March 31, 2024 | Issue 39

Rotary International's Bold Move in Africa: Launching a Groundbreaking Aquaponics Center

RC Jacksonville Leads the Way

Johannesburg, South Africa -

In a landmark event last Sunday (24 March 2024), Rotary International President Gordon McInally unveiled a cutting-edge Aquaponics Training Center in Johannesburg, marking a key milestone in his visionary Tour of Hope.

This initiative sweeps across six African nations, bringing sustainable solutions to the forefront of community development and food security.

At the heart of Randburg, the newly inaugurated State-of-the-Art Aquaponics Centre at Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk in Ferndale is set to be a beacon of hope and innovation. This project, a collaboration between Rotary International and FreshMinistries' Desmond Tutu Program to End Global Hunger, is poised to empower communities not just in South Africa, but in Eswatini, Lesotho, and Madagascar with sustainable food sources and economic growth.

The project has its origins in District 6970 with Downtown Jacksonville Club members Bryan Cooksey and Douglas Wedding.

Leveraging the FreshMinistries' Desmond Tutu Program to End Global Hunger's 25 years of expertise in aquaponics from the Americas to Haiti and a pioneering installation in Hoedspruit, Mpumalanga, this initiative is more than a project; it's a lifeline. It has transformed lives, fought malnutrition, and fostered community economic development and literacy—core pillars of Rotary's mission.

"Food Security is not just a right but a foundation for a hopeful, thriving society," Rotary International President McInally remarked, aligning the project's launch with South Africa’s Human Rights Month to underscore its significance.

This Aquaponics Unit will serve as one of two training centres in Africa. The South Africa unit will train people from Eswatini, Madagascar, Lesotho and South Africa. The second will be in Kenya and train participants from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

With an ambitious plan to roll out 198 aquaponics units across eight African countries over the next three to five years, FreshMinistries and Rotary International are on a mission to revolutionize food security, education, and economic independence across the continent.

"Aquaponics isn't just farming; it's a revolution," says Rev. Dr. Robert V. Lee III, Chairman & CEO of FreshMinistries. It promises year-round produce, sustainable incomes, and, particularly, a step towards financial independence for women.

This initiative isn't just a launch; it promises Africa a sustainable, secure, and hopeful future.


RC Jacksonville is leading a Global Grant request to further expand the project. If your club would like to participate, or for further information contact Doug Wedding at:


John Tabor | District Governor 2023-2024

Rotary District 6970

Dr. Robert V. Lee III CEO of Fresh Ministries presents to the audience information about the Desmond Tutu Program to End Global Hunger. Dr. Lee was inducted into the Paul Harris Society by President Gordon earlier in the day.

RI President Gordon unveils the commemorative plaque at the opening of the training center in Johannesburg, South Africa.

John Tabor

District Governor


March 31, 2024

Watson and Williams Award Nomination Deadline

April 20, 2024

Rotary Learning Institute

Daytona State College,

Palm Coast

May 3 - 4, 2024

District Conference

University Center

UNF, Jacksonville

RI President Gordon and Dr. Robert Lee in the aquaponics greenhouse.

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RC Jacksonville past president Bryan Cooksey presents Rotary Club of Johannesburg, South Africa flags to RC Jacksonville President Marie Gnage from his visit.

Beaches Rotary Clubs Host Armenian Delegation

Rotary Club of Ponte Vedra Beach President Jennifer Logue welcomes the Armenian delegation at Jacksonville International Airport.

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla., March 25, 2024 — Several Beaches Rotary clubs joined forces last week to host an international delegation of women leaders from Armenia.

Sponsored by the Congressional Office for International Leadership’s Open World Program, the delegation traveled to Jacksonville March 15-23 to study women leaders and gender equality. The group was hosted by the Rotary clubs of Ponte Vedra Beach, Palm Valley and Jacksonville-Oceanside, with delegates staying in Rotarians’ homes and participating in a week of meetings and social and cultural events.

