No funny handshakes, no archaic rituals, just 1.2 million ordinary men and women in 34,000 clubs in 220 countries working together to do extraordinary things.
That’s reason enough to join a Rotary club. Whether you want to make life a little easier for the people in your own community or people on the other side of the world, there’s no more effective way to do it.
That’s what Rotarians do. Rotary is a worldwide network of inspired vocationally based individuals who translate their passions into relevant social causes and service to change lives in communities.
That could mean any number of things to different people. Helping to build or upgrade a playground at the local school, working to raise funds for much needed equipment at the local community centre, working with fellow Rotary club members to remove graffiti, raising funds to send young people on overseas student exchanges, or to provide leadership training and mentoring, sending talented and motivated university graduates to overseas universities to further their understanding of other cultures and their own areas of expertise.
Or it could be building schools in the developing world, wells for villages to ensure the supply of clean water, establishing a program of micro-credit loans to enable the desperately poor to get a real start in life, or immunising children against the ravages of polio.
Indeed, Rotarians the world over have contributed literally billions of dollars towards the fight to eradicate polio over the past 25 years or so. In partnership with the World Health Organisation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and several other Government and non-Government organisations, Rotary has been a driving force behind 99 per cent decrease in the incidence of polio in that time. There are now only four polio-endemic countries -- India, Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan. In India there was only one reported new case of polio between January 1 and September 15 when this was written.
When polio is eradicated – and it will be very soon – it will be only the second time in the history of mankind that a disease has been eradicated. Reason enough for Rotarians to be proud. Not only have they contributed billions (Australian Rotarians alone have contributed more than $1.3 billion since the fight began in 1987), but they have been on the ground in countries such as India and Nigeria, taking part in National Immunisation Days during which literally millions of children are immunised at the same time.
So how do you join? Every one of the 34,000 Rotary club meetings around the world each week is a public event. You can simply turn up and ask to participate. That is no guarantee you will be offered membership, but if you turn up three or four times and show a real interest in contributing, it is far more likely than not that you will be asked. Provided, of course, that you’re okay with Rotary’s overriding focus on ethics in the workplace and life in general, as summed up in its Four Way Test:
Is it the truth?
Is it fair to all concerned?
Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
Is it beneficial to all concerned?
But here’s a tip: It’s always hard to turn up to a room full of people you don’t know. While Rotarians are renowned for making people feel welcome, why not take a friend and join together?
Rotary clubs are always looking for new members. It’s not Amway, nobody makes any money out of your recruitment. The philosophy behind the constant search for members is that more members mean more work can be completed.
Tip number two is to take your favourite cause and make Rotary work for you. You could spend months working alone to raise, say $5,000 for an orphanage in Africa. That’s quite an achievement, but look at how Rotary could help. With 30 or so fellow club members working as hard as you on your project, the time you spent raising $5,000 could easily have been turned into $20,000. Your Rotary Club can then team up with another club in say, the UK, or South Africa, or Japan to match the $20,000 your club has raised. Suddenly there’s $40,000. The two clubs could then approach The Rotary Foundation for a matching grant and suddenly you’re looking at a whopping $80,000. There are a lot more orphans who will have a bed under cover, food in their stomachs and a school to attend with that sort of money. This is not an uncommon story. It happens all the time, all over the world.
Find yourself at the centre of that sort of success and just think how good you’ll feel. More so as part of a team of fellow members who will inevitably become lifelong friends, friends with whom you might travel to the annual International Convention (this year New Orleans, next year Bangkok, then Lisbon and Sydney in 2014).
In Australia, the best place* to find information on your nearest club is through the Rotary Down Under home page (www.rotarydownunder.org) or by calling 1300 4 ROTARY. Or ask someone whose lapel bears that familiar Rotary wheel.
Editor, Rotary Down Under
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