March 16th, 2023
Many persons have heard of Rotary in one way or another. In most cases, that familiarity typically involves buying tickets to a fundraiser, sponsoring a project, or being asked to become a member. The support that is usually rendered by individuals, groups or companies is usually based on not much more than an intrinsic, albeit often limited understanding that Rotary is involved in charitable work – so supporting “the Rotary club” is basically an act of giving to charity.
While this recognition is not wrong, undervalued nor unappreciated, it is but one piece of the much larger pie that makes up a global organisation which has existed for over 117 years and comprises one of the ltargest memberships and most diverse scope of service-based programs and activities ever, yet still finds itself somewhat misunderstood by the public-at-large.
The initial key to demystifying Rotary is knowing that, first and foremost, it is a membership organisation. Similar to other professional associations or business chambers, members of Rotary (i.e. Rotarians) would have been initially invited to join the organisation based on their willingness and potential to achieve the organisation’s goals, followed by their paying of annual membership dues to become and remain a member.
The second key centres on the guiding principles of the organisation – all of which tantamount to two basic tenets:
1) fostering networking and high ethical standards in business; and
2) applying the ideal of service both professionally and personally.
In its longstanding motto of “Service Above Self”, Rotary embodies the concept and practice that persons united in a common cause to help others can do more good than any one individual.
The third key highlights the diverse range of Rotary and its programs. From its Seven Areas of Focus, to its many programs which aim to develop the next generation of leaders, to its enduring commitment to #EndPolioNow and eradicate only the second human disease in history, there is something worthwhile and appealing for almost anyone to become inspired by and support.
The last key focuses on understanding the organisational structure itself. Globally, there is Rotary International which represents the prime entity to which all other arms of the organisation belong. Within countries, there are usually several Rotary clubs – each of which are themselves semi-autonomous, but all of which abide by the general policies and guidelines set forth by Rotary International.
Since 1957, Rotary has been ever-present in Trinidad and Tobago with a prolific range of accomplishments. Currently, there are 600+ Rotarians divided among 22 Rotary clubs spread throughout the country – each club with its own unique name (e.g., Rotary Club of St. Augustine), agenda, goals, initiatives, and membership. “Thus, while there are several local Rotary clubs implementing different projects and activities simultaneously, each targets different communities and/or needs – therefore, there is really no one “Rotary club”.
So the next time you hear something about Rotary or are asked to support it in some way, keep in mind that while it usually falls under the umbrella of the organisation as a whole, the specific club which is spearheading the initiative, the basis of the initiative and the target beneficiaries may all be quite different and therefore appeal to your specific and repeated attention towards building better communities in Trinidad & Tobago.
Rotary clubs were established in Trinidad and Tobago beginning in 1957 and quickly grew in quantity and membership. Past and present Rotarians include some of the most prominent citizens of the country, representing a wide cross-section of society – a tradition that has been well maintained by clubs over the last 65 years.
By Sean Paddy, Assistance Rotary Public Image Coordinator for Zone 34 (Caribbean Region)