Sunday, February 25, 2024

Rotary Places a Focus on Peace

Written by Sharon Raffer

Pictured from left to right: Coronado Rotary President Rob Taylor, President-Elect LuAnn Miller, Rotary Fellow Nancy Nguyen; Peace Projects Co-Chair Sharon Raffer; and District 5340 Governor and Coronado Rotarian Dan Gensler.

The Rotary Club of Coronado celebrated with pride the announcement from Rotary International that Nancy Nguyen has been selected as a Rotary Peace Fellow. She will be attending the University of Queensland in Australia for the Masters of Peace and Conflict Studies, an 18-month fully-funded program.

The conflict in Ukraine highlights the need for motivated individuals applying their energy and expertise to the achievement of worldwide peace.

“This is a real honor for us as a club and as a district,” said Rotary 5340 District Governor Dan Gensler. The district includes 61 Rotary Clubs consisting of 2,790 members in San Diego and Imperial Counties. Dan is a member of the Rotary Club of Coronado where he was named Rotarian of the Year in 2004 and served as Coronado Rotary President in 2006-07.

The Rotary Peace Fellowship is designed for leaders with work experience in peace and development. Rotary Fellows are committed to community and international service and the pursuit of peace. Each year, The Rotary Foundation awards up to 50 fellowships for master’s degrees and 80 for certificate studies at premier universities.

“Many Rotary Fellows go on to careers with governments, the military, law enforcement, NGOs, and international organizations like the United Nations and the World Bank. Opportunities are really endless for these students.” Dan said.

“The work of actively building peace and understanding has been a hallmark of Rotary since its earliest days. With the creation in 1999 of the Rotary Peace Centers, we began a bold new chapter in this story,” Rotary International Foundation Trustee Chair John Germ said. “ This year marks the 20th anniversary of the inaugural class of peace fellows; the innovative program continues to merge a strong, academic understanding of the roots of conflict with practical tactics for solving real-world problems.”

Connecting with Coronado Rotary

Last year Nancy contacted Coronado Rotary and connected with Past President Tami Sandke through an email for a Rotary Fellowship application endorsement and possible club sponsorship. This was followed by further connections made with Peace Projects Committee co-chair Sharon Raffer, Coronado Rotary President-Elect LuAnn Miller, and President Rob Taylor.

Through phone and in-person conversations, Nancy demonstrated her excellent communication skills and her engaging personality. Her background includes wide-reaching international, national, and local experiences including creating programs and policies focusing on refugees, youth, and community peacebuilding. Endeavors like the above are strongly connected to Rotary’s “service above self” advocacy in advancing human rights and promoting peace and good will.

The combination of Nancy’s academic and on-the-ground experiences, plus her passion and ideas for the future, give her a strong foundation for the challenges that lie ahead in a career as a peacemaker. Coronado Rotary became Nancy’s club sponsor and recommended that she connect and be interviewed by District 5340 representatives and send her application forward to Rotary International.

Nancy’s Journey to Becoming a Rotary Fellow

Nancy was chosen from a pool of global candidates for this highly competitive program. Her present role is as a Civic Engagement Community Organizer at the Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans (PANA) in San Diego. As the most active resettlement region in California and a border city to the world’s largest binational region, Nancy’s work at PANA allows her to be on the front lines of refugee advocacy. For her work “fostering relationships with coalitions and organizations that work on advancing immigrant and refugee issues locally and statewide” she was recognized as a 2021 Women of Distinction in Youth Empowerment by the San Diego Mayor’s Office. Nancy is a 2019 graduate of San Diego State University, Honors College.

Nancy and her family at her San Diego State graduation in 2019.

Nancy’s longstanding commitment to peace and international development is reflected in her years of international and local policy, advocacy, civic engagement, and direct-service work. She assisted an emergency influx of oceanic Congolese refugees to an Uganda  refugee camp, and facilitated intercultural understanding between ethnically diverse students, particularly Burmese and Thai refugees as a Princeton in Asia Fellow. She also published and presented international policy proposals to U.S. diplomats. Endeavors like these are strongly connected to Rotary’s “service above self” advocacy in advancing human rights and promoting peace and good will.

“My parents are refugees from Vietnam. They migrated to the US after the Vietnam War and we grew up in a low income neighborhood in the Bay Area. The community members there often had my parents’ refugee background. I didn’t know at the time, but growing up around these community members with that background really informed my passion for justice particularly in the refugee and migrant communities,” said Nancy.

Scholarships and Grants bring Opportunities for Young Professionals 

“It is so important for the young people of today to be made aware of the opportunities available for scholarships, internships, and organizations that develop volunteer experiences that bring goodwill and benefit others,” said Coronado President-Elect Luann Miller. “Nancy will be visiting Coronado Rotary in the next few years as we follow her path as a Rotary Fellow at the University of Queensland. She will also work with us in connecting to other young professionals in Rotary’s Rotaract Clubs and at colleges and volunteer organizations to share what scholarships and grants are available to enable them to further their careers and experiences.”

“Peace is more than the absence of conflict. It brings freedom, security, and happiness. It is central to Rotary’s mission and a driving force in efforts such as eradicating polio across cultures and in areas of conflict. Looking ahead, our world’s future needs to be filled with the creative ideas and incredible leadership of today’s young people. Rotary’s world-wide support has been and can continue to be invaluable. Rotary believes that if concerned citizens work together to create peace locally, lasting change can happen globally. I am excited to be focusing on this at our club, and to be connecting with Rotary International further with this focus.”


Imagine Tomorrow; Rotarians Together Make It Happen

According to Rotary International President-Elect Jennifer Jones, “When an organization like Rotary dreams about big things like ending polio and creating peace, it becomes our responsibility to make them happen. You don’t imagine yesterday, you imagine tomorrow.”

The Rotary Club of Coronado, through its Club Foundation, is a 501(c)3 non-profit and one of over 46,000 clubs worldwide. Rotary, which now has 1.4 million members, was founded in 1905; the local Club was chartered in 1926. Rotary areas of focus include promoting peace; fighting disease, particularly polio; providing clean water, sanitation, and hygiene; supporting education; saving and enhancing the lives of mothers and children; growing economies; and protecting the environment.

Making a difference for the good of others and our world, and for more information about Coronado Rotary, please see the website Rotary Club of Coronado (


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