By Barbara Cunningham RMT
TORANTO, Canada –Toronto-based massage therapist Paul Lewis, along with more than 1,600 Rotary Club members, Rotary youth participants and United Nations officials, recently spent four days in New York—the highlight being the Rotary International—United Nations Day, held at the UN Headquarters on Nov. 7.
Lewis, who was born in London, England; raised and university-educated in Canada; and lived in Japan for eight years, is no stranger to the international scene. Today, he is a registered massage therapist, reflexologist, international presenter and fitness instructor. He also has a Black Belt in Aikido.
While hundreds of interested onlookers were denied entrance to this event, Lewis was individually invited by the local Rotary Club prior to a speaking engagement he did in August. Unbeknownst to him, his 30 minute luncheon talk on massage therapy was his “ticket to ride.” The local Rotarians invited Paul to join them on their four-day trip to New York, which took place Nov. 5 to 8.
During his speech, it became evident that Lewis embodies the Club’s guiding principle of “Service above self.” In appreciation of Lewis taking the time to make the presentation to the Rotary Club of Mississauga-Dixie, a donation was made on his behalf to immunize 20 children through Rotary International’s Polio Plus Campaign. This is a great example of how Rotary International works alongside others to improve world health. Eradicating Polio is one of the seven priorities of Rotary International’s strategic 2007-2010 plan–and it’s a goal well within reach.
Rotary International has over 1.2 million members sharing a strong fellowship in many community and international service projects worldwide. The Rotary Club and the UN engage in a special relationship which has been ongoing for nearly 70 years. In his speech this weekend, RI President John Kenny reinforced the organizations’ commitment together to continue to gain support, build joint resources and to generate public awareness in their shared global efforts.
The Principals of Rotary’s Four Way Test: Is it the TRUTH? Is it FAIR to all concerned? Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS? Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?
All of which are remarkably consistent with the UN’s core ideals and mission.
The Rotary has the most consultative status given to any nongovernmental organization by the Economic and Social Council, which overseas many UN agencies.
Lewis enjoyed the many facets of New York culture, including the live, late-night theatre. Yet, it was the people he met from as far as California to Japan, and the panel discussions on water, literacy, health and youth issues that made his trip memorable. He heard the speeches of Rotary International President John Kenny from Europe; Dr. Nicholas Alipini, Director of Programs, UNICEF who spoke about water; and Todd Jacobson, VP of the NBA, to name a few.
Lewis relates, “Their speeches were concise, to the point and emotionally moving. All spoke about the impact around the world and the importance that each and everyone play in the efforts.”
Most inspiring to Lewis were the words of Caryl M. Stern, President and CEO of US Fund for UNICEF, “Literacy saves lives—education is the only tool in our arsenal that can truly interrupt the cycle of poverty.”
Her story of two post-partum mothers illustrated the essential need for literacy as one illiterate mother had to walk over four miles to the hospital to receive medicine for her child, whereas the mother who could read could administer medicine to her own child. Paul returned from the trip with a desire and newfound inspiration to teach primary children the basics. He is considering teacher’s college as a potential option in the future.
Lewis also claimed that the United Nations building itself was worth the long bus ride. Tours are not always available, but after going through elaborate security measures, the group was able to view the remarkable historical headquarters of the UN.
The United Nations Headquarters of the World Organization is on an 18-acre site on the east side of Manhattan. It is an international zone belonging to all 191 member states. Many gifts occupy the inner chambers of this unique building, most notable is the Norman Rockwell Mosaic presented to UN by Nancy Reagan—who was then First Lady—on behalf of the United States. It reads, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It is a common mantra among nations, among different religions of the world, among the UN officials and the Rotarians. And it rings true for Lewis too.
The Rotary is so named because during the founding years of the organization, before a common gathering hall was built, meetings would rotate from house to house. Mobility is also part of Lewis’s routine. He is accustomed to travelling to treat over 400 clients at his clinic, home office, at their place of work, in the hospital or in the comforts of their own home. Lewis truly exemplifies the principles and characteristics of a Rotarian—no wonder they invited him along!
Since his UN-Rotarian New York adventure, Lewis remains hopeful that he will find new ways the RMT community can contribute to and help support the Rotary club in their outstanding efforts worldwide.