Daybreak Sponsorship of Students from Iowa Traveling Abroad

Many Daybreak members are involved in the yearly efforts to choose outbound young people for Rotary Exchange programs. As sure as a Friday morning sunrise, you can bet that every August, one or more Iowa teens will be on their way to a far-flung part of the world, making their futures brighter and our globe a little smaller through individual ambassadorship.

In Daybreak Rotary’s 20-year history we have sent out more than 20 high school international students (three in one year at one point), and hosted at least one per year since the fall of 1997 (including two different students in one year.) Many of our eastern Iowa students went to the same nations that we welcomed students from. Brazil, Germany, France, Chile, Italy, Argentina and Russia are several of the countries whose young people called Linn County home during their Rotary exchanges.

Daybreak Rotary's International committee makes selections for the youth exchange each November for travel the following academic year. For more information, please contact the Daybreak Rotary International Committee Chair.

Daybreak: A Local Club with International Impact

International Projects

In addition to our keen focus on young people’s needs in our own community, especially Polk Elementary, Daybreak has always reached forth to improve lives in other parts of the world, as part of our Service Above Self pledge. Here are a few profound ways we have done that:


El Salvador Project
Daybreaker Joe Kirby showed how to quickly move an idea from awareness to action. He heard about an opportunity, mobilized support within the club and community, and led a project in another country—all within a year!
Joe heard about the human needs support group ESNA early in 2013, and formally launched a support project with Daybreak aid in July of that year. Joe also garnered support with Cedar Rapids Sunrise Rotary, with both of our clubs contributing funds and volunteers. Funds from Daybreak and Sunrise clubs, plus a successful wine tasting event and other fundraisers netted $43,500 from the Cedar Rapids area. District 5970 grants could amount to $12,000 by the end of this year.

The focus of the work was construction and outfitting of a school in El Salvador. With support of the Cuscatlan Rotary Club in the nation’s capital, San Salvador, 12 Iowans went to El Salvador in December 2013 to work on construction of the new school. The school was completed in mid-2014 and dedicated within the community that October. The facility supports 60 children ages 1 through 5, with the capacity to help about double that number, as resources allow. It is one more way Daybreak Rotary joins with people in far-away lands, encouraging Service Above Self.


Project Amigo

A long-standing mission to help disadvantaged children of Mexico achieve their highest potential by enabling education, providing material support, enrichment activities and healthcare services. Many times in the first decade of Daybreak, members worked in partnership with the Rotary Club of Colima, Mexico. Many Daybreak members and their families traveled to Colima to serve that community during work weeks, including the late Jon Cushing, Joel Schmidt, Richard Pankey, Daryl Spivey, Paul Phelan, Ken Kolek and Bart Woods.  


December work weeks included a Christmas party for the children of Colima.  Memorably, Daybreaker Patrick Scheetz served as “Santa” during one of those trips. One trip featured the building of a playground, another focused on Rotary members building homes.  An entire housing development has been created with assistance from Daybreak and dozens of other Rotary clubs.  

Library/Medical Clinic project, Aita Al-Fakhar, Lebanon


The village of Aita Al-Fakhar is in the eastern mountainous region of Lebanon, near the border with Syria. It is a beautiful but rugged area, with about 2,000 residents living more than a mile above sea level. It is no stranger to regional struggles and has been occupied by Palestinian guerrillas plus both Syrian and Israeli army units over the past decades.
Daybreaker Nick Abou-Assaly has strong Lebanese family roots and had thought a lot about helping the area with a Rotary-supported project. Project ideas began in 2004.  “On a visit to Aita I was shown new municipal office building with space reserved for future medical clinic and library,” Nick recalled. “On a return visit in 2008, fellow Daybreaker Elizabeth Daly and I met with members of the town’s municipal council and members of Zahle Rotary Club and Beirut Cosmopolitan Rotary Club in Lebanon.”
Fundraising for a clinic/library project began immediately upon their return to Iowa. Four area Rotary clubs, plus one in California participated.  The money they raised was matched by District 5970.  The two Lebanese clubs and their district also made contributions and assumed responsibility for the logistics of the project. 
“In October 2010 I travelled to Aita for the hand-over ceremony,” Nick said. “Two busloads of Rotarians from throughout Lebanon attended the ceremony and showed great support for the town’s residents.”
Total funds to complete this project totaled less than $29,000—plus the donated efforts of Rotarians on two continents. Today, the clinic is staffed one day each week by doctors hired by the municipality. They also host seminars on health and nutrition. The library offers the youth of the village access to books, computers and internet, which may not be generally available in their homes.