“We need to find a way to present what needs to be presented and attempt not to offend others while doing so. Of course, in life, it is never possible to make everyone happy, but we want do our best to remove barriers. I realize that we are not going to change people immediately, but we certainly can attempt through education, to open a few more minds by planting seeds.”
Service Above Self
Dr. Vicki is a graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles with a Ph.D. in the Philosophy of Psychology with emphasis on Conflict Resolution – currently running a private practice. She is also a past District Governor of Rotary International, the largest and oldest service club in the world with the motto “Service Above Self”. She has been doing service since her pre-teen years, volunteering for organizations, trying to help less privileged from the Los Angeles area – including two youths she brought to live in her home. One of them became the first ever in his family to graduate high school. Privately, Dr. Vicki is a proud mother of Stanford Law School Graduate, David Radel who at the time of conducting an interview for this article is about to receive a US Immigration and Citizenship Services Award in Washington DC, US, as an “Exceptional Political Asylum Director”.
Dr. Vicki joined Mediators Beyond Borders International around 10 years ago, and at the Hamburg Rotary Convention helped form the MBBI Rotary Working Group which she has been chairing monthly with Director, S. Martin and Interviewer, Fran Jeffries. Monthly meetings feature speakers on various topics, often highlighting MBBI projects and programs. Such as Loretta Raider of the Sierra Leone Fair Elections project. As a result of the presentations, members who agree with the principles of the program, can go back to their local Rotary clubs and request funding. “It is a good opportunity to highlight the worthy programs,” Vicki says, “and to have the voices of those team leaders be heard so those of us who are on the call and interested can step forward to support”.
The COVID pandemic provided new opportunities for Dr. Vicki’s career, to be even more connected with people who are peace advocates around the globe. In addition to the monthly group meetings, she became more connected with the Rotary Action Group for Peace, and Inter-Country Communities, where Vicki was recently elected to be the president of the USA- Türkiye community. Along with her team members, she is providing a tremendous amount of relief efforts for Türkiye after the recent earthquake. For example, through a weekly support initiative “Empathy & Resilience Türkiye Hour” which was created to assist those victims of the earthquake disaster and others to process trauma and stress in a safe space to share personal stories, and provide tools to work toward sustainable resilience.
The Global Community
Speaking more about the Rotary partnership, in 2019 Rotary came up with an official Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. “A lot of us educated ourselves from it, in the sense of why RI chose the word equity over equality? We all learned that we need to change our vocabulary and our thinking, to help educate and train the global community of 1.3 million people on values that the Rotary requests” Vicki says. As a result, she developed a program through the RAGFP, with a team of 18 global facilitators that travel with her worldwide to deliver those programs, which so far done in 6 continents and 37 countries. Vicki has also developed a pilot program in the US for the youth on diversity, equity, and inclusion. It is scheduled to be delivered in the Caribbean, India, and Africa later this year. As she mentions a lot of what they have done came out of the COVID lockdown. The Rotary statement from 2019 was followed up with the 2020 statement of Zero Tolerance for Racism. Then in 2021, Rotary came up with an updated statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. A survey was conducted, and the results illustrated how much need there was for training on the DEI. Dr. Vicki created a Peace Education four-part program as a result. The first is dedicated to a basic philosophy of the Rotary regarding DEI evolution. Part 2 is based on a Peace Language chapter that Vicki wrote for the UK publication “The Nuts and Bolts of Peace”. It focuses on how Peace Language enhances, acknowledges, and affirms Generosity, Consideration and Helpfulness in our everyday actions. Part 3 is about developing Harmonious Rapport in our relationships. As a therapist and psychologist, working with people for decades in that field, Vicki realizes pretty much what is required to have harmonious and peaceful mutual satisfaction in relationships. She referenced the Institute for Economics and Peace, which has made peace definable. “Most people think that peace is just a nebulous cloud in the sky, but in reality, it can be measured” Vicki explains. “There are eight ways or pillars that you could define how peaceful the community is, and we cover it in our DEI presentations. Pillar number 4: Acceptance of the Rights of Others, and 8: Good Relations with Neighbors” are key. Part 4 of the program is Bystander Support. There is a psychological bystander effect that illustrated people can see a disturbing event where someone needs help, look the other way, and walk by with apathy; look at the event have sympathy; feel with the person by having empathy and then choose to get involved to help an act out of compassion. A distinction is that empathy can be inert, impulsive, and draining. Whereas Compassion, is deliberate, active, unifying, and regenerative. We need compassion now because compassion is a catalyst to ACTION…
The reality is that empathy and compassion are required in the world if we are going to truly live our lives with the motto “Service Above Self” that has existed with the Rotary since 1905. However, Dr. Vicki notes that there are clubs throughout the world that have what in the US is called a red-blue conflict, red being Republicans, and blue being Democrats. Unfortunately, the term DEI has become politicized and considered part of what is called woke community, which the Republicans consider negative, and Democrats consider positive. Rotary wants to deliver this message of DEI to the world. Because of the conflict in one club Vicki changed the title of a DEI program to “Rotary Friendship Triumphs Over Other Ideologies”, and those ideologies are political agendas. Each one of the presentations that Dr. Vicki and her team do has a built-in breakout room component. Each 90-minute presentation also has numerous pertinent videos to illustrate the point, interactive exercises, and the a 20-minute breakout session honoring the dignity of all voices on the topic relevant questions for the participants to answer, getting them thinking about their personal views. “Frequently we have disagreements which are fine because we are not looking for agreement, we are looking for a better understanding of each other. And the fact that MBBI and Rotary are apolitical, and non-religion, all views are welcome, whatever the gender, religion, sexual identity is.” Speaking of disagreements, Vicki recalls the first time they conducted the program in Africa, one of the suggested ways to get greater inclusion is to take participants to an LGBTQ event, to a celebration. In response to that suggestion, Vicki immediately started receiving messages asking don’t you realize that homosexual activity is illegal in this country? So in the breakout room, there was a question, what do you feel about the conflict between the idea of inclusivity and the law of the land? And by large the response was that the country needs more education on equity.
Article by Maciej Witek, MBBI Writer