Rotary International (RI) has clubs in more than 200 countries, with more than 1.2 million members. It was first founded in 1905, and within 16 years, it had clubs on six continents. Rotary was represented at the founding of the United Nations and has included among its members presidents of the United States, prime ministers, astronauts, U.S. senators, Nobel prize recipients and even a Filipino world-champion boxer and congressman.

Its overall theme is Service Above Self; and it has been instrumental in fighting disease worldwide including the ongoing campaign to eradicate polio; providing clean water by supplying more than 2.5 billion people adequate sanitation facilities; and saving mothers and children by providing immunizations and antibiotics to families around the world. These are just a few of the ways Rotarians serve on an international scale, but clubs also work within their communities to provide financial and hands-on support to local nonprofits and people in need.

As an example of some of the ongoing projects, The Business Monthly has sampled a few news items demonstrating the expanse of Rotary’s support.

Surgeons From India Bring Relief to Underserved Patients in Rwanda

Hundreds of people gather in an open-air courtyard at University Central Hospital in Kigali, Rwanda. Men in suits, women in flowered dresses, even prisoners in pink and orange gowns are waiting to find out if they will receive medical care. Some have no visible signs of injury. Others arrived on crutches, with arms in slings, or with catheters protruding from their clothing. Several have swollen, broken limbs: injuries that should have been mended long ago but were neglected because of the country’s long surgical-ward backlog, or simply poverty.

Emmanuel Mugatyawe, 36, sits on the ground as a friend fills out his yellow admissions form. He has been waiting two months for an operation to repair a broken leg — now infected — that he sustained when a car plowed into his motorbike.

“These are not routine cases; there are very few fresh injuries,” says Shashank Karvekar, an orthopedic surgeon and member of the Rotary Club of Solapur, India, after he and his Rwandan colleague Joel Bikoroti examine several dozen patients, scheduling many for surgery. Over the next eight days, a team of 18 specialized doctors (12 of whom are Rotarians) will perform surgeries on 268 Rwandan patients, including procedures in orthopedics and urology. The trip, initiated by District 3080 (India) and hosted by District 9150 (Central Africa), is funded by The Rotary Foundation with support from the Rwandan government. It’s the fourth medical mission to Rwanda that the two districts have organized since 2012.

— Jonathan W. Rosen, from the October 2016 issue of The Rotarian

Rotary Announces US$35 Million to Support a Polio-Free World

$8.15 million will go toward stemming the recent outbreak in Nigeria and countries in the Lake Chad Basin region

Rotary today [20 September 2016] committed an additional $35 million in grants to support the global effort to end polio, bringing the humanitarian service organization’s contribution to $105 million in 2016.

The announcement follows recent reports of three new cases of wild poliovirus in Nigeria: two cases in July, and one in August. The three cases are the first to be detected in Nigeria since July 2014. With these cases, funding for polio eradication is particularly vital as rapid response plans are now in action in Nigeria and surrounding countries to stop the outbreak quickly and prevent its spread. Rotary and its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) are acting to immunize children in Nigeria and countries in the Lake Chad Basin (Chad, northern Cameroon, southern Niger and the Central African Republic).

In addition to supporting the response in the Lake Chad Basin region, funding has been allocated to support polio eradication efforts in Afghanistan ($5.55 million), Pakistan ($12.36 million), India ($875,000), Somalia ($1.77 million), South Sudan ($2.04 million), and the Democratic Republic of the Congo ($2 million). A final grant in the amount of $2.25 million will support key WHO staff.

— Michelle Kloempken

ShelterBox and Rotary Clubs Take Action Following Earthquake in Italy

A 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck central Italy early Wednesday [Aug. 24, 2016], killing more than 240 people and trapping an unknown number beneath rubble. Tremors were felt as far away as Rome, 100 km (65 miles) southwest of the quake’s epicenter.

International disaster relief agency and Rotary International project partner ShelterBox is sending a response team from its headquarters in the United Kingdom to the remote mountainous area of Italy where the destruction is most severe.

Luca Della Volta, president of ShelterBox Italia, the affiliate organization in Genoa, will accompany the response team. Della Volta is working with the Rotary Club of Rieti in District 2080, the club closest to the earthquake-affected sites, and will meet with officials of the Italian Civil Protection Department, fire department, and Red Cross to coordinate efforts.

If families and individuals made homeless by the disaster need emergency shelter, ShelterBox will send tents and other equipment from its locations in Italy and other sites across Europe.

— By Maureen Vaught, August 24, 2016

Rotary Members Link Love Of Beer, Clean Water Crisis

When you sit down to enjoy a beer, you probably don’t spend a lot of time thinking about one of its main ingredients — water. Or the fact that 3,000 children die each day from diseases caused by unsafe water.

A group of innovative Rotarians aren’t just thinking; they’re doing something about it.

Their group, Beers Rotarians Enjoy Worldwide (BREW), has organized events around the world and is working to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for Rotary’s global water, sanitation, and hygiene efforts.

“By drinking a beer, I can help bring fresh water to a village in Africa,” says Steven Lack, a member of the Rotary Club of Pleasant Hill, California, USA.

“Beer and water have a natural affinity; you need water to brew beer,” says Moses Aryee, past president of the Rotary Club of Accra-West, Ghana, and co-chair of the beer fellowship.

The fellowship members are working with the Water and Sanitation Rotarian Action Group to identify specific water projects to support by funneling 25 percent of the fellowship’s dues to those projects, says Lack, the fellowship’s vice chair.

The members also plan to approach major brewers on each continent to seek financial support for water projects, much as the nonprofit is receiving $1.2 million from Stella Artois.

These projects have the potential to improve people’s quality of life in several ways. Every day, 8,000 people die of waterborne disease. In addition, women in many parts of the world spend hours a day fetching water, time they could spend in [other ways].

— Arnold R. Grahl, Rotary News, August 24, 2016