Founded in 1905, Rotary International (RI) has a rich heritage of public service. Today, approximately 1.2 million members of more than 31,000 Rotary clubs in more than 165 countries serve as volunteers in their local and world communities. Rotarians initiate community projects that address many of today’s most critical issues, such as violence, drug abuse, AIDS, hunger, the environment and illiteracy. They also support programs for youth, educational opportunities and international exchange for students, teachers and professionals, and vocational and career development.
A History of Volunteerism
Rotary’s history provides outstanding examples of what a few concerned citizens can do. In 1919, Rotarians from Ohio, USA, established the forerunner of the National Easter Seals Society. After World War II, many clubs initiated service projects to help refugees and former prisoners of war. From 1980-1997 hundreds of Rotary volunteers worked in refugee camps worldwide.
During the United Nations Year of the Volunteer in 2001, Rotary expanded its efforts to increase world understanding by opening Rotary Centers programs at seven universities worldwide. The program provides 70 Rotary World Peace Scholars each year with a two-year master’s level degree program.
Volunteering through PolioPlus
Rotary’s most ambitious undertaking to date is its effort to eradicate the poliovirus. Working with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and national governments, Rotarians have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars and countless volunteer hours to the effort through the PolioPlus program.
Volunteer Opportunities for Youth
Interact (for high school students) and Rotaract (for young adults 18-30) are Rotary-sponsored service clubs that provide opportunities for service and leadership development. Many Rotaract and Interact projects focus on issues of importance to young people such as AIDS, the environment, homelessness, urban peace, and drug abuse prevention.
The Rotary Volunteers Program
The Rotary Volunteers program provides opportunities for skilled individuals to offer their services and expertise to projects sponsored by their own Rotary club or district, or to international projects requiring volunteers and expertise from abroad.