What is Rotary International?
Founded in 1905 in Chicago, by Paul Harris and other businessmen, its aim was to enable them to use their professional skills and business acumen for the benefit of those less well off than themselves. They adopted the Rotary 'wheel' as their emblem to signify their involvement with the local community. Since this time it has spread to 163 countries and has over 1.2 million members. There are approximately 28,000 clubs worldwide Since its formation, the movement spread rapidly and the first Rotary Club in Britain was formed in 1910. There are 59,000 Rotarians in Britain and Ireland in more than 1,800 Clubs, making it the biggest organisation of its kind. Rotary is uniquely placed to harness the energies of thousands of potential volunteers who want to make a contribution to the community at home or abroad. Until 20 years ago, Rotary was for men only, but reflecting the increasing role played by women in business, all Clubs are now open to both sexes, and members are referred to simply as 'Rotarians'.
Members and Meetings
Each club must be representative of the local business and professional community, ensuring a proper balance across all sectors. Fellowship and the exchange of ideas and experience through regular meetings are at the heart of Rotary's activities. Originally, all Clubs met weekly at lunchtime, but the change in working habits led to the formation of 'Evening', 'Twilight' and Breakfast Clubs, all still maintaining an informed commitment to attend at least 60% of meetings every year, at their own or at other clubs around the world.
Service at Home
Rotarians place strong emphasis on personal service to the community, and pride themselves on bringing integrity and professionalism to their community work. Through vocational projects they support job development, employment skills, literacy and numeracy training, and work-related and environmental initiatives.
Many members also give community service overseas, particularly in the third world countries where their professional skills are in great demand. Some run eye camps or educational or engineering projects.
Teachers, engineers, health professionals, technicians and IT specialists bring vital expertise to poorer countries. All this is central to Rotary's commitment to fostering global goodwill and understanding, breaking down prejudice and promoting understanding of other cultures.
The Rotary Foundation
Rotary's corporate charity's aim is to improve world understanding and the prospect of peace by supporting the programmes of Rotary Clubs throughout the world. It provides funding for a variety of projects, but the best known is the ambitious 'Polio Plus' programme for the eradication of poliomyelitis by working with UNICEF, the WHO and The Gates Foundation to immunise children against this crippling disease. Rotary International raised over $400 million and as part of this programme, organised the treatment of 40 million children in India on a single day. Rotary International makes life better for millions of people, in thousands of projects, in a hundred and sixty countries, yet it is based on individual Rotarians in local clubs, of which three are in Lewes. Perhaps there is a place for you to make your contribution.
Why not look through the pages of this website and see what Rotary means.