Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 9:46 PM on Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Rotary conference centers around change, connections

Keynote speaker for district event is Rev. Mpho Tutu

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer

Rounding out a one-year term as district governor for Rotary International's District 5010, the largest district in the worldwide service organization, Jane Little is seeing a plan come to fruition: the district's 2010-2011 conference in Homer beginning today.

"It is the district governor's choice where the conference is held and I decided that Homer would be a great choice this year for the conference," said Little, who lives here. "It will be good for Rotarians to come to Homer and it will be good for Homer's economy."

The last time Homer was the conference location was in 1995 when another Homer resident, Steve Yoshida, was district governor.

District 5010 currently stretches from Russia beyond the Ural Mountains — Eastern Siberia, Western Siberia and the Russian Far East — Alaska, and Yukon, for a total of 11 time zones and three official languages and includes a land mass about twice the size of the United States.

The 2,500 members of Rotary in the district are represented by 37 Rotary clubs in Alaska, three in the Yukon and 31 on the Russian side of the district.

The upcoming year is one of transition for the district, however.

At its January meeting, the Rotary International Board of Directors voted unanimously for Russia beyond the Urals to become a separate district on July 1, 2012.

That change makes the conference theme — waves of change; worlds connected — especially appropriate. Little credits conference co-chairs Tina Day and Michele Miller with the theme.

"We were looking for something that would tie in with the Rotary International theme for the year, which is 'building communities, bridging continents.' Our theme...is perfect because of the changes that will take place with the new district and yet we will stay connected as sister district and many sister clubs will also be formed between Alaska-Yukon and Russia beyond the Urals," said Little.


Rev. Mpho Tutu

The Rev. Mpho Tutu, an Episcopal priest and founder and executive director of the Tutu Institute for Prayer and Pilgrimage, heads a long list of speakers filling the program. She also is the daughter of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, with whom she co-authored "Make For Goodness." Rev. Tutu has operated ministries for children in Massachusetts, for rape survivors in Grahamstown, South Africa, and for refugees from South Africa and Namibia at the Phelps Stokes Fund in New York City. She began her ordained ministry at Historic Christ Church in Alexandria, Va. The Rev. Tutu is the chairperson emeritus of the board of the Global AIDS Alliance, chairperson of the Board of Advisors of the 911 Unity Walk and a trustee of Angola University. She will be accompanied to Homer by her daughter, Nyaniso.

Little heard Rev. Tutu speak at the Peace Forum in Vancouver, Canada, when she was asked to substitute for her father when he was ill.

"I was very impressed and had an idea that it would be great to have her be the keynote speaker at our banquet," said Little. "Steven Solomon, Rotary International staff member at The Rotary Foundation was able to put m e in touch with her and we are delighted that she agreed to come to Homer."

Rev. Tutu will be the keynote speaker at the banquet at the Bald Mountain Air hangar on Saturday.

Other speakers throughout the four-day conference include Martin Buser, Iditarod champion and spokesperson for Rotary's "End Polio Now" program to eradicate polio. Also on the program is Ramesh Ferris, a Rotarian and polio survivor from Whitehorse who hand-cycled across Canada to raise money for Polio Plus, another Rotarian program focused on ending the disease. Other speakers represent all corners of the district and beyond, as do the 300 delegates attending the conference.

"We have delegates from Bavaria, three from Korea, 15 from Russia and one form Taiwan," said Day.

A barbecue for incoming officers will be held tonight at the Pratt Museum. It is sponsored by clubs in Kenai and Soldotna. Music will be provided by local band Work In Progress. Opening ceremonies Friday, as well as activities throughout the conference will be held at the Mariner Theatre.

The main sponsor of the conference is Bald Mountain Air. Other sponsors include First National Bank Alaska, Bear Creek Winery and Land's End Resort. Catering is being provided by Vagabond Café; transportation is being organized by First Student and Homer Tours; entertainment is being coordinated by Johnny B. A "dinner on the town" event will highlight nine restaurants showcasing the beauty, entertainment and dining Homer has to over, said Day. An excursion to Seldovia is being offered for Sunday with Homer Ocean Charters.

"We really tried to focus on getting everything hired locally," said Day. "I would estimate we're spending around $85,000 on the vendors that have been hired."

Overnight accommodations have been provided for distinguished guests, with Land's End Resort, local bed and breakfasts and private individuals offering housing for conference attendees, said Miller.

"We have received wonderful community support for this conference and we are so grateful to our many sponsors," said Little. "We also have two Rotary clubs in Homer — Homer Downtown and Homer-Kachemak Bay — and both have volunteered countless hours in preparation for our celebration of our district's accomplishments this Rotary year."

For more information on the conference, visit www.homer.rotary5010conference.org.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jackinsky@homernews.com.