Attending the Singapore Rotary International Convention
May 25-28, 2024
by: Stefanie Kline, President, Rotary After Hours
How many Rotarians have been to a Rotary International Convention? Have you traveled the world to hear motivating speakers on topics of sanitation, polio, and making a difference in the world? Have you ever heard the International President speak about their goals and vison for the Rotary Year? Have you had the chance to sit with 13,000 of your Rotary friends from all over the world to experience the magic of Rotary?
Here is my story from this year’s Rotary International Convention in Singapore. I attended the convention as a first-time attendee. I traveled 20+ hours to reach Singapore, a city that is safe, clean, innovative, technologically savvy and beautiful, but so hot and humid!  Attending a convention at the Marina Bay Sands hotel and convention center was like a scene out of a move!
For the purpose of this article, I wanted to share with my fellow D6250 friends the truly uplifting, enlightening and magical journey experienced in Singapore. Not only did I attend the convention, I made so many connections from around the world and friends for life, but also memories and an experience that was impactful for my growth as an upcoming President Elect of the Rotary Club of La Crosse After Hours. If you have not been to an RI Convention, please consider going. You won’t regret it!
Dear Rotary Diary,
Day 1: Arrival in Singapore and the RI Opening Ceremonies
I arrived at the airport. It was amazing! You could spend all day here just looking at the architecture, waterfalls, watch movies, eat at all the restaurants and take in all the cool exhibits.
I’m staying at the Aloft Singapore, a high-rise in the center of the bustling city close to shopping and restaurants and walkable. I came to the RI Convention knowing only a few people from District 6250 and a few new Rotarian friends from my Philippines Rotary Friendship Exchange. This is my first big solo trip and I hope I don’t get lost or thrown into jail for chewing gum, littering, loitering, jaywalking or other strict laws. I was warned! Jokes aside, I plan to use this time to explore, meet new people and experience everything that the convention and Singapore have to offer.
Day 2, Sunday, May 26th: The RI Convention Opening Ceremony
Today was the opening ceremony of the convention and WOW, it was AMAZING! There were over 13,000 Rotarians attending the convention and everyone was so energetic and eager for the days ahead!
I arrived 30 minutes before the ceremony started. (Note to self: get there an hour or more to find a seat next time!) Luckily, I went towards the front and found one single seat amongst a packed area of Taiwanese, Filipino and Singapore locals. “Hey, can I sit here” I said, and they all shouted yes, please do!
The Opening was so energetic! I think I had a smile on my face the entire time looking from the stage to the performers, to the big screens showing the event. The hosts of the festivities introduced Gordon McInally, the current Rotary International President, and his family, as well as the upcoming President Stephanie Urchick and her family. There was a Chinese display complete with the marching dragons and performers, a Cirque-type group performing on stage, and Callum Scott, the “British Got Talent” winner, performed some very uplifting songs related to creating hope in the world and mental illness.
Sections of Rotarians cheered for their home country and flag until everyone was on their feet. I cheered with my new-found Rotarian friends, screaming and yelling loudly for Taiwan and Singapore and the USA! (Note to self: bring a large American flag for the opening ceremony next time!)
I ended the day hitting tourist spots for dinner and drinks with my Friendship Exchange Philippines friends and ventured into a bar filled with people dressed in Rotary hats and shirts. Even though I entered the place knowing no one, I felt one with the crowd of Rotarians. It is so crazy how Rotary is so welcoming all over the world!
Day 3, Monday, May 27th: First day of General Sessions and Exploring Singapore
The day started with general sessions and break-out sessions at the Marina Bay Sands convention center. I arrived and headed right to the auditorium to find a seat close to the front stage!
The theme was “Sharing Light with the World.” The speakers were impactful, talking about sanitation projects and ways to support the eradication of Polio. One was Jack Sim from Singapore, known as “Mr. Toilet” who talked about his quest to help provide proper sanitation. He is the entrepreneur and philanthropist that started the nonprofit World Toilet Organization. He even has November 19th as World Toilet Day to celebrate sanitation and the essential role in human life. His talk was funny, yet a topic that many clubs could do global grant projects to help in his efforts. I made note of this to take to my club! More information:
Another cool project was the Flight to End Polio flight with two men from Iowa! The project captures the spirit of adventure for Rotary to help eradicate Polio. Despite many naysayers, they achieved their goal to travel all over the world by plane. More information can be found at
I attended the breakout “Fellowships are Hidden Gems in Rotary.” This session from four panelists shared why Fellowships are an important part of Rotary, what the benefits are to join, and who can join. Who knew you could be in a wine, gin, ski or yacht club to name a few! I learned you can expand your involvement in Rotary all over the world focused on your hobbies and interests. You can live in your city but join virtually and meet up at conventions.
“Choose Your Adventure in Youth” was the other breakout I attended. There was a panel of the Rotary Youth Advisory Council members who talked about their experiences thru Interact, RYLA, and Rotary Youth Exchange. They shared many stories of how clubs can get involved with the youth in their hometown. Every day we choose Rotary, but how we can get youth to choose Rotary? Many clubs all over the world are working at improving programs for youth involvement in the coming years.
I ended my day dining and shopping in Chinatown with Rotarians I met from Missouri. We shared stories, current projects and what we would like to see in the coming year. Meeting so many president elects was a great experience as we shared our plans and ideas on how we can serve our clubs in the upcoming year.
