we have a duty to reflect on where we stand. What I can say about living in Europe is that whether we like it or not, the United States is at the forefront of international attention. Furthermore, it’s extremely difficult to change someone’s opinion with conversation, social media or similar avenues.

My personal outlook is that we can affect change by action. Action in the way of living through family values, reciprocating giving, and just being present in the community.

On this note I would like to thank you all for your support. I’m constantly inspired by my surroundings at UNESCO-IHE, Deltares, and the Rotary network. Without knowing my exact future, I can say that what lies ahead will affect positive outcomes.

Portland Pearl Rotary Club Supports Girls Scholarships in the Congo
For the fourth consecutive year, Pearl Rotary Club is funding girls scholarships at the Discovery School in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo.

A commemorative PPRC check was presented Jan. 31 to Rotarian Lou Radja who through his non-profit EduCongo here in Oregon supports the school his father manages. Two thousand students attend; Pearl Rotary’s support–now in its fourth year–provides tuition, supplies and uniforms for 40 girls.

International Service Director Alanna Miel (left) made the presentation, explaining that $4,000 was designated from the club’s Pearl Fund and the additional $2,000 came from District 5100.

Lou was gracious in his praise of his fellow Rotarians: “In an area where the average income is $2 per day, this is a big deal.”

Cypriot Peace Builders Honored at Pearl Rotary

cyprus-1“No relationship can grow and flower without trust,” proclaimed Cypriot teen Doruk before Pearl Rotarians July 21. Trust between two teens from opposite sides of the divided island “will forge bridges between our communities,” he added. Doruk, pictured above with Rotarian/Cyprus Friendship Program Coordinator Jack Bradley, was one of 12 Cypriot peace-builders in OR/Southwest WA for a month through CFP. PPRC was among District 5100 clubs who supported CFP financially (and also provided host families–including Jack and his wife, Michelle). Another Cypriot, Anna, added: “Everybody wants peace; everyone wishes it would be a reality.”cyprus-2

nepalOn April 25th, a 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal just outside the Kathmandu valley. Most homes and buildings there are constructed of poorly built brick mortar. The earthquake caused thousands upon thousands of homes to crumble and landslides in remote areas completely leveled villages. Over 9000 people have been confirmed dead.

Now that the international media attention has faded, the time for rebuilding Nepal has begun. There are still tens of thousands without homes, food, clean water or basic sanitation. Our club has worked with the Dhulikhel Rotary in the past and my main contact for many years now has been Ashok Shrestha.

Ashok runs a relief organization called Community Relief Development Agency or CRDA. His group is working with Rotary, volunteers and Nepali staff to provide emergency food and shelter to the hardest-hit communities centered around the District of Kavre. Our club (through our nonprofit Pearl Fund), with the help of generous individual Rotary donors and New Generations RC, was able to raise $10,000 to send over to CRDA. These funds will be put to immediate use in the coming weeks.

I am left humbled by the generosity of our club and its members. Stay tuned for photos of the relief effort.

(Newsletter editor’s addition: President Tracy Vicario announced May 26 that the money being transferred to the Dhulikhel Club’s efforts totals $10,125. Native Nepalese Bishwaman Angdembe (above) visited our club on the same day and expressed gratitude on behalf of his country: “Still today, lots of our people are in temporary shelters. Monsoon season is coming. It’s a pretty scary situation back home in Nepal. Every dollar helps.”
A graduate student at Portland State University, “Bishwa” is a Shelterbox volunteer and spoke at the district conference in Pendleton. His wife and daughter survived the earthquake; he hopes they’ll soon join him in Portland.)

‘Asante’ to the Portland Pearl Rotary for year two of scholarships provided to our girl students! Discovery School students selected demonstrated leadership, academic excellence and a spirit of service!

These lucky students, because of the $6,000 matching grant, will have tuition fees, school supplies and uniforms covered for the 2015-2016 academic year in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We are so proud of them!


Below are three examples of the recipients and words from their essays:

Name: Rebecca Mbula Kanyeba
Age: 14
8th Grade
1. Why do you go school?
I study to better prepare my future; so that one day I’ll be ‘somebody’!
2. How does the Discovery School help you in your goals?
I’ve been going to the Discovery School from my childhood to this very day. I know how to read, I get good grades and speak French proficiently
3. How do you go about helping others after your studies?
First is for me to educated; mentor others and support my family and community at large

Name: Carmel Nathilombo Mumema
Age: 20
Grade: Senior majoring in accounting
1. Why do you go school?
For a good life, for gainful employment, cast away ignorance and to help my family later in life!
2. How does the Discovery School help you in your goals?
The Discovery helps me break ignorance and prepares me to help others in the future; particularly orphans.
3. How do you go about helping others after your studies?
God willing, I’ll be able to help young people, open a school, hospital and adult learning program for women

Name: Alpha Ntambwe
Age: 15
Grade: Freshman majoring in science
1. Why do you go school?
I study for a good future; to be a doctor; to be someone and to be responsible for my own life!
2. How does the Discovery School help you in your goals?
The lower tuition at the Discovery School is very helpful; I’m getting knowledge, I’m getting a great education and making me an ‘intellectual’!
3. How do you go about helping others after your studies?
After school I want to help my friends, teachers, mom, dad and my entire family

2-5-15-lead1Three international service projects—in Cyprus, Democratic Republic of Congo and Nepal—received financial backing from Pearl Rotary following approvals at the Jan. 8th board meeting.

Anne Oneill, international director whose committee initially reviewed the requests, made the presentation. Each was approved unanimously:

  • Cyprus Friendship Project (championed by Jack Bradley): A contribution of $3,500 was approved for CFP to support teen-agers from both sides who will come to the Portland area this summer for a month. Linking young people across the island’s divide is a peace-building effort across the USA. Jack is the area coordinator for Oregon-South Washington and will lead the effort again this summer. Rotarians Marc Hillman and Don Smith have also volunteered; numerous District 5100 Rotary Clubs have participated. Jack will speak to the club Feb. 17; he plans to schedule a program with the Turkish- and Greek-speaking teens at a Tuesday morning meeting in late July.
  • EduCongo Lubumbashi Discovery School Scholarships for Girls Leadership (spearheaded by Lou Radja): An allocation of $4,600 for the second year of Pearl Rotary’s support was made. High school girls in Lou’s home area are financially supported at a school operated by his father. Pearl Rotary is anticipating a second $2,000 matching grant from District 5100. Competition among applicants will lead to the development of future leaders in this African country, Lou has often said. (The individual stories of six first-year participants appeared in the December newsletter.)
  • Total Literacy for Nepal (brought forward by Jordan Weisman): Working for a second time with the Dhulikhel Rotary Club of Nepal, Pearl Rotary will be the lead local club on an education project enhanced by a global grant application to the Rotary Foundation. The recommendation of a $5-6,000 grant was approved by the PPRC board, with Jordan as our liaison. Our club previously partnered with the Dhulikhel club to supply solar panels for a rural hospital in Nepal. Reported Jordan: “The project [total: $256,000] will reach approximately 100,000 people and will fund school improvements such as clean water and adequate sanitation, computer rooms, e-libraries, teacher training, solar panels for remote power, basic lighting, wall construction.”

2-5-15-lead2Expanding allocations in the international area has been made possible by successful fundraising efforts (cruise raffles, Puttin’ on the Pearls, etc.) that have pushed the Pearl Fund’s total reserves above the oft-stated goal of $100,000.

Secretary Pat Mahoney summarized the tenor of Pearl Rotarians (and looked to the future, too): “Great work, Anne, and the international committee. Anne said that there are several other interesting and exciting projects for which we’ve been approached.