Report on Rotary-Peace Corps Week September 2023

Tuesday November 7, 2023

Partnering for Peace launched its third annual Rotary-Peace Corps Week on September 18, 2023.  Partnering for Peace is a support organization for the formal collaboration between the United States Peace Corps and Rotary International.

The week’s activities, a result of almost a year of planning by PforP, were attended virtually by nearly 150 individuals, most of whom were both former Peace Corps Volunteers and current Rotary International members.  The virtual event was open to the public and many other citizens also attended.

The week’s theme was “Celebrating our Connections,” designed to focus on the many ways that current and past PCV’s and current Rotary members and their clubs can work together to enhance their common goals of world peace. Sessions, which were all recorded, included:

  1. Peace Through Service, Action, and Diversity; [hyperlink]
  2. How to Make the Rotary-Peace Corps Connection Work;[hyperlink]
  3. Connecting in-Country Rotary Clubs and Peace Corps Posts;[hyperlink]
  4. Successful Examples of Joint Rotary-Peace Corps Projects; [hyperlink] and
  5. Rotary + Peace Corps: A Global Force for Peace. [hyperlink]

Viewers are encouraged to review the sessions and provide feedback or questions.



Day One: Peace Through Service, Action and Diversity

Kim Dixon, President of Partnering for Peace, kicked off the week by delivering an overview of the collaboration between the Peace Corps community and Rotary International, stressing our common goals.  She also previewed the upcoming sessions for each day of the week and announced the speakers for Day One’s sessions, Jody Olsen, past director of the Peace Corps, and Pat Merryweather-Arges, current vice-president of Rotary International.

In her talk, Jody Olsen emphasized the common purposes of the Peace Corps and RI, noting that the two organizations deeply respected and trusted one another and had worked together overseas for many years. She noted that there are now more than 250,000 Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, including many who are Rotarians. She said that the organizations are now “perfectly positioned to expand cooperation” and have a “collective lifetime impact” in our world.

Director Olsen noted that Rotarians in-country are often involved in the training of PCV’s and that PCV’s establish relationships with Rotarians in their respective countries that can greatly benefit their work in local communities. She also pointed out Rotarians in the U.S., often RPCVs, raise money to support projects in Peace Corps countries. Over 2500 projects supported by $1 million in funds raised from Rotarians have been documented. “We are each other’s best recruiters,” she noted.  She concluded by saying we have “a shared DNA based on mutual respect, trust and honor,” and that we are “bonded together through our dedication to service.”

Pat Merryweather-Arges, Vice-President of Rotary International, underscored Rotary’s respect for PCV’s due to their rich experience in the field.  She called PCV’ “adaptive problem solvers,” who were invaluable in helping to complete Rotary projects.  The similar goal of “peace through service” is vastly enhanced by having knowledgeable people “on the ground,” as Peace Corps Volunteers are. She noted that PCV’s help Rotary fulfill sustainable goals in innovative areas like the environment and mental health. She noted as an example how her Rotary club had followed a PCV’s advice to allow local women design and build a women’s sanitation center in Kenya.

She described how her local Rotary Club in Chicago had developed a relationship with a Kenyan woman introduced to her by an RPCV working on the Rotary staff.  As a result of that connection, her club undertook major clean water projects in Kenya along with other activities. In another example, her club supported a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Ukraine who has helped to support education projects in a time of war.

She talked about the goal of Rotary this year is to Create Hope in the World and how former Peace Corps Volunteers can assist through the projects that local Rotary Clubs undertake, including an effort by her club to recruit volunteers to help with violence reduction efforts in a local hospital.


Day Two: How to Make the Rotary-Peace Corps Connection Work

Partnering for Peace Board Member Alan Kusunoki and  Partnering for Peace co-founder and Board Member Charlie Hunt initiated the second day of the week–dedicated to “Outreach.” Charlie described how his initial Peace Corps experience was being a business adviser to a group of fishermen, and then when he returned to the U.S. how Steve Werner and Sue Fox recognized the similarities between the Peace Corps and Rotary. Partnering for Peace was formed in 2017 and designed to operate at the grassroots level. Its main challenge initially appeared to be how to work with Rotary and the Peace Corps to promote the formal partnership between the two organizations. That still remains a challenge, in part that because of privacy concerns. Peace Corps cannot share with Rotary the names of PCV’s in the field. Charlie urged all Rotarians to follow up with PCV’s when they hear about or know of individuals who have jointed.