“Rotary clubs have long been a partner to the Open World program, with Rotarians opening their homes to visiting delegates and putting together a week of informative and inspiring programming,” said Jennifer Logue president of the Rotary Club of Ponte Vedra Beach. “Given that for the first time ever, the mayors of Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Jacksonville Beach and Neptune Beach are all women, we thought this would be a perfect time to connect the Armenian women’s delegation with our First Coast women leaders.”

Members of the Armenian delegation included: Raisa Aghabekyan, programs manager for Impact Hub Armenia Social Innovation Development Foundation; Susanna Matinyan, president of Youth Avangard; Tatevik Martirosyan, lecturer at Alaverdi State College and Armenian Representative of the Europe Goes Local mentoring program; Karine Davtyan, attorney and president, Women’s Rights House; Anahit Badalyan, former TV journalist and founder of the Berd Women’s Resource Center Foundation; and delegation facilitator Anahit Khachatryan, public engagement specialist at the U.S. Embassy in Armenia.

During the delegation’s visit, the group met with Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan, St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Sikes-Kline, Jacksonville Beach Mayor Christine Hoffman and Neptune Beach Mayor Elaine Brown. Delegates also attended city council and county commission meetings, met with women business and nonprofit leaders and enjoyed outings to THE PLAYERS Championship, the beach, the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve and a tour of Dutton Island Preserve by former Atlantic Beach Mayor Ellen Glasser.

“I think we learned as much about Armenia through the delegates’ comments and questions as they learned from us,” Logue said. “For example, when the group met on Election Day with St. Johns County Supervisor of Elections Vicky Oakes, she predicted that the turnout for the primary would be around 15 percent. The Armenian women asked if we would have to redo the election, saying that in their country if the voter turnout falls below a certain percentage, the results don’t count.”

The U.S. Congress founded the Open World program after the fall of the Soviet Union to bring future leaders of former Soviet republics to the United States to learn about America's democratic institutions. Since then, more than 30,000 current and future leaders from post-Soviet era countries have participated in the program.

“The Armenian women were so passionate about learning from our local women leaders,” Logue said. “They all agreed that they were looking forward to taking those leadership lessons back to Armenia to improve their communities and their country.”

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Register Now for the

2024 District Assembly and Conference!

Please join us for the 2024 District Training Assembly and Conference May 3-4.

The venue is the Herbert University Center on the campus of the University of North Florida 12000 Alumni Drive, Bldg 43 Jacksonville, FL 32224.

The weekend begins with a dinner meeting of the College of Governors on Thursday evening May 2 at Maggiano's, St. John Town Center, 5:30pm.

District Training Assembly will begin Friday with a meeting of the Assistant Governors followed by a Lunch with the entire Assembly. Afternoon Training sessions will be offered for Club leaders, President-Elect, Secretary, Treasurer, Membership Chair, Public Image Chair and Foundation Chair. All are welcome, aspiring leaders or members who just want to learn more.

Friday evening continues with a Cocktail Reception to kick-off the District Conference. Also featured will be a Scotch Whisky tasting led by the always entertaining George Robertson Burnett (Donation to Polio Plus required).

Saturday's Conference is a full day of inspiration and celebration.

Barbara Spengler

PDG District 5130 (Northern California) 2018-2019

Conference Keynote Speaker (Afternoon)

'The Power of Rotary"

Barbara has been a Rotary member since 2009.  She is currently a member of the Rotary Club of Lakewood Ranch, FL.

She served as President of the Rotary Club of the Valley of the Moon (CA) in D5130 in the 2012-2013 Rotary year.  She served as Assistant Governor for D5130 in 2014-20016 and as District Governor in 2018-2019.

Her district service also includes terms as District International Service Chair, PETS Committee for Zone 25-26, and Chair, Clean Water Committee D6960 Lakewood Ranch Rotary. She is serving as an Advisor on multiple Global Grant projects in Zimbabwe.

She serves on the HANWASH Steering and Management Committees, as well as Vice Chair for the HANWASH Monitoring and Evaluation Sub-Committee.

Barbara has participated in a number of global service projects including, Cleft lip and Palate surgical repair missions in Venezuela, India, Myanmar and Bangladesh; And Clean Water Project Commissioning in Mushake and Muhrewe, Zimbabwe.

