When I ask strangers or friends if they are familiar with Rotary, they have often heard of it, but are not sure what exactly the organization is about or what Rotarians do. It is not a cult or religious organization, but actually was the world’s first service club founded by an American attorney, Paul Harris in Chicago and formed in 1905. It was originally intended to be a an organization for professionals of diverse backgrounds to exchange ideas, form meaningful, lifelong friendships with the intention of giving back to their communities. Rotary’s name came from the group’s early practice of rotating meetings among the offices of its members.
Little did the founding fathers of Rotary realize that it would become an organization of men and women today with 1.2 million members to over 32,000 Rotary Clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas. Whenever I travel to another country, I can usually find a Rotary Club with an open invitation and warm welcome to join their meeting. I have been to meetings all over the world from Beverly Hills, California to Nairobi, Kenya. Almost every city in the world has a Rotary Club and maybe two or three in one city.
The 114 years of Rotary with the formation of the Rotary Foundation in 1917, has been one of historical impact in the world with members such as Thomas Edison, Charles Lindbergh, Sir Winston Churchill, Albert Schweitzer, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Buzz Aldrin, John F. Kennedy, right up to the present with Bill and Melinda Gates working with eradicating polio in the world hand in hand with Rotary’s Polio Plus Program. This Rotary program started in 1987 and today can claim by its efforts to have eradicated polio in the world with only Pakistan and Afghanistan remaining with victims of the disease.
As Rotary grew, its focus became more orientated to community service and the motto of “Service above Self” became its mantra with the Four Way Test of the things we think, say and do:
- Is it the truth?
- Is it fair to all concerned ?
- Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
- Will it be beneficial to all concerned ?
For example, prior to World War II in 1933, Rotary sent 3 delegates to meet Nazi officials to mediate a peace agreement, which was unfortunately rejected. Thereafter many clubs in Europe were forced to disband after the onset of the war. Other clubs stepped up their service efforts to provide emergency relief to victims of the war. In 1942, looking ahead to the postwar era, Rotarians called for a conference to promote international educational and cultural exchanges. This event inspired the founding of UNESCO, which even today Rotary has joint projects and participation.
Rotarians in the past assisted with the charter of the League of Nations under the Presidency of Woodrow Wilson in 1921 and that vision did not live on, it was in 1945 that 11 Rotarians set up agendas and served as official delegates for the formation of the United Nations. Thus Rotary has been actively participating since then with UN Environmental Program (UNEP), World Food Program (WFP), World Bank (WB), World Health Organization (WHO) and thousands of Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs) throughout the world.
For more than 110 years, Rotarians have joined together from all continents, cultures, and industries to take action in our communities and around the world. With a commitment to achieving lasting change, we work together to empower youth, enhance health, promote peace, and most important, advance the community. While Rotarians can serve in countless ways, Rotary has focused its efforts in six areas, which reflect some of the most critical and widespread humanitarian needs: Peace and conflict prevention/resolution, disease prevention treatment, clean water and sanitation, maternal and child health, basic education and literacy, economic and community development. With likeminded membership dedicated to their motto“Service Above Self”, Rotarian members work together as friends to serve the community. In Bali alone, among the 13 active clubs, thousands of local communities have benefited from the projects of service rendered by Rotary.
By Past President Anita Lococo
Rotary Club of Bali Seminyak
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