Welcome to February, our shortest month and we rejoice seeing the daylight stretching a little longer each day. As Canadians, our national identity is partially formed by our four very different seasons and the opportunity to be active outdoors. Winter brings us a chance to engage in alpine and Nordic skiing, snowmobiling, snow shoeing and ski-doing; but this year we had to adjust to the Pandemic rules and do these things differently, if at all. The snowbirds were largely grounded this year and our love for a break in the sunny, warm southern climates was probably curtailed. None the less, as Canadians, we find ways to get fresh air and hopefully to engage with others in newly defined ways.
Many clubs celebrate the anniversary of the founding of our great organization. On February 23, 1905, Paul Harris and 3 other Chicago residents started meeting for fellowship.  They were a diverse group; a lawyer, an engineer, a coal merchant and a tailor. What a long way we have come, but developing friendships is still an important element of who we are. Fellowship is one of our five core values.

Each month has a theme in the Rotary year, and each theme encompasses an Areas of Focus. February is Peace Building and Conflict Prevention Month. Our District Peace Initiatives Chair, Ernie Ginsler, works with our Foundation Committee to inform us Rotarians of the extensive work that Rotary does in peace building. Rotary Peace Fellowships provide funding for aspiring students to obtain post-graduate degrees and diplomas. Up to 50 masters and up to 50 professional development certificate fellows are funded each year. We have 6 Rotary Peace Centres around the world. The creation of a new peace centre at the University of Waterloo is in the development stage. These peace scholars are available to present at Rotary Club, Cluster and District meetings. 
From a peace perspective, Rotary was active in setting up the Charter for the United Nations in the late 40’s. This relationship continues and we celebrate the terrific work PDG Doug Vincent has done and continues to do through his involvement with the United Nations. Doug is always willing to speak at Rotary functions of this important focus for Rotary. To learn more about peace initiatives within our district, be sure to check out our Peace Committee's activities on our district website.  
It is an ongoing pleasure for me to attend many Rotary meetings each week and to experience the unique qualities of each club. The connections, humour, focus on service and speakers provide solid evidence of the value proposition of Rotary. In one week, I was able to hear presentations from General Secretary John Hewko, RI President Nominee Jennifer Jones and RI Director Valarie Wafer. Of course, Jennifer and Valarie are proud Canadians and we are equally proud of them!
A few words now on my personal theme: Take care of self, each other and the planet. The mental health of individuals around the globe has suffered in the COVID Pandemic. The directive to stay home, only venture out when “urgent” has left many people anxious, fearful, worried, losing hope, feeling unconnected and possibly misusing drugs and alcohol. In addition, we know our short days and lack of sunlight lead to the winter blues. The third Monday of January is known as “blue Monday” when mental health seems at its lowest ebb. Bell Canada has declared the Thursday of that week as “Let’s Talk Day”. We are encouraged to connect with someone and do what we can to cheer them up. This might be as simple as saying, “I care about you, how are you doing”. This month a little quiz for you:  Who was the Canadian Champion for the Bell Let’s Talk movement when it was rolled out several years ago?  Hint: She was a medalist in the Olympics at events in both summer and winter games. The answer at the end of this message.*
Some Miscellaneous Items:
  • Congratulations to Rotary Milton, Rotary Burlington North, Rotary Waterloo and Halton Rotaract for becoming PR Rock-Stars!  Each club completed the PR Rock-Star Challenge and earned $400 to boost their club's Facebook posts.  Check out their submissions at:  www.facebook.com/hashtag/7080whyrotary  
  • RI has initiated a new fundraising platform called RAISE. The program allows you to create fundraising pages that are easy to share through social media and email.
  • The Guelph Cluster is making great use of the Give Some app. The platform makes it easy to collect small donations. Contact Darlene Carpenter if you would like more information.  
  • The RI Convention planned for June 6-10 will now be virtual. Full refunds will be provided for registration, events and Rotary connected accommodations.
  • A multi-district Waterside Clean Up is planned for Saturday April 24th. All clubs are encouraged to get involved (in a Pandemic safe way). Information has been sent to club Presidents. For more information please contact District Environment Committee Co-Chairs Michael Pavan or James Weber
  • Our District Conference will take place on May 29th, from 9AM to 12:00PM. The theme for this year is Saving the Planet. It will be a virtual event.
  • The District Changeover and Awards will take place on June 23rd.
  • I encourage you to read this terrific summary by Bill Gates of what has happened due to COVID in the past year and the world’s response: The Year Global Health Went Local
  • Quiz Answer: Clara Hughes, cycling and speed skating 7 medalist over 4 Olympic Games