About Rotary

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The Rotary emblem

We are 1.2 million neighbors, friends, and community leaders who come together to create positive, lasting change in our communities and around the world. Our differing occupations, cultures, and countries give us a unique perspective. Our shared passion for service helps us accomplish the remarkable.

What makes us Different?

Our distinct point of view and approach gives us unique advantages:

  • We see differently: Our multidisciplinary perspective helps us see challenges in unique ways.
  • We think differently: We apply leadership and expertise to social issues—and find unique solutions.
  • We act responsibly: Our passion and perseverance create lasting change.
  • We make a difference at home and around the world: Our members can be found in your community and across the globe.

How do we work?

Our impact starts with our members — people who work tirelessly with their clubs to solve some of our communities’ toughest challenges. Their efforts are supported by Rotary International, our member association, and The Rotary Foundation, which turns generous donations into grants that fund the work of our members and partners around the world. Rotary is led by our members — responsible leaders who help to carry forward our organization’s mission and values in their elected roles.

For more than 100 years, our guiding principles have been the foundation upon which our values and tradition stand. The Four-Way Test, Object of Rotary, and the Avenues of Service express our commitment to service, fellowship, diversity, integrity, and leadership.


History

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Founders of Rotary

Our 1.2 million-member organization started with the vision of one man—Paul P. Harris. The Chicago attorney formed one of the world’s first service organizations, the Rotary Club of Chicago, on 23 February 1905 as a place where professionals with diverse backgrounds could exchange ideas and form meaningful, lifelong friendships. Rotary’s name came from the group’s early practice of rotating meetings among the offices of each member.

“WHATEVER ROTARY MAY MEAN TO US, TO THE WORLD IT WILL BE KNOWN BY THE RESULTS IT ACHIEVES”, PAUL P. HARRIS.


Notable Rotarians

Rotarians are your neighbors, your community leaders and some of the world’s greatest history-makers:

Warren G. Harding, U.S. president
Jean Sibelius, Finnish composer
Dr. Charles H. Mayo, co-founder of Mayo Clinic
Prince Axel. Prince of Denmark
Prince Bernhard, Prince of the Netherlands
Prince Charles, Prince of England
Prince Rainier III, Prince of Monaco
Sir Winston Churchill, Prime Minister, England
John F. Kennedy, President, USA
General Augusto Pinochet, General and Leader, Chile
Franklin D. Roosevelt, President, USA
Walt Disney, Animation filmmaker
Pope Francis, Pope
Luciano Pavarotti, Italian opera singer
Thomas A. Edison, Inventor
Guglielmo Marconi, Italian inventor of the wireless radio and Nobel laureate
Thomas Mann, German novelist and Nobel laureate
Friedrich Bergius, German chemist and Nobel laureate
Admiral Richard E. Byrd, American explorer
Jan Masaryk, foreign minister of Czechoslovakia
Sir Edmund Hillary, explorer, philanthropist, first person to reach the top of Mt. Everest
Neil Armstrong, American astronaut, first man to walk on the moon
Franz Lehar, Austrian composer
Carlos Romulo, UN General Assembly president
Milan Stojadinovic, Prime ministe, Serbia
Ivo Andric, writer, the only Serbian Nobel Prize winner
Mika Petrovic Alas, Mathematician, professor, academician, Serbia
Bogdan Nestorovic, Architect, Serbia
Svetislav Goncic, actor, Serbia


The Four-way test

The Four-Way Test is a nonpartisan and nonsectarian ethical guide for Rotarians to use for their personal and professional relationships. The test has been translated into more than 100 languages, and Rotarians recite it at club meetings:

Of the things we think, say or do:

Is it the TRUTH?
Is it FAIR to all concerned?
Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?


Avenues of service

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The motto of Rotary

We channel our commitment to service at home and abroad through five Avenues of Service, which are the foundation of club activity.

  • Club Service focuses on making clubs strong. A thriving club is anchored by strong relationships and an active membership development plan.
  • Vocational Service calls on every Rotarian to work with integrity and contribute their expertise to the problems and needs of society. Learn more in An Introduction to Vocational Service and the Code of Conduct.
  • Community Service encourages every Rotarian to find ways to improve the quality of life for people in their communities and to serve the public interest. Learn more in Communities in Action: A Guide to Effective Projects and this Community Service presentation (PPT).
  • International Service exemplifies our global reach in promoting peace and understanding. We support this service avenue by sponsoring or volunteering on international projects, seeking partners abroad, and more.
  • Youth Service recognizes the importance of empowering youth and young professionals through leadership development programs such as Rotaract, Interact, Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, and Rotary Youth Exchange.

Areas of focus

We have identified specific causes to target to maximize our local and global impact. At the same time, we understand that each community has its own unique needs and concerns.

Promoting peace

Today, 65 million people are displaced by armed conflict or persecution. Through our partnerships with several leading universities, Rotary Peace Fellows develop the skills to strengthen peace efforts, train local leaders to prevent and mediate conflict, and support long-term peace building in areas affected by conflict. We provide up to 100 peace fellowships per year at Rotary Peace Centers.

Fighting disease

More than 100 million people are pushed into poverty each year because of medical costs. We aim to improve and expand access to low-cost and free health care in underdeveloped areas. Our members educate and mobilize communities to help prevent the spread of major diseases such as polio, HIV/AIDS, and malaria. Many of our projects ensure that medical training facilities are located where the workforce lives.

Providing clean water

More than 2.5 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation facilities. At least 3,000 children die each day from diarrheal diseases caused by unsafe water. Our projects give communities the ability to develop and maintain sustainable water and sanitation systems and support studies related to water and sanitation.

Saving mothers and children

At least 7 million children under the age of five die each year due to malnutrition, poor health care, and inadequate sanitation. To help reduce this rate, we provide immunizations and antibiotics to babies, improve access to essential medical services, and support trained health care providers for mothers and their children. Our projects ensure sustainability by empowering the local community to take ownership of health care training programs.

Supporting education

Sixty-seven million children worldwide have no access to education and more than 775 million people over the age of 15 are illiterate. Our goal is to strengthen the capacity of communities to support basic education and literacy, reduce gender disparity in education, and increase adult literacy.

Growling local economies

Nearly 1.4 billion employed people live on less than $1.25 a day. We carry out service projects that enhance economic and community development and develop opportunities for decent and productive work for young and old. We also help strengthen local entrepreneurs and community leaders, particularly women, in impoverished communities.