Hello and welcome to 2021: We have passed the half -way mark in this Rotary year. It is with humble pride that we can look back on 2020 and reflect on how far we have come. The year that was themed “Rotary Opens Opportunity” has encouraged us not to count barriers, obstacles and restrictions but to reframe them as challenges that encouraged us to respond. We had the opportunity to choose a course of action that we hadn’t planned on. RI President, Holger Knaack, had encouraged us to be revolutionary and not be confined by our past habits. The Pandemic, I believe, will represent a milestone year for us and we will hereafter refer to BC and AC – before Covid and after Covid. 
Personal challenges abounded during this half year. Many of us were under employed and some were laid off. Others found themselves working from home with other displaced workers and perhaps children off school trying to learn on-line. Our periods of lock-down, travel, entertainment, dining and sports restrictions added to the necessary adaptations. Although there was encouragement to get outdoors and be active, many of us ended up adding a few pounds and told jokes about Covid 15 or 20. 
In my yearly theme of taking care of self, each other and the planet, I encourage us to take inventory of our own unique triad of body, mind and spirit and devote some time each and every day to the 3 areas. The oft- repeated activity goal of 10,000 steps per day or 150 minutes per week stills resonates and can pay substantial dividends. A fourth dimension of concern is to develop stronger relationships and to be ready and able to offer encouragement and support to others as well as seeking and accepting those benefits when you need them.
A sad consequence of the Pandemic is the impact on our mental health. There has been an increasing incidence of drug and alcohol abuse, overdose, suicides and domestic violence. The outbreak of Covid deniers, conspiracy theories, uncivil behaviour, hatred and racism at this time combine to have made 2020 a dark year. Although less pathologic, we are experiencing Covid fatigue and cohorts of people who gather in large groups and ignore what our public health and elected officials are advising. Another mental health effect is the increased incidence of isolation and loneliness and the impact on general health is profound.
Also affected by the Pandemic is how groups function. There has been a profound impact in the work setting, schools, places of worship, entertainment and in sports, recreation and play activities. Many concerts and performing arts activities were cancelled or re-formatted. Rotary and Rotaract Clubs adapted by meeting virtually through Zoom and other platforms. Our clubs found new ways to meet, to do service projects and fundraising as well as our social activities. Some clubs are now gathering in person while observing the current safety and health recommendations.
With the dawn of a new year, we look with hope and optimism to resuming gathering together and exercising our new and revised programs. In spite of the rising numbers of new cases, we know that is an end to this Pandemic since the vaccine programs are under way. In the meantime, please adhere to the personal and group current regulations and restrictions.
January is Vocational Service Month which is perhaps the least understood of our Avenues of Service. From the Object of Rotary- the second statement is to encourage and foster high ethical standards in business and professions; the recognition of the worthiness of all useful occupations; the dignifying of each Rotarian’s occupation as an opportunity to serve society.
We all are encouraged to talk about our profession and learn about those of our fellow members. In addition, we are called to use our skills and expertise to serve. As Rotarians, we practice our professions with integrity and inspire others to behave ethically in our words and actions. We have a role and responsibility to help young people achieve their career goals and to encourage life long learning in our workplace and community. Through our 4 Way Test and the Rotary Code of Ethics, we expect a high standard of ourselves and others.
Our clubs and District encourage the creation of Vocational Training Teams and to arrange international exchange visits of these groups. District funding and support is available for groups to form and accomplish visits, educational and service projects. In our District our Vocational Service Director is Ute Lindner of Burlington Lakeshore. She and her committee are there to promote Vocational Service activities and would be happy to do a presentation in your club. You can reach her at ute@theautostation.ca.
Here are some key messages regarding Vocational Service from Ute: 
Happy New Year to all and encouragement to be open to the opportunities that await us in 2021 and to be revolutionary and take action.
DG Mike