Rotary International is the world’s oldest service club organization
Comprising over 33,000 clubs in over 200 countries and geographical regions. Rotary’s members form a global network of business and professional leaders who volunteer their time and talents to serve their communities and the world at large. Rotary’s motto, ‘Service Above Self, exemplifies the humanitarian spirit of the organization’s more than 1.24 million members. Strong fellowship among Rotarians and meaningful community and international service projects characterise Rotary worldwide. Rotary is both non-political and non- religious.
Rotary is essentially a grassroots organization, with most of its service efforts being carried out at the club level. The district and intemational structure is designed to support the clubs and help them provide more service in their communities and abroad.
Rotarians are members of Rotary CLUBS, which belong to the global association Rotary International [RI]. Each club elects its own officers and enjoys considerable autonomy within the framework ofRI’s Constitution and Bylaws.
Rotary clubs are grouped into 531 DISTRICTS, each led by a District Governor, who is an officer of RI. The district administration, including assistant governors and various committees, guides and supports the clubs.
The RI BOARD OF DIRECTORS, which includes the RI President and President-Elect, meets quarterly to establish policies. Traditionally, the RI President, who is elected annually and who cannot serve more than one term, develops a theme and emphasis for his/her presidential year.
The RI SECRETARIAT is headquartered in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois, USA with seven international offices in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, India, Japan, Korea and Switzerland. The RI in Great Britain and Ireland [RIBI] office, in England, serves clubs and districts in that region. The Secretariat’s active managing officer is the RI General Secretary, who heads a staff of about 600 people working to serve Rotarians worldwide.
Chicago attorney, Paul Harris – the founder of Rotary – organized the first Rotary meeting on 23 February 1905, leading to the formation of the Rotary Club of Chicago. In 1906, the Rotary Club provided a horse and cart to a local doctor and also carried out Rotary’s first community service project – the provision of a public toilet outside City Hall. Paul Harris was elected president of the National Association of Rotary Clubs at the first Rotary Convention in 1910.
Between 1911 and 1913, clubs were formed in Canada, Great Britain and Ireland with the resultant change of the association’s name to the International Association of Rotary Clubs. In 1915-1916, a Rotary club was chartered in Cuba – the first non-English speaking Rotary country. In 1916-17, then RI President Arch Klumph proposed the establishment of an endowment fund – now known as The Rotary Foundation [TRF]. A Rotary conference in London in 1942-1943 set the stage for UNESCO. Forty-nine Rotarians were involved in drafting the UN Charter during 1945-1946.
Since 1987-1988, women have been allowed [and encouraged] to join Rotary.
Paul Harris died in Chicago in 1947. The Paul Harris Fellowship programme commemorates his name and his vision to this day.