I suspect that, like many Rotarians, I was only vaguely aware that Rotary had a Peace Fellowship programme based at Bradford University. When a few months ago Ruth announced that she intended to attend the annual Peace Fellowship Seminar, I was keen to find out more.
On Saturday 26 October, Rotarians Ruth Otway, Angie Biggs, Roger Downing and I spent the day at Bradford University and what an inspirational day it was!
Each year since 2002 The Rotary Foundation has been funding around 70 Rotary Peace Fellows at 6 universities around the World, including at the Bradford Peace Studies Department. Students are not allowed to attend a centre in their own country. The course consists of a mixture of academic study and practical experience with a dissertation to complete the course.
The seminar enabled the 12 Bradford Students who are about to complete their 2 year post graduate masters course, to tell Rotarians about their studies and their plans for the future.
Our day was structured so that four groups of three Fellows presented as a team with a question and answer session after each presentation. Without exception the students had a fascinating tale to tell. The following examples may give a flavour of the variety and calibre of the young people we heard.
Born into a minority community in Kyrgyzstan she escaped to Russia when 500 members of her ethnic group were killed in unrest in her home town. With her parents, she eventually settled in the USA where she completed her education. As part of her course she has undertaken an internship assisting with the promotion of religious freedom and equality for the Muslim Uyghur people of Eastern China (No, I had never heard of them either), who are suffering terribly at the hands of the central Chinese government.
Gavin told us about his experience working in post conflict Liberia. The country has ineffective and corrupt central government and Gavin has been working at a high level, to establish regional government hubs to bring services, especially police and security, closer to the people.
Esther has been working with indigenous peoples in Canada and in her native New Zealand. She has been looking particularly at the way these communities are served by the justice system and considering the reasons why these groups make up such a disproportionate percentage of the prison population.
Sarah Francis (Franni) Noble
Our District 1190 has adopted a Peace Fellow from this year's intake - Sarah Francis (Franni) Noble of the USA. Do look out for opportunities to hear Franni speak during the coming year and if you have the chance to attend next year's seminar then grab it! Rotary at its very best!
This is a major Rotary programme that we should be celebrating far more. It was a Rotary Peace Fellow who negotiated the first cease fire with the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka to allow polio vaccination. There are currently 782 Rotary Peace Fellows making an increasingly valuable contribution to the World, in our name.