Charlie then asked Alan to share with the audience his connection to Partnering with Peace. As a PCV, Alan was assigned to Afghanistan. Although anxious about his lack of knowledge of the language, he soon understood that relationships were what really mattered. In the Peace Corps, Alan was a water supply engineer. He learned the language and became friends with many Afghan nationals. He also became friends with Indian engineers who were working with the U.N. Alan helped to construct a building code for the country. As a result of his work there, he worked in Southeast Asia for nine years before returning to the United States in Los Angeles. Eventually, he moved to Hilo, Hawaii to work at a training center at the University of Hawaii. He met many RPCV’s and ultimately connected to the Rotary Club in Hilo. Finally, he moved to Honolulu and became vice-president of the RPCV association of Hawaii.

Ellen Young, PforP Board Member and a former Rotary District Governor, has been a Rotarian for 30 years. She came to appreciate the Rotary-Peace Corps connection when her daughter, who was a PCV in the Dominican Republic, asked Ellen if her Rotary Club might help with a small grant to help a library in a school in the DR.  Ellen immediately got involved in helping to secure a grant, and she and her daughter went on to get more than $90,000 in grants for DR school projects. Thus, although already involved in Rotary, Ellen’s involvement with the Peace Corps came through her daughter.  She noted that there were three actors in this drama: a Peace Corps Volunteer, Rotary Clubs in the U.S., and Rotary Clubs in the DR.  She encouraged all participants of the week to tell the story of their projects by writing it up with photos and sending the story into the PforP website.

Caroline McKenzie, president of the RPCV association in Hawaii, told the story of how she got involved in the Peace Corps when she heard a public service announcement recruiting PCV’s while she was on a long commute to her home. She promptly sought to apply and was accepted to go to Ukraine in 2009.  She was assigned to a battle zone working with disabled people.  She tried to secure a grant through a Rotary Club in Kviv and eventually received one with the assistance of a D.C. Rotary Club. She returned to Hawaii and became head of the RPCV group. She said the hardest part is finding potential Rotarians and potential PCV’s, but now that Peace Corps no longer has age limitations it is much easier.

Allan brought up the importance of the Congressional budget for the Peace Corps and introduced Jonathan Pearson, the advocacy director for the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA). He noted every year there is funding fight. He urged all participants to talk about the importance of the Peace Corps budget whenever they are speaking to groups about their experiences. Jonathan noted that the emerging difference between the House and Senate budgets is as much as $40 million for next year; he asked participants to support the Senate version of $448 million.

A number of participants talked about the importance of making connections with Peace Corps recruiters so they can inform prospective PCVs about the Rotary connection.  Ted Adams of the Peace Corps said that the Peace Corps strongly supports the connection and that it is a priority to advise PCVs who are leaving service about the Rotary connection.

Day Three: Connecting In-Country Rotary Clubs and Peace Corps Posts

Charlie Hunt introduced Ted Adams of the Office of Strategic Partnerships of the United States Peace Corps and the official liaison with Partnering for Peace. Ted is also a former PCV in Ecuador.

Ted in turn introduced Kate Raferty, a senior adviser to the Peace Corps, who has been a country director for the Peace Corps and a former PCV in Paraguay. Kate noted that in thinking about Rotary’s involvement in the Peace Corps she had initially focused on how she could get Rotarians in the U.S. involved in Peace Corps in-country projects but then shifted to thinking about how Rotarians could really help enhance her efforts as country director. She realized that Rotoract Clubs could be a great constituency and help the sustainability of ongoing projects by staying involved with projects after PCVs left. They were a good entrée for PCVs to get into the Rotary world. Kate also talked to PCVs before they came to the country and she asked them to “bring people from your community (such as Rotary Clubs).”  The connection was a tremendous benefit to RPCV’s when they returned to the U.S.

Laura Sundquist, an RPCV from the Dominican Republic, informed the group about her role in the DR as the leader of a Spanish language literacy project. Rotary had contacted her about doing a joint project with children, which resulted in 60-65 volunteers organizing an effort to secure 200-250 books for schools.  Ultimately, the project resulted in 11,000 books being collected and distributed. Rotary has remained financially involved, especially through small, rural clubs that Laura targeted.

Ross Feezer, a PforP board member, described his efforts to get the Rotary Club of Denver involved with Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and others. Ross pointed out that all the books were children’s books in Spanish.

Charley related the story of his efforts as head of his club’s International Service Committee and as an RPCV working with Colorado State University to provide smokeless stoves.  PCV’s helped distribute the stoves in country.  Local Rotarians also helped.

