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What is Rotary?

"Since the beginning, men have been struggling upwards. The world's progress sometimes seems wondrous slow, but if slow, it is nevertheless sure. Little by little, men have prepared themselves for better conceptions of life."

(Paul Harris, Letter to the Rotarians at the Houston Convention of 1914.  Quote courtesy of the Rotary Global History Fellowship.  See the full letter at:  RGHF-Letter)


So, what is Rotary?  That is a difficult question to answer because Rotary is involved in so many different things.

The common perception is that Rotarians are an exclusive group of Old, Rich, White, Men that own businesses, play golf, drink cognac and smoke cigars.

Rotarians actually think of themselves as beauty queen contestants that speak of world peace and solving world hunger.   And that’s actually closer to the truth, but most do not wear tiaras or formal evening gowns.

Rotarians generally are common folk that are interested in making the world a better place.  Some own businesses, but that is not a requirement.  They come in all colours such as white, red, brown or black.  Both men and women belong and in many clubs, it’s half and half.  While it's true that many Rotarians are old, it's only because they joined when they were younger and had so much fun they just never quit.   There are lots of Rotarians in their 20's and 30's.

There are 34,000 Rotary Clubs around the world, in 200 different countries or regions with a total of 1.2 million members.   

Rotarians work on local projects such as parks, food banks, helping with literacy, helping youth and many different things.

On the International front, Rotary is helping people in many countries with clean drinking water and sanitation, schooling, peace, etc.   Rotary clubs around the world work with each other to ensure that the services delivered are exactly what is needed.  That is,  we will partner with a Rotary Club in Ethiopia to work on the clean water project their.   And we believe in sustainability.  If we teach the locals how to do the work, they will be able to help themselves long after Rotary has finished the project.

Rotary is an upside down organization.  That is, each club is independent and decide what projects or causes they want to be involved in instead of being mandated from head office on how to operate.  This gives Rotary clubs a lot of strength.