Dear Rotarians,
 
It is so refreshing to start the year 2021.
 
This year’s theme, Rotary Opens Opportunities, could not be more relevant today. As I reflect on what this theme means to me, I realize that it is no coincidence. It was precisely the vast range of opportunities to bring ideas into action that attracted me to Rotary. We are in unprecedented times in our life. Let’s use these opportunities to serve!
 
A new normal?
 
Nearly every aspect of our club operations has been shaken this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our BOD has had to find new ways to continue our commitments while staying as close as we can to our members and other stakeholders. Many of our members were affected in one way or another, whether it was losing family members, losing their jobs, or changing their jobs to survive these difficult times.
 
As communities are reopening and trying to return to “normal,” we are also learning that no matter how important an organization’s mission might be, things are harder in a world with COVID-19 still undefeated. So how can we take these new issues and turn them into opportunities to serve? Precisely by addressing the needs of today and contributing however we can.
 
Using science to fight COVID-19
 
Two years ago, at the Rotary International Convention, I met Dr. Alberto Paniz, an internationally recognized infectious disease expert. Dr. Paniz spoke to me about science and his pragmatic view of doing science in Venezuela by using citizen science: where science can be used with social conscience. He founded an organization called “the Venezuelan Science Incubator” with a group of passionate medical students. The group promotes scientific and academic exchange and does applied research in the area of Tropical Medicine.
 
On July 24, 2020, we received the approval for a Global Grant that aims to purchase and send medical equipment to build the first molecular diagnostics laboratory in Venezuela. This is critical because it can also serve to diagnose COVID-19 patients and provide a foundation for prevention of infectious diseases. We are making great progress in the implementation and will be sharing news upon arrival of the equipment in Venezuela.
 
Networking during COVID times
 
But we are also doing amazing work right here in our district 5890. Our public relations chair, Nguyen Nguyen, recently initiated a district-wide vocation program. The program aims to promote networking for Rotarians seeking or needed to hire considering these challenging economic times. This very timely event is a highlight for this month’s theme: Vocational Service.
 
We are also learning ways to participate in the Rotary International convention that will be hosted in Houston in 2022. We are planning to host a “Hospitality Night” and also have our traditional “e-Club party.” Check in with us if you are interested in taking part on this effort.  
 
Mental Health
 
During these unprecedented times, mental health is everything. The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown has brought about a sense of fear and anxiety around the globe. However, it has also brought a time of reflection and a time for us to stop and listen to our inner voice.
 
We don’t have to be an intuitive person to experience this. Every day, we are constantly taking stimuli with our senses and processing them. We can hear our inner voice when we begin to pay attention to how we react to the outside world. With so many enticing stimuli drawing our attention outward, however, sometimes it gets harder to connect inward. Today, we have an opportunity to practice looking inward and focus on that personal compass to guide us through the tempestuous waters of life.
 
Please reach out to any member of our club to stay connected. The best way to overcome hardship is to lean on all of our loved ones and our communities at large.
 
Stay safe,
 
Dr. Isis Mejias