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Rotary International Convention 2012- Bangkok, Thailand

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What happens when 35,000 Rotarians from all over the globe descend on Bangkok, Thailand, a bustling city of 9 million? The entire Rotary organization shines through their commitment to eradicating polio, ending global poverty, and countless other worthwhile projects, that’s what!

On May 21, 2012, the Grosse Pointe Rotary Club had the honor of hearing Diane Strickler’s (President Elect 2012-2013, Grosse Pointe Rotary) recap of her trip to Bangkok to participate in the Rotary International Convention 2012.

Diane could not say enough wonderful things about the Thai host committee. From greeting them immediately as they stepped off the plane at midnight in Bangkok to helping the 35,000 Rotarians navigate the Sky Train, Metro Station, and various buses, the Thai host committee had all the bases covered to ensure the event ran smoothly.

The Convention was held at the Bangkok Impact Center. A room the size of 2 football fields was decorated full of palm trees, ponds, and orchids galore for the Grand Opening and Thai cuisine tasting dinner. Diane made sure to mention that the food was full of complex flavors and was delicious!

The Plenary sessions were opened by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. The first speaker was a young Australian entrepreneur, Hugh Evans. Hugh co-founded the Global Poverty Project and Diane was most impressed with his passion for his cause. Grammy Award winner Angelique Kidjo talked of her childhood in Benin and how she disliked the UNICEF trucks coming to town because the trucks meant needles and she hated needles.

Today, Angelique works for—you guessed it—UNICEF. Rotarians were also blessed to hear from Dr. Muhammad Yunus, the “king of micro-credit”, who now has banks worldwide. One of his Grameen Banks is coming right here to Metro Detroit. Dr. Yunus’ banks have an astounding 97% return rate, and his customers are primarily female.

At the Plenary sessions, Rotarians celebrated that we are 99% of the way toward eradicating Polio, and that Rotary has just matched the Gates Foundation Challenge Grant. That brings an additional $50 million to the RI Foundation that we can put toward our goals of achieving polio eradication. Following each Plenary sessions, there were 20 individual breakout sessions, where the discussions focused on various RI projects and initiatives. The most difficult part of the convention was choosing only 1 of the breakout sessions to attend, since they were all packed with valuable information. Diane chose the Preventing Maternal and Infant Mortalities breakout session where HIV, polio, nutrition and the global blood supply were addressed.

Some of the major RI projects for the future include the malaria project, the water project, pre-natal care, polio, illiteracy and the Global Poverty Project. Rotarians Against Hunger and Malnutrition is determining what foods should be grown in developing regions of the world to ensure that infants and children receive the nutrients they need to grow healthy and strong. We will certainly hear more on this initiative in the future.

For the second week of their trip Diane and husband Ron visited northern Thailand, to a region known as the Golden Triangle. This region borders Myanmar and Laos, and is an area that 25 years ago was known for its opium production. Now, with continuous support from the Thai Royal Family, the economy has transitioned to the sustainable farming of coffee, Oolong tea, jasmine rice, and numerous fruits and vegetables. This transition is a winning example of how countries can move from opium economies to more sustainable wholesome economies, and Diane felt it could be used as a blueprint for other countries all over the world.

One striking fact about the Golden Triangle that Diane noted was how porous the border is in this northern region. While the Mekong River does form a geographical border between countries, the Thai accept Burmese children into their schools, providing free school, uniforms, and lunches for all children. The only strict enforcement of the borders relates to blocking any opium-related activities.

Diane found the architecture of Thailand to be particularly beautiful with a combination of Cambodian, Chinese, and Burmese influences. The Thai people have a very respectful, friendly, and warm culture, and it was the perfect place to hold Rotary International Convention 2012. Thank you again, Thai Host Committee for your hospitality, and thank you Diane, for that fabulous recap!

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