Posted by Pat Love on Jun 26, 2021
I came to Rotary “later in life” just as I was winding down a career that included many years of international service. Tired of long-distance travel, feeling enormous gratitude for the opportunities I’d had in many countries, I was eager to put my energy into making a difference in our local community. With enthusiasm, I volunteered for committees; helped raise money for local causes; took on leadership roles; and recruited new members by telling them they too could make a difference in the town we love.

But, as you are no doubt aware, Rotary isn’t a one-way street; you get back far more than you give. My meager investment afforded me great personal satisfaction; a deeper feeling of belonging; and greater knowledge of our local community—but it al-so gave me something I wasn’t expecting: a humble awareness of Rotary’s magnanimous international impact. I learned that, not only has The Rotary Foundation made polio an all but distant nightmare, but it has fought other diseases; provided clean water; saved mothers and children from poverty; supported education; and promoted peace.

The information I’ve learned about Rotary’s powerful international impact didn’t come cheap, nor did it reinforce my comfortable, myopic view of service. As I grew more uncomfortable with my international inaction, I laid the blame mostly at the feet of David Smith. Seriously, how long can you listen to his inspiring stories of bringing the very first microscope to science teachers in the poorest parts of the world without wanting to help out? How many pictures can you see of happy faces knowing they don’t have to carry water for miles every day to keep their families alive, without wanting to support more of these efforts? So, when David presented the idea of “twinning” with a club in Niamey, Niger, I eagerly volunteered to help make that happen.

High school teachers in Niamey, Niger study the optical properties of double convex lenses in a teacher training workshop organized by the Niamey-Gaweye and Pagosa Springs Rotary Clubs.
Thanks to a reluctant knowledge of Zoom, having an active “twin-club” relationship with members of the Nia-mey-Gaweye Rotary Club in Niger has never been easier. Of course, we can still (someday) travel with David as he continues his kind, quiet, altruistic journeys; or we can develop personal relationships with the Niamey members without ever leaving home, or our pajamas! And because the Niamey-Gaweye Club offers service to remote, outlying villages, even a meager investment on our part can have impact in a part of the world rarely receiving support.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, look at the rapt attention of the men in David’s 2017 Teacher Training Workshop; or the joyous look on the children’s faces inspired by a visit from Rotarian DJIBO Hamani in a rural school. Among the thousand words these pictures inspire, is the reminder that local and international service are not mutually exclusive, and that winning can be as simple as twinning.