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About Rotary

The Mission of The Rotary Foundation

Enable Rotarians to advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace through the improvement of health, the support of education, and the alleviation of poverty.

What Is Rotary?

A Global Network of Community Volunteers

Rotary International is the world's first service club organization. Its more than 1.2 million members volunteer their time and talent to further the Rotary motto, Service Above Self.

The world's first service club, the Rotary Club of Chicago, was formed on 23 February 1905 by Paul P. Harris, an attorney who wished to capture in a professional club the same friendly spirit he had felt in the small towns of his youth. The Rotary name derived from the early practice of rotating meetings among members' offices.  Clubs meet weekly for fellowship to discuss local and global topics.  Clubs are nonreligious, nongovernmental, and open to every race, culture and creed.

Rotary's popularity spread, and within a decade, clubs were chartered from San Francisco to New York to Winnipeg, Canada. By 1921, Rotary clubs had been formed on six continents. The organization adopted the Rotary International name a year later.

As Rotary grew, its mission expanded beyond serving club members’ professional and social interests. Rotarians began pooling their resources and contributing their talents to help serve communities in need. The organization's dedication to this ideal is best expressed in its motto: Service Above Self.

By 1925, Rotary had grown to 200 clubs with more than 20,000 members. The organization's distinguished reputation attracted presidents, prime ministers, and a host of other luminaries to its ranks — among them author Thomas Mann, diplomat Carlos P. Romulo, humanitarian Albert Schweitzer, and composer Jean Sibelius.

Today, 1.2 million Rotarians belong to over 32,000 Rotary clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas.  As they did in 1905, Rotarians encourage high ethical standards and carry out humanitarian projects to address such issues as poverty, health, hunger, education, and the environment.

What is the purpose of Rotary?

Rotary clubs exist to improve communities locally and around the world. Rotary also encourages high ethical standards in business and professions. Rotary clubs work to advance international understanding by partnering with clubs in other countries.

What do Rotary clubs do?

Rotary clubs address critical issues in communities worldwide. Examples of Rotary’s focus areas include:

Polio Eradication - In 1985, Rotary International created PolioPlus – a program to immunize all the world’s children against polio. To date, the PolioPlus program has contributed more than US$620 million to the protection of more than two billion children in 122 countries. These funds are providing much needed polio vaccine, operational support, medical personnel, laboratory equipment and educational materials for health workers and parents.

With its community-based network worldwide, Rotary is the volunteer arm of the global partnership dedicated to eradicating polio. Rotary volunteers assist in vaccine delivery, social mobilization and logistical help in cooperation with the national health ministries, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Peace - In an effort to educate tomorrow’s peacemakers and ambassadors, Rotary launched the Rotary Centers for International Studies in 2002 at seven prestigious universities worldwide. The program provides master’s-level education in conflict resolution to groups of 60 Rotary World Peace Scholars chosen annually.

International Education - Rotary is the world’s largest privately-funded source of international scholarships. Each year, about 1,000 university students receive Rotary scholarships to study abroad. Rotary clubs also coordinate a high school-age student exchange program that sends nearly 8,000 students abroad for three months to a year.

Humanitarian Projects - Rotary clubs initiate thousands of humanitarian projects every year. These projects address problems that create instability and trigger conflicts --hunger, poverty, poor health, and illiteracy.

Literacy - Rotary clubs are engaged in the fight against illiteracy worldwide. A cumulative language encounter program in Thailand dramatically reduced school failure and was adopted by the Thai government for all the nation’s schools.

Water Management - Recognizing the importance of clean water, many Rotary clubs help to install wells and develop water treatment and distribution systems to increase access to fresh drinking water for communities in need, especially in developing countries.

The Rotary Foundation

The mission of The Rotary Foundation is to enable Rotarians to advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace through the improvement of health, the support of education, and the alleviation of poverty.

Through more than US$95 million in Rotary Foundation grants each year, Rotary clubs support community projects at home and abroad. Known as the world's largest private provider of international education scholarships. The Rotary Foundation funds more than 1,000 students annually to study overseas and act as cultural ambassadors.

The Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation supported solely by voluntary contributions from Rotarians and friends of the Foundation who share its vision of a better world.

Every amount contributed to The Rotary Foundation is spent in support of humanitarian, educational, and cultural programs and their operations. Clubs and districts apply for and receive Foundation grants to carry out worthy projects worldwide.

The Four-Way Test

In 1932, Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor created The Four-Way Test, a code of ethics adopted by Rotary 11 years later. The test, which has been translated into more than 100 languages, asks the following questions:

Of the things we think, say or do

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

Paul Harris 1933 Rotary International Speech