Algarve Rotary Clubs together with other local charitable organizations hand over cheque to Algarve Oncology Association for the mobile unit for breast screening

What are Rotary clubs and what do they do?

Some people may not have heard of Rotary or be aware of what it does but Rotary International projects, locally and globally, have improved immeasurably the lives of many of the most vulnerable in the community.

So what is Rotary? Founded 116 years ago by Paul Harris in Chicago, it was originally an opportunity for its members to build relationships in difficult times, but now it is so much more. Since its inception it has grown to over 35,000 clubs worldwide and a membership of 1.2 million. It is a non-political, non-religious service organisation open to all to bring people together to provide humanitarian service and to advance worldwide goodwill and peace. The motto of the organisation is ‘Service above Self‘.

Fighting Disease: Since 1985, Rotary International has spearheaded a world polio eradication programme. It launched PolioPlus in 1985 and was a founding member of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988. Through decades of commitment and work by Rotary and its partners, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Health Organization, and UNICEF, more than 2.5 billion children have received the oral polio vaccine. The world is now 99.9% polio-free.

India has been clear of polio for 7 years and this year Nigeria was declared free of the wild polio virus. There are only two countries left in the world that still have polio – Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The lessons learned over the years by this massive vaccination programme have been rolled out to combat Covid-19. Fighting disease is one of Rotary’s main causes, so its members already support efforts to promote ways for people to stay healthy. Now Rotary is helping health authorities communicate lifesaving information about COVID-19 and donating protective equipment and other supplies to clinics and hospitals that are under strain because of the pandemic. Rotary will tap into its decades of experience in bringing polio to the brink of eradication, to highlight the power and efficacy of vaccines.

Humanitarian Relief: Rotary is now starting to work with other partners to eradicate malaria in Zambia and eventually elsewhere in the world.

When disaster strikes across the world, Rotary is on hand to help, working in partnership with Shelterbox: boxes containing emergency supplies which are sent to provide immediate humanitarian relief to areas hit by natural disasters. Funds and goods can also be sent to these areas from one Rotary club to another ensuring that the money or goods go to where they should.

Rotary has seven areas of focus: education; maternal and child health; sanitation; peace and conflict resolution; prevention and treatment of disease; economic and community development plus the recently adopted area of the environment. Everybody has an interest in one or more of these areas which are vital for the world to become a better place for all and Rotary gives you the opportunity to connect with other like-minded people and work on life-changing projects.

Volunteering:An unseen area of service is volunteering. A report by John Hopkins University prepared for Rotary International estimated that Rotary members provide about 47 million hours of volunteer effort a year at an estimated value of $850 million. That is the tip of the iceberg as many hours go unrecorded and unseen as Rotarians become involved in projects close to their heart. In the polio vaccination programme mentioned above, thousands of Rotarians went around the world administering the polio vaccines often in the face of great opposition and personal risk in some countries. The value of volunteering in local communities is almost incalculable as charity fills a void left by lack of governmental support in many countries.

Rotary in the Algarve:The Algarve has 13 Rotary clubs, four of which are International clubs with meetings being conducted in English or French. For many who have made Portugal their home, these clubs offer an opportunity to participate in helping in their local communities without any language barrier. The international clubs are open to all nationalities and many have Portuguese nationals as enthusiastic members.

In 2016 most of the Algarve clubs joined together with other charitable organisations and raised €64.000 to purchase a unit to transport the mobile breast screening equipment for the Algarve Oncology Association (AOA). Their previous vehicle had been damaged and the mobile programme had stopped. Rotary’s contribution was essential to get it back on track, particularly as the Algarve has the highest incidence of breast cancer in the country. Another vehicle for mobile skin and lung cancer testing was purchased for the AOA in 2018.

Rotary Club Estoi Palace International, with the aid of grants from the Rotary Foundation, has purchased a refrigerated truck for Faro Food Bank and assisted in the purchase of a fully equipped ambulance for the São Bras Bombeiros. It has helped many organisations purchase much needed equipment in the 12 years since its inauguration, all impacting the local community in a positive way and making a real difference to people‘s lives.

Rotary transforms donations into service projects that change lives both close to home and around the world and has spent more than $4 billion on life-changing, sustainable projects across the globe.

What can Rotary do for you?
It gives you the chance to participate in local and international projects that matter to you. It can give your children opportunities to participate in summer camps, youth educational exchanges and leadership education and training. You can attend either in person or “virtually” seminars conventions, training etc., to broaden your horizons and exchange ideas with people worldwide. Rotary is a global family with a strong emphasis on fellowship and fun.

When you travel you can visit Rotary Clubs in other countries and instantly have a connection to the locals, and find out much more about the country you are visiting.

What can you do for Rotary?
Join an organisation that is actively engaged in making the world a better place to live, fighting inequality, providing sustainable means for people to improve their quality of life. You can become part of a much bigger picture and make a real difference.

For further information on Rotary Club Estoi Palace International, Rotary in the Algarve or Rotary generally, please contact [email protected]. Please take a look at our website or our Facebook page.

White Night dinner organised by local Rotary Clubs and Alliance Française to raise funds to help those in need