I also ventured to the top of Marina Bay Sands hotel to see the infinity pool and amazing views of the city. The architecture of the building is like no other and the view is spectacular. With the difference in the time zones, I realized I am a whole day ahead of everyone back home in Wisconsin.
Day 4: Tuesday, May 28th: Bring Hope to the World
The highlight of the day was running into President Elect, Stephanie Urchick and taking a picture with her in the hallway. I mean, both our names are Stefanie/Stephanie and this was on my goal list! Check!
I also attended the Rotary Foundation “Bring Hope to the World” luncheon. From the amazing food to the speakers, to hearing more about the Rotary Foundation, and sitting with strangers and chatting about all the things Rotary, these luncheons are a must at a RI Convention! I saw familiar Rotary faces including Gordon McInally, Tom Gump, Jennifer Jones, Mark Maloney, Holger Knaack, to name a few.
The House of Friendship is where Rotarians network when not in sessions. l found so many interesting people from all over the world just by exploring the HOF, listening to the bands, walking around the booths, and chatting. I also spent way too much time and money on souvenirs but now I have a complete wardrobe of new Rotary shirts, scarves, banners, and so many pins!
At a quick gathering in the House of Friendship, Urchick made remarks on Rotary Peace and talked about the Peace Conference in Istanbul in 2025. I learned about the Peace Initiative and how her year will focus on peace and how our clubs can help. I took a few pictures in the Peace Park and am eager to learn more about the peace pole projects that we can initiate in our local communities with joint peace projects.
I squeezed in more tourist attractions, including Gardens by the Bay, the Flower Dome and Marina Bay Sand Convention Center which is full of shopping and restaurants. The flowers and gardens were unlike anything I have ever seen. I have so many pictures of flowers and information about the orchids, plants and vegetation that I saw but this still doesn’t make me a good green thumb girl!
It was great to finally meet up with other District 6250 Rotarians for dinner! Todd and Eva Marie Restel, Mark and Sharon Jolivett, Erin Luken, Jason Beren and Jason Illstrup and myself chatted about our week and the different events and sessions we attended. We shared our excitement to return to our clubs and start the upcoming Rotary year. Todd Restel, this year’s District Governor will be a great leader. He has encouraged all of us in our 52 clubs to share what Rotary means with someone. He will also share his personal story and weave in his two areas of focus, Peace and Conflict Prevention and Water Sanitation and Hygiene. I am looking forward to a magical year, DG Todd!
Day 5, Wednesday, May 29th: The Closing Ceremony
The last day of RI Convention arrived! The time went by so fast and was such a great experience.
I attended the President Elect luncheon and decided I was going to sit in the front row tables. You never know who you might sit with and today I sat with the manager of Foreigner and Kool and the Gang, a Rotarian from Austria, an “Ex-Pat” couple from the US living in Spain, a group from San Francisco who have a Rotary After Hours club similar to mine, and Ghim Bok Chew, chairperson of the Singapore Host Organization Committee and Convention with his wife who were the host of the table. He also went up on stage to interview President Urchick for her plan for the year. You sit for lunch with unfamiliar faces and leave learning so much with a business card in hand to keep in touch!
The closing ceremony was called “Sharing Belonging in the World” which works with the theme of Creating Hope in the World. We are instructed to share what we have learned from our time in Singapore with others and to share our Rotary experiences with our club members. I plan to do just that!
The closing ceremony was epic! From listening to a performance of classical and opera songs to the passing of the banners between Gordon McInally and Stephanie Urchick to watching the acceptance of the 2025-2026 President Elect, PE Mario Cesar Martins de Camargo from Brazil, the ceremony was magical! I loved seeing the presidential families on stage representing Rotary as a family affair. The support and enthusiasm from everyone who will help aid a President is truly a worldwide effort.
Urchick talked about what her vision of the year ahead would be, including the 2024-2025 Magic of Rotary theme and the Rotary Action Plan. Urchick explained how the theme came to her when she was in the Dominican Republic, installing a water filter in a family home. As they put dirty water into the assembled filter and showed how it would come out clean, one of the children said to her, “show me that magic again.” That helped her to choose the theme. It is magic and we are creating change in so many ways.  
The Magic of Rotary is simple. You can put any verb in front of it. Believe in the magic of Rotary. Spread the magic of Rotary. Build on the Magic of Rotary. Celebrate the Magic of Rotary. There are endless possibilities! I am so excited for the upcoming Rotary Year and this theme, and it will be perfect for my year as President of my club!
The ceremony ended with a band called the Red Hot Chili Pipers. This was a joke all week because I misread (as did many others) that it was NOT the Red Hot Chili Peppers. In the end, I was happy to see the Pipers, not Peppers, and even ordered their CD. 
Saying goodbye to people I had met and spent time was a sad thought. However, I learned to say it’s not goodbye but see you later at another RI Convention or virtually. This experience made me appreciate how I put myself out there and engaged with new people. I learned where they were from, about their club and what they do. Life is short and you never know who you might meet or where the next adventure might lead you. I am happy that I was led to Singapore to experience this chance of a lifetime trip and convention.
The one takeaway I leave you with is: Every day we make choices in our lives and choose to help serve above self; make a difference and impact those around us. By being in Rotary, a community all around the World, is like no other. Attending a RI Convention, changed me in more ways than one and I am grateful to share and grow from my experience. You can too! I am thankful for this experience, and I hope you all will meet me in Calgary in June of 2025!