Congratulations to District Conference Chair Dawn Van Siclen and District Governor Chuck Pretto for putting on a very powerful District Conference.  Attendees were able to hear from three ambassadorial scholars: from Japan, Kenya and Kyrgyzstan who shared their stories and their goals for peacebuilding and aiding conflict resolution.  
Representatives from Rady Children's Hospital and Vista Hill Foundation provided a glimpse into realm of mental health services to vulnerable adolescents and teens and provided an overview of how District 5340 is aiding in those efforts through District grants.  Mental Health for youth is District Governor Chuck Pretto's key initiative for this year. 
Breakout sessions gave Rotarians and Rotaractors the opportunity to do what they do best and that is a service project.  Opportunities included Words Alive reading kits and putting together hygiene kits for adults.  New Generations/Encinitas Rotary Club also had a breakout session.
The afternoon was filled with District Grant and Global Grant presentations that really demonstrated the good Rotary is doing in the world and in our own backyard.  District grant presentations include:
  • A project where 431 Welcome Home Kits were made for homeless individuals who were transitioning to permanent housing.  This matching grant project was a collaborative effort between San Diego Downtown Breakfast, San Diego Club 33 and Coronado.
  • Bikes for kids - 400 bikes were put together by the La Mesa Rotary Club and then distributed to 3rd grade students at a local elementary school as part of an essay contest.
  • City Heights Rotaract club made several little libraries and placed them in areas of need.  The libraries are now accessed constantly demonstrating its value to the community.
Following District Grants were presentations on three Global Grants:
  • Ecuador Water Project building sustainable water sources in rural Ecuador.
  • Anti-Human Trafficking - a project spearheaded by Past District Governor, Steve Weitzen which continues today as it expands its reach and scope and with oversight coordinated by the Anti-Human Trafficking Committee of District 5340.  
  • Afghan/Ukranian Refugee Project updates.  Both Projects are extremely impactful and continue to create change and improve conditions for residents of Jalalabad and for displaced Ukranian refugees settling here in San Diego. 
The conference wasn't all business, there was plenty of entertainment throughout the day with the highlight being aerialists performing prior to lunch and at the cocktail hour prior to the Foundation Gala. See for yourself some of the great entertainment.
The Foundation Gala celebrated the work of the District and RI's foundations and the many personal financial contributions of Rotarians in District 5340.  Rotary international Director, Vicky Puliz was in attendance and spoke about how much Rotary has done over the years and how Rotary has changed the course of history over time.  A planned giving presentation was delivered by Laura Mello from the Rancho Bernardo Sunrise club.  She answered many questions often raised by those who want to help make a difference long-term towards Rotary's charitable mission.  Several Rotarians were honored for being the newest contributors to the Foundation's donor programs and just in the span of ten minutes over $1 million dollars was pledged to the RI Foundation.  What a magical moment that was!
Last, but not least, winners of the costume contest were announced followed by dancing to the music of Matt Heineke and Crown Town Music.