Cal Mann, an RPCV from North Macedonia and an active Rotarian, shared his story of meeting the President of a new Rotary Club that was anxious to build their club.  They formed a partnership and found numerous ways to work together.  Cal was asked to stay a third year and work at PC Headquarters in Macedonia to help build the PC-Rotary connection.  Three PCVs were assigned to work on building the partnership.  Thus, the in-country connection was a big benefit to the PCVs as well as the local Rotarians.  Cal emphasized the importance of introducing InterAct Clubs to Rotarians.

In response to a question about PCV’s making connections with Rotary, Charley suggested just going to and finding a club. Rotarians in Peace Corps countries can reach out to local PCV’s. PCV’s are trained to integrate into the community and can easily reach out to Rotarians.  Rick Harned pointed out that you can also search for Rotoract Clubs as well as regular Rotary Clubs. Carrie Golden, RI’s liaison to the Peace Corps asked about specific steps a PCV could take to make a connection with Rotarians. David Howard pointed out that there is an app available to all Rotarians, that once downloaded, will allow the search of detailed information about each club, including meeting times and officers. Thus, a PCV seeking information with the help of any Rotarian would be able to obtain highly useful information about making a connection. Laura pointed out that country directors can ask their PCV’s if they have any connections with Rotarians at home.


Day Four: Successful Examples of Joint Rotary Peace Corps Projects

Chantelle Dirksen, an RPCV and board member of PforP, was the moderator for Day Four and introduced the panel.  She reminded everyone that the day was the U.N. International Peace Day so it was particularly appropriate to be discussing joint Rotary-Peace Corps projects.

Natasha Wanchek was a PCV in Eastern Ukraine from 1999-2001. Later, she became associated with an NGO working in the war zone.  As a result of her contact with Partnering for Peace, Natasha applied for and received a Disaster Response Grant from RI for humanitarian assistance in the war zone.  The NGO hooked up with a Rotary Club in Dnipro and laid out in the application all the supplies and services needed. The project provided assistance to IDP’s, Internally Displaced Persons, who had been forced to leave their homes in the combat zone in Eastern Ukraine.

Steve Werner, PforP co-founder and past President, described successful water and hygiene projects between Rotary and PCV’s. Steve comes from a professional background of being involved in water, sanitation and hygiene work, called WASH projects. Steve reminded everyone that Rotary has seven areas of focus and that these areas correspond with Peace Corps objectives. Many Peace Corps and Rotary projects focus on WASH because of rural needs. There is a three-legged stool of needs: governance, business planning and health and hygiene. Steve pointed out that the need to involve the community in the administration and sustainability of the project was particularly suited for work that PCVs do.  For one example, Steve pointed to a role that PCVs can play in encouraging and teaching the community the importance of washing hands after latrine use. And PCVs can help community members learn the importance of keeping health centers clean. PCV’s can help maintain a WASH project that may have been built by Rotarians.

In Guatemala, PCVs were able to get $2500 grants from USAID for water projects, and that money was matched by local governments or Peace Corps Partnership programs. Rotary Clubs, without the necessity of a District Grant, would frequently contribute to the projects and get the satisfaction of a successful project that was leveraged with the help of other funders.

Most of the successful Rotary-Peace Corps projects that Steve has seen have been initiated by PCVs identifying the need for a WASH project and contacting Rotary.


Ruta Casabianca, board member of PforP and founder of Together for Real Changes, serving people with disabilities in the mountains of Georgia. Ruta authored an article about an early PCV in Peru, who helped construct 145 greenhouses with the help of a local Rotary Club to transform the agricultural economy into a market economy. Rotary Clubs in Lima provide continuing support. The project worked closely with indigenous Peruvians. The local organization grows products of which 60% is eaten and 40% is marketed outside.  Peer-to-peer relationships were key to the project’s success.

In the Q&A session, Natasha suggested that an individual PCV can reach out to the local Rotary Club to see if a relationship can be built.  From there, a relationship with a U.S. Rotary or other club should be built. Ruta agreed with that approach.  Steve said that partnership was more than just getting together but learning how to have added value, e.g., local communities appreciating the value of washing hands. PCV’s add value in library projects by making sure that age- and language- appropriate books are being distributed.

Day Five: Rotary + Peace Corps: A Global Force for Peace

Kim Dixon, former PCV in Georgia, and President of PforP , introduced the topic and speakers for the final day of the conference. This day’s session will focus on Rotary organizational efforts in the international arena, including organizations founded by RPCVs.