Barbara has attended Rotary International Conventions in Atlanta, Houston, Toronto, and Hamburg

Barbara holds a B.S. Medical Technology from Framingham State University (Massachusetts), a M.B.A. Entrepreneurship from Babson College (Massachusetts), and  a M.P.H. Global Health Specialty –University of California, Berkeley.

Barbara's professional career is in global cardiology imaging technology clinical research.  She led market focused research projects with academic medical centers in the Western U.S. for GE Healthcare and other companies.

She currently serves on the Biostatistics teaching team for the Masters Degree in Public Health Online/On Campus program at U.C. Berkeley.

Barbara enjoys learning new things, travel, photographymaking new Rotary friends in Florida and beyond!  And most importantly, playing with Buddy, the GoldenDoodle!

Barbara says - "I believe in making the world a better place - we all get the opportunity to do that every day in hundreds of little and big ways. It is energizing, fun, and worthwhile.

The power of Rotarians working through the Rotary Foundation to make our world a better place inspires me every day!"


RC Hastings Presents

The Great Hastings Mow Down

The Great Hastings Mow Down of 2024 will be held on North Main Street, Hastings, Fla. from 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. This will be a Pit Stop Fun Race with sponsored tasks to complete at each pit stop! There will be ribbons and trophies for heat and event winners. ALL paid registrations include the price of a commemorative event tee shirt!

Sign up to join one of two racing classes Open Stock Adult (ages 18 and up) or Young Rider Open Stock for ages 15-17. Not ready to race? Jazz up your mower for the Mow Down Parade! We’d love to have you show off for the hometown crowd.

For information, please contact us at

Meet your District Leadership

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Sam Hall

Assistant Governor - Membership Area 7

RC Ponte Vedra Beach

Past President

Rotarian 9 Years

Upon becoming a member of the Ponte Vedra Beach Rotary Club in 2015, I immediately became active in committees and projects within the Club; Feeding migrant workers, chaired Deck the Chairs in Jacksonville Beach, Club Secretary, Public Relations chair, Club Administrator, Board of Directors and subsequently Club President. 

To hone my skills for leadership in Rotary, I completed Rotary Leadership Institute classes 1,2,3 and a graduate class. I attended two Rotary International Conventions, Atlanta, and Houston as well as Zone 33/34 Assembly. 

As President of the Ponte Vedra Beach Rotary Club during the pandemic, I was able to implement a hybrid meeting format in order to accommodate members who wanted to meet in person and for those who were comfortable meeting at the same time but virtually. Attendance actually increased by using this method during that time. I used ZOOM to bring in Rotary International Director Stephanie Urchick to help with my Strategic Plan. Using this technology, I was able to get two Past Rotary International Presidents, PP Mark Maloney and PP Barry Rassin to speak to my Club. I was able to get former Exchange Students from around the world to present to my Club on a virtual program during the Holiday Season. We raised a record amount of funds for World Polio Day during my year as President. 

On a personal note, I am a Leadership Jacksonville graduate, I serve on the State Attorney Neighborhood Accountability Board, served on the Beaches Museum board, was appointed to the Community Redevelopment Agency of Jacksonville Beach and have served on United Way nonprofit boards. 

As Assistant Governor-1 Area 7, visiting all the Clubs in the area has been so rewarding. I have stressed the importance of recruiting, retention and reclamation of membership. A Membership Action Plan (MAP) should be in place for membership sustainability. 

RC New Smyrna Beach Celebrates 95 years of Service

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At the March 26th meeting, The Rotary Club of New Smyrna Beach celebrated its 95th birthday with a proclamation from the Mayor, cake, and the distribution of checks to seven deserving non-profit organizations.

These organizations include the Boys & Girls Club of Volusia/Flagler Counties, mentoring organization No Longer Fatherless, Cudas Unhooked, NSB Housing Authority, Under the Stars Mission which provides hot meals, Mary Martha Mission which provides clothing, blankets, and personal hygiene items, and Tool Share, a new tool lending library for residents of Volusia County.

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