The world’s first service club was the Rotary Club of Chicago, Illinois, USA. The club was formed 23 February 1905 by lawyer Paul P. Harris and three friends – a merchant, a coal dealer, and a mining engineer. Harris wished to recapture the friendly spirit he had felt among businesspeople in the small town where he grew up. The name “Rotary” was derived from the early practice of rotating meetings among members’ offices.
The main objective of Rotary is service – in the community, in the workplace, and throughout the world. Rotary volunteers build goodwill and peace, provide humanitarian service, and encourage high ethical standards in all vocations. The Rotary motto is “Service Above Self.”
Rotary members are professional men and women who work as volunteers to improve the quality of life in their home and world community. Club membership represents a cross-section of local business and professional leaders. The world’s Rotary clubs meet weekly and are non-political, non-religious and open to all cultures, races, and creeds.
· There are approximately 1.2 million Rotary club members working in some 30,000 Rotary clubs in more than 160 countries.
· First admitted in 1987, women are the fastest-growing segment of Rotary’s membership. There are about 2,000 women club presidents, and women are rapidly assuming regional leadership roles.
· Rotary volunteers initiate community projects that address many of today’s most critical issues, such as violence, drug abuse, youth, AIDS, hunger, the environment, and illiteracy.
· Rotary clubs are autonomous and determine service projects based on local needs. However, they are encouraged to base projects on the following topics: children at risk, disabled persons, health care, international understanding and goodwill, literacy and numeracy, population issues, poverty and hunger, the environment, and urban concerns.
· Rotary members work with and for youth to address challenges facing young people today. Through participation in Rotary-sponsored Interact clubs (for secondary school students), Rotaract clubs (for young adults), and Rotary Youth Leadership awards, young people worldwide learn leadership skills and the importance of community service.
· Rotary Youth Exchange gives high school students the opportunity to broaden their world view and build international friendships.