Jaclyn McAlester/Courtesy photo
BY LINDA HULL
Rotary Club of Los Alamos
Peace and the paths to it rarely leave the news. To commemorate Rotary International’s dedication to Peace and Conflict Resolution, February’s worldwide theme, the Rotary Club of Los Alamos invited Rotary Peace Fellowship recipient Jaclyn McAlester to speak via Zoom at its February 22 meeting. McAlester, an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner in Albuquerque, recently obtained her Master’s of Arts degree in Peace Studies at the International Christian University in Tokyo, Japan, through the Rotary Peace Fellowship program.
“It’s a fully-funded scholarship; there’s no age limit; and you don’t even have to have experience in peace-building,” she enthused. “It’s life-changing.”
McAlester elaborated that annually “100 Rotary Peace Fellowships are offered on a world-competitive basis for study at one of the Rotary Peace Centers. Fifty of the recipients are enrolled for Master’s degree study, the other 50 for a professional development certificate.”
In addition to Tokyo, Rotary Peace Centers are located on university campuses in Bradford, England; Brisbane, Australia; Uppsala, Sweden; Bangkok, Thailand; Kampala, Uganda; and Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA.
These peace studies support Rotary’s mission by “advancing research and offering practical field experience on peace, causes of conflict, and world understanding.” The studies also “inspire work toward a culture of peace and tolerance, and provide a means for Rotary to increase effectiveness in cooperation among peoples.”
During her Zoom presentation, McAlester described how her own Rotary Peace Fellowship journey began, a story of international scope. During a chance encounter in a coffee shop in Sofia, Bulgaria, she met a gentleman from Afghanistan who was an alumnus of the Rotary Peace Fellow program. As their conversation progressed, the gentlemen strongly encouraged her to apply. Even though the scholarship application was due in just two short days, McAlester completed and submitted the Peace Fellow application while on a lengthy layover in Istanbul. Soon after, she was interviewed remotely by Rotary International administrators “during a thunderstorm with power outages” while she was in Ethiopia.
Before long, McAlester was off to Tokyo. She said she chose the Peace Center at the International Christian University in Japan because she was “impressed by the wide varieties of courses in international law and environmental studies,” and “most of the other Peace Center universities are in Western countries.” McAlester felt that the program would provide “the unique chance to learn from a culture, people, and history different from my own.”
During her 22-month course of study, McAlester took classes on “peace theory, international conflict, humanitarian aid, the anthropology of violence, and ideas on peace.” The program, McAlester said, “also offered a two-three month opportunity to explore internships, professional development, and thesis field research.”
With COVID-19 protocols in place, McAlester was not able to travel to conduct onsite research, but she “pursued a remote internship with Mediators Beyond Borders International under Scott Martin, the Global Partnerships Manager,” McAlester said. Her thesis research focused on “zoonotic diseases” in Jordan, diseases that are spread from animals to people, and how this issue was “directly impacted by the influx of Syrian refugees” into Jordan. During COVID-19, refugees were eligible for health aid, but excluded from other forms of assistance. Equity in health is “uniquely suited for peace-building,” McAlester said.
While in Japan, McAlester also studied aikido, a martial art that “neutralizes the effectiveness of another person’s attack by redirecting it in a peaceful and nonviolent way.” Through it, McAlester “learned the importance of mindfulness in every action” and “to focus on community before the individual.”
McAlester also visited Nagasaki, the site of the second atomic bombing of World War II. With her interest in this avenue of peace, McAlester acted as one of the lead project managers representing the Rotary Peace Fellow Alumni Association and collaborated with the Nagasaki Foundation for the Promotion of Peace. Together the two organizations are coordinating “a global webinar of testimonies from survivors of the atomic bomb.”
Throughout her presentation, McAlester thanked Rotarians from our District 5520 for providing the funding that enabled her to study abroad with such intention and purpose. In closing, McAlester assured Rotarians, “I am looking forward to practicing Service Above Self.”
Jaclyn McAlester, a nurse practitioner in Albuquerque, has seven years of experience in healthcare, primarily in critical care and inpatient cardiology. Throughout her career McAlester has sought out humanitarian and mission work, including medical missions to Nicaragua, working with homeless youth in Portland, Oregon, and participating in a program called the World Race, in which she traveled to 11 countries in 11 months to partner with local organizations and churches to assist with their work in the surrounding communities. She feels “incredibly blessed and grateful for the opportunity to complete the Rotary Peace Fellowship,” an experience which has challenged and refined her perspectives of peace-building. McAlester hopes to continue engaging in peace-building work not only locally but also at the national and international levels.
To learn about the Rotary Peace Fellowship and ways you or others can apply, please speak with a local Rotarian or go to https://www.rotary.org/en/our-programs/peace-fellowships.
The Rotary Club of Los Alamos, through its Club Foundation, is a 501(c)3 non-profit and one of over 34,000 clubs worldwide. Rotary, which now has 1.5 million members, was founded in 1905; the local Club was chartered in 1966. Rotary areas of focus include promoting peace; fighting disease, particularly polio; providing clean water, sanitation, and hygiene; supporting education; saving and enhancing the lives of mothers and children; growing economies; and protecting the environment.
The Rotary Club of Los Alamos meets in person Tuesdays, 12:00-1:00, in the Community Room, Cottonwood on the Greens, at the golf course. A Zoom option is available by contacting Linda Hull, Rotary Club vice-president, 505-662-7950. Hull is also happy to provide information about the Club and its humanitarian service.