What is Rotary?

Rotary is a global network of 1.2 million neighbours, friends, leaders, and problem-solvers who come together to make positive, lasting change in communities at home and abroad. You will find Rotary clubs in every corner of the world, and committed members using their passion, energy and skills to take action on a range of sustainable projects.

Members of Rotary Club of Kilifi and friends. Service Before Self.

Rotary members believe that we have a shared responsibility to take action on our world’s most persistent issues. There are more than 35,000 clubs working together to:

  • Promote peace
  • Fight disease
  • Provide clean water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH)
  • Save mothers and children
  • Support education
  • Grow local economies

Rotary’s motto is “Service Above Self”, and that informs everything we do.

Rotary’s History
For more than 110 years, Rotary members have been addressing challenges around the world. Grassroots at the core, Rotary links 1.2 million members to form an organization of international scope. It started with the vision of one man — Paul Harris. The Chicago attorney formed the Rotary Club of Chicago on 23 February 1905, so that professionals with diverse backgrounds could exchange ideas, form meaningful, lifelong friendships, and give back to their communities. Rotary’s name came from the group’s early practice of rotating meetings among the offices of its members.

Paul Harris in his private office at the Law Offices of Harris, Dodds, and Brown in the Unity Building on Dearborn Street in Chicago, Illinois, USA, in 1909. From a photo album in the Frank W. Dodds Papers (AC0064), Rotary History and Archives.

Just 16 years after the first club was founded, there were clubs on six continents bringing professionals together in service to their communities. And since then, Rotary has continued to grow. In keeping with the times, there are now clubs who meet online rather than in person, although the majority of clubs retain the original tradition of gathering in person once a week for food, fun and fellowship and to be mindful of the needs of others less fortunate than themselves.

Rotarians are committed to community service, and not afraid to dream big and set bold goals. One of our notable achievements as a global organisation is in the fight against polio. We began in 1979 with a project to immunize 6 million children in the Philippines. Today, polio remains endemic in only three countries — down from 125 in 1988.

Rotary at the Kenyan Coast
Meet Mr. James Mbotela, the first African Rotarian in the Coast Province of Kenya.

James Mbotela, the first African Rotarian at the coast, with wife Margaret

This 1968 photo, of James & wife Margaret Mbotela, was taken on the front steps of the Anglican Cathedral in Mombasa during their wedding. James was the first African Rotarian in the Coast Province Kenya. He was a renowned raconteur, and claimed to be a descendant from the slaves who were rescued from Arab slave ships and settled in Frere Town settlement which is situated on Mainland North as you get off Nyali Bridge.

Credits: Information and photo – Ameer Janmohamed
Source – Sikh Heritage Website — with Bimal Kantaria