Kim introduced Al Jubitz, who joined Rotary in 1977, who has been president of his club in Portland, Oregon, and who is the founder of the Rotary Action Group for Peace. As moderator of the panel discussion, Al reminded the group that we help each other, that we work together, and that we build peace together, not in separate silos. Al told of his journey to establish the Rotary Action Group for Peace and described how he reached out to Erin Thomas, who was in the very first class of Rotary Peace Fellows.  Erin dedicated herself to helping Al establish the RAG for Peace. Erin, an RPCV, became the first executive director of the RAG.

Al said that a few years after being a member of Rotary, he realized that it was really about peace and that his goal at this point in life was to build on Rotary’s peace efforts. Al asked us to look in the mirror and recognize that we all have a significant part to play in peace-building.

Mike Caruso, the next panelist, was a PCV in Malaysia, where among other things he worked on tuberculosis control with the aboriginal community. Mike reminded the listeners that what we have received as PCVs is so much more than we could ever give. While PCVs have the ability to deliver needed services and improve lives, RPCVs have the time and resources through organizations like Rotary to provide the means for improved lives. RPCV-Rotarians are in the unique position of having access to an organization that supports specific life-saving projects. Rotary is a catalyst that engages people and resources to enable people to complete so many successful projects. Rotary Peacebuilder Clubs working with each other can make significant impacts and Rotary Peacebuilder Clubs with Peace Fellows’ involvement can be especially impactful, such as a countrywide program in Nepal to fight violence against women.

There are currently more than 500 Peacebuilder Clubs around the world. The Rotary Action Group for Peace conducts monthly meetings at which the Peacebuilder Clubs participate.

Mike noted that in his district there were about 35 Peacebuilder Clubs and that they got together every other month to discuss their activities and ways to enhance their impact.

Barbara Gaughen-Miller is the co-founder of Rotary’s E-Clubs of World Peace and the 2022-23 President of the Rotary Action Group for World Peace. The RAG is the resource for 44,000 clubs around the world to build world peace. There are currently 300 E-Clubs around the world. Barbara noted t he he importance of honoring local peacebuilders and related that the E-Clubs honor key people and publicize their efforts. Barbara works closely with the United Nations Association. She urged all members to remember and honor the International Day of Peace. Every Tuesday night on Zoom the Rotary E-Club of World Peace hosts a meeting to discuss peace activities.  She directed the listeners to   She reminded us that each of us is responsible for “our piece of world peace.”  Each Rotary Club can contribute to peace in its own unique way. Barbara also runs, a podcast devoted to the cause of peace.

Erin Thomas was a PCV in Ecuador.  She had previously participated in RYLA and learned to do things differently. In Ecuador, she and her fellow workers asked the question, “What do people need?” and decided to build libraries around town. The tragedy of 9/11 led her to apply for and become a Rotary Peace Fellow. She went to Argentina to study and get her Masters’ Degree in peace activities.  According to Erin, Rotary Clubs are a perfect way to get into the community to undertake peacebuilding projects.

Andrew Wilson is the Director of Third Goal and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer services for the United States Peace Corps. He was a PCV in Senegal. He told the audience that part of his job was to help RPCV’s find association and noted that the Third Goal of the Peace Corps was bringing the world back home. Rotary is an essential element of that endeavor. When the post-COVID volunteers return to the U.S. next spring, Rotary will be a special support group to help reintegration.


In response to a question about the definition of world peace, Barbara emphasized that peace started with the individual and that it was fine for people to have differing views. Erin also emphasized that addressing peace comes in many forms.  Kim talked about the concept of “positive peace,” not just the absence of conflict. Mike underscored that joining Rotary allowed him to pursue the understanding of separate cultures and peoples. By promoting the concept of peace and conflict resolution, Mike pushed Rotary toward adding peace as a part of the Rotary mission.

Jerry from Canada shared some information about a new organization called Visioneers, which has developed a curriculum for global citizenship to be distributed to schools around the world. The pilot curriculum will be launched soon and will be distributed without cost. The Council of Ministers of Canada has declared global citizenship to be the sixth core competency students must obtain. The curriculum has already been spread to 62 countries in the world.  Links to the curriculum have been entered in the Chat of the recording.


Kim Dixon wrapped up the conference by thanking the many people who helped plan, produce and participate as speakers in the conference. The sessions have been recorded so people can go to and listen to the sessions in depth.


Skip to content