By Dr. Vicki Radel, District 5280, President of the USA-Turkiye Intercountry Committee
In a world that often seems divided by distance and cultural differences, Rotary’s Intercountry Committees, or ICCs, promote international cooperation and play a vital role in mitigating the impact of crises. One example is the USA-Turkiye Intercountry Committee.
After months of close coordination and cooperation by Rotary members from the U.S. and Turkiye, the USA-Turkiye Intercountry Committee was officially formed in June 2023. The ICC formalized a commitment from Rotary districts in the U.S. and Turkiye to build greater understanding and a deeper friendship, and to cooperate on service activities to support communities in both countries.
The unity and camaraderie among ICC members have proven invaluable in helping overcome hardships. Immediately after the devastating earthquake that shook Turkiye and Syria in February 2023, the ICC members began exploring ways to support Turkish communities starting the long recovery and rebuilding process.
One of the U.S. ICC members, a mental health professional, offered to hold a weekly online meeting to help survivors work through grief and trauma. Soon after, the ICC began partnering with the Rotary Action Group for Peace to hold bilingual weekly “Empathy and Resilience” hours to assist earthquake survivors process trauma, engage in a safe online space, and gain tools to support them with their personal recovery journey. The weekly series lasted from February through the end of June. The facilitated discussions and tools are being compiled into an online handbook to help other survivors of disasters facilitate similar online communities with licensed professionals guiding them through the grieving process.
Looking ahead to the 2023-24 Rotary year, the USA-Turkiye ICC will continue to partner with the Rotary Action Group to host facilitated conversations around supporting communities with mental health and wellness twice a month. The first monthly meeting is facilitated by a licensed mental health professional volunteering her services, while the second monthly meeting features guest speakers from Turkiye and the U.S. to explore topics related to wellness and mental and emotional wellbeing. The calls also include professional interpretation for English and Turkish speakers to fully participate.
Another example that illustrates the role of ICCs during times of crisis is the swift response of Turkiye members following the recent disaster in Maui. Immediate action and donations were made, mirroring the response to the earthquake in Turkiye. This rapid reaction is a testament to the deep bonds established between Rotarians and Rotaractors across international borders – bonds nurtured through familiarity, trust, and shared purpose.
Looking forward, the ICC will coordinate in-person cross-cultural exchanges by organizing Rotary Friendship Exchanges to bring together Rotary members from both the U.S. and Turkiye through home hosting in one another’s countries. While the ICC members are focused on supporting one another as friends across borders, they are also exploring service project collaborations to support community priorities in both Turkiye and the U.S. in the coming months. The personal and Rotary friendships already developed through this tight-knit group will continue to support Rotary and Rotaract members and their communities for years to come. In the tapestry of Rotary endeavors, the USA-Turkiye Intercountry Committee stands as a shining example of the power of friendship, cooperation, and unwavering support to overcome challenges, build resilience, and create lasting positive change.