A Resilient Rotarian. Member Spotlight: Chehab Elawar


Today, we present a unique member with a remarkable story: Chehab Elawar. He was raised in Lebanon and started his life with nothing. He comes from a big family of six children, and when his dad was sent to jail, his mom had to take care of the whole family by herself. She only had a few goats and went into the woods to collect berries to make some money. Even though both of his parents were little- to not at all- educated, they always valued education and had high hopes for Chehab. He also added that the community also significantly influences him: “the community also shapes you; it’s watching you all the time. Whenever I was doing something wrong in the community, they would either tell my dad when he returned from work or correct me themselves”.

The civil war in Lebanon from 1975 until 1990 greatly affected the whole family. Chehab was then in high school and wanted to fight and protect his village. Luckily his engagement in the army didn’t last long; Chehab’s parents managed to find an escape for their elder son by borrowing some money and were able to send Chehab away to the United States. They had one wish: for him to become a civil engineer. Chehab completed his bachelor’s degree at Chico state university and went to Long beach state University for his master’s degree.

Thanks to hard work and motivation, Chehab and his family live now in a comfortable situation, but there is always this fear of becoming poor again. His mom, for example, would always keep some money in her pocket just in case.

Work with Rotary

As part of a student job, Chehab worked at a gas station in the United States. He eventually managed to save up some money and buy his own gas station. This ultimately led him to his first contact with the Rotary Club. In the beginning, Chehab didn’t have a clear idea of what Rotary was. He went from first thinking that it was a car club to thinking that it was some sort of cult until he realized the important work of this organization, especially in helping and connecting people “These people do some good service to the community, which instantly reminded me of my mother and how she was always helping out in any way she could, so I decided to give them a chance and get involved.”   

As he was getting more and more invested in the organization, he realized how he would have needed such help when he was growing up in Lebanon. With this idea in his head, Chehab promised himself that he would help others as best as possible, so they don’t feel left out as he did and receive help when needed. Through his years of hard work, he was offered the position of international director of the club and then district governor and many others. He is no longer a district governor today, but he is still very invested with Rotary, and one of his primary goals is bringing the youth together. For example, lately he’s been travelling the world to help on projects and connect youth communities with Rotarians.

Recent work

Through his involvement with Rotary, he got to work on a project in Africa where they had to install solar panels. For this project, they were able to use some of the Global Grants offered by the Rotary Club to support humanitarian projects. Thanks to these global grants he is able to connect Rotarians which ultimately serve many needy people and realize Rotary’s motto in life to benefit as many people. 

During Covid, he was challenged by the crisis but never gave up his important work. He thought that “People who need our help suddenly stopped needing us because of Covid? No way… They need us more than ever.”

Nowadays, he is very involved with the situation in Ukraine, especially in raising funds for the people there. He traveled there a few times even though the war was occurring. After interviewing Chehab, I learned that nothing could stop his will to help others. Not a pandemic nor a war.   

Article by Sarah Vorms, MBBI Writer