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Rotary Gathered Peacemakers at the Rotary World Peace Conference 2020

by Rudy Westervelt, Chair of Rotary World Peace Conference 2020

On January 17 & 18, 2020, Rotary brought peacemakers together from around the world to Southern California. The World Peace Conference was held at the Ontario Convention Center.

Rudy Westervelt, Chair of Rotary World Peace Conference 2020, and his team of Rotarians from eight Rotary Districts dedicated two years to produce this conference. Over 1000 registrants assembled to learn, share and then take action to produce peace in their personal lives, homes and communities locally and internationally.

Over 160 experts from across the country and around the world were secured and assembled to share their solutions to the major issues of our time.   The six general sessions included Dr. Fozia Alvi, a Nobel Laureate Nominee; Steve Killelea, the CEO of Institute for Economics and Peace; Michelle Brooks, the Chief of Staff of the Peace Corps; Mary Ann Peters, a former Ambassador and CEO of the Carter Center; Kenneth Cloke, the father of modern mediation; Michelle Nunn, the CEO of CARE USA; Ira Helfand, a 2017 Nobel Peace Prize recipient and co-president of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, and more.

Rotary International President, Mark Maloney gave an opening address and explained Rotary’s role in creating peace in the world.  Actress and singer Kat Graham, who is a spokesperson for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency and a Rotary Goodwill Ambassador, updated us on the extent of the current refugee crisis and the need for continued assistance. Christine Ahn, who founded Women Cross DMZ, explained how she assembled 10,000 women and women Nobel Laureates to cross the DMZ in Korea from the North and South to connect in peace. She is focused on bringing peace to the Korean peninsula and ending the Korean War.  She was awarded the Dr. Henry Oster Memorial Peace Maker Award. Henry’s widow, Susie Oster joined Rudy Westervelt on stage to present the award.

Azim Khamisa addressed the audience to explain his loss and how the power of forgiveness helped him heal. When Azim’s son was 20 years old and delivering pizza, he was murdered by a 14 year old for his gang initiation. The 14 year old was being raised by his grandfather. The young man was sentenced to life in prison. Azim and the grandfather came together to understand their personal pain and established a foundation and now speak to inner-city school children on the impact of the choices they make in life.

Over 100 breakout sessions had experts with solutions to human trafficking, child abuse, spousal abuse, cyber-bullying, trauma therapy, sexual harassment, unconscious bias, violence prevention in our cities, homes, and schools and much more.

An exhibitor hall showcased more than 60 organizations providing solutions to needs in our communities.

On Friday evening, a Community Heroes Awards dinner was held to honor nine finalists. Fritz Coleman, from Channel 4, joined to emcee the event. Ines Allen, President and Founder of IMAHelps received the honor of being the Community Hero of the Year.

As an adult, Ines Allen volunteered as a dental assistant with the Flying Doctors for 20 years of dental missions to Mexico. She later founded IMAHelps to provide not only free dentistry, but medical care and life changing surgeries for impoverished people around the world.  Since 2000, she has developed a team of more than 130 volunteers, who have provided free medical, dental, surgical and prosthetic care to over 100,000 patients in nine countries. Her volunteers have performed over 2500 cleft lip, cleft palate and club foot repairs and installation of pacemakers. In the past three years, her volunteers have provided nearly $20 million worth of free medical care to almost 20,000 people in Paraguay. She is planning for her next mission to Jamaica in July of 2020.

In addition to the two-day conference for adults, over 250 high school Interact students from across Southern California and Arizona gathered to learn and train in conflict resolution skills.  They rotated through classes led by Peace Fellow Ana Patel, Outward Bound Peacebuilding, Peace Fellow Patricia Shafer, New Gen Peacebuilding, Positive Peace Activators with the Institute for Economics and Peace and a Heather Sadlier, a professor from Maine. As a service project, they packed 10,000 meals, which were donated to San Bernardino Catholic Charities food bank.

Contributed by Rudy Westervelt, Chair of Rotary World Peace Conference 2020


 by Roy Barry and Roger Schulte