Marty Helman - Rotary Peace Initiatives


Our program featured Boothbay Harbor Rotarian Marty Helman who is the Chair of the Major Gifts Initiative for the Rotary Peace Centers. She believes that the success of the Peace Scholar program will ultimately outshine our polio eradication efforts. Peace has been at the core of Rotarian values since the early days of the organization. The fourth object of Rotary was adopted in 1921 and calls for “The advancement of international understanding, goodwill, and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional persons united in the ideal of service.” A human rights declaration was authored by Rotarians at their international convention in Havana in 1940. That declaration was later adopted during the formation of the United Nations.


The polio eradication campaign showcased Rotary’s power to negotiate and bring warring factions to the table. These negotiations enabled immunization campaigns to take place during days of tranquility in El Salvador, Peru, Uganda, and other areas of conflict.


Past Rotary International President Raja Saboo visited a management school run by the Kellogg Company. Raja said, “If a cereal company can have a management school, why can’t Rotary have a Peace School?” This resulted in the establishment of the Rotary Peace Centers located in Universities around the world. Since the program began in 2002, the Rotary Peace Centers have trained more than 1,400 fellows who now work in more than 115 countries. Many serve as leaders in governments, NGOs, the military, education, law enforcement, and international organizations like the United Nations and the World Bank.


The Master’s degree programs candidates study peace and development issues with research-informed teaching and a diverse student body. The programs last 15 to 24 months and include a two-to-three month field study, which participants design themselves. The professional development certificate program is a one-year blended learning program for experienced peace and development professionals to gain practical skills to promote peace within their communities and across the globe. Fellows complete field studies, and they also design and carry out a social change initiative. This program is intended for working professionals.


The whole concept of peace is complicated. Negative peace is known as the absence of violence or fear of violence. Positive peace is the attitudes, institutions and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies. Approximately 40 specific attributes have been used to rank countries relative to their peacefulness. The United States places a dismal 121st out of 163 ranked countries. The USA scores low due to things including the number of weapons on the streets, the percentage of people incarcerated, and the percentage of GDP spent on defense.


The Peace Scholar program is funded through the Rotary Foundation at a cost of $5 million per year. Candidates are nominated by Clubs or Districts at no cost. The program is highly competitive generally averaging 1,500 candidates for 110 slots. Marty shared the stories of several graduates including Lyttleton Braima. Lyttleton started out as a refugee from Sierra Leone who had to walk from his homeland to Liberia. He somehow managed to survive and eventually graduated from the Peace Scholar program at Duke/North Carolina. He is now back in his homeland coaching multinationals in ways to support people and customs in Sierra Leone. Lyttleton’s experiences left him with the belief that there is no greater imperative than peace. As he puts it, “Peace comes first.”