116 years old and Rotary is more important than ever
February 23rd marked the 116th anniversary of the founding of Rotary. And, as the country continues to struggle under lockdown, Rotary has never been more relevant or important. But what exactly is it? And who are the Rotarians who continue to work so hard to improve the lives of people in our community and beyond?
“Rotarians are ordinary people from all walks of life who like to play a part in making extraordinary things happen – and undeterred by Covid-19 they continue to do so,” said Maidenhead Rotary Club president Mary Spinks.
In the past year Rotarians in Maidenhead have risen to the challenges of the pandemic, setting up a volunteer service to support those isolating, providing volunteer marshals at vaccination centres and donating laptops to schools to help with home learning.
With many of its usual activities curtailed, the organisation has adapted to the ‘new normal’ by holding meetings over Zoom, launching a Covid Heroes Award scheme, and making events such as the Boundary Walk Covid-safe. In October it went ahead in a special ‘bubble’ format to allow charities to raise much-needed funds.
“This has been a difficult year but Rotary has time and again proved its value to the community during the pandemic and will continue to be just as important as we emerge from it,” said Mary.
Maidenhead has three Rotary Clubs, plus a Rotaract Club for 18-30s. With a range of local, national and international projects to get involved in, members use their time and skills to help others. But they also have plenty of opportunities to make friends and have fun along the way. They can get involved as much, or as little, as their time allows.
Each club operates independently but they are all part of Rotary International, a global organisation dedicated to helping those in need and working towards world understanding and peace. With rising concerns over climate change, this year Rotary is adding protecting the environment as a seventh ‘area of focus’.
Under the umbrella of ‘Rotary in Maidenhead’ in more ‘normal’ times the town’s clubs are either the driving force or a key supporter of many popular community events, such as the annual festival in Kidwells Park.
They also run initiatives for youngsters promoting literacy and numeracy, CV-writing and interview skills, some of which have moved online so they can still be provided during lockdown.
Each club has international projects they continue to support, such as providing education and training for girls abandoned at birth in India, and a European youth adventure programme to promote friendship and self-development.
Collectively the clubs have supported Rotary’s international drive to virtually eradicate polio, now endemic in just two countries, and are staunch backers of Shelterbox, Rotary’s disaster relief charity which has helped more than a million people in the immediate aftermath of catastrophes.
And for its members Rotary offers much in return. Eddie Clarke, a member of Maidenhead Rotary Club for nearly 40 years, said: “I started my business in Maidenhead in 1980 and I joined Rotary because I felt a need to put something back into the community I lived and worked in.
“Rotary has been an essential part of my life, forming my most close friendships over the years and has brought me into contact with wonderful people. It has also been a great networking organisation and I would encourage anybody in business to consider joining Rotary as a great way to get know other business people in your hometown, while at the same time having a great deal of fun.”
Rotary’s seven areas of focus
Providing clean water, sanitation and hygiene
Saving mothers and children
Growing local economies
Protecting the environment
Interested? Find a club that suits you
There are three very active Rotary Clubs in Maidenhead, as well as a Rotaract Club for 18-30 year olds. All offer a wide variety of social and fundraising events, and opportunities for their members. They meet at different times so there should be one to suit everyone. Meetings are currently being held by Zoom due to Covid restrictions but volunteering opportunities still exist and planning of events once lockdown ends is also continuing.
Contact details for all of these clubs are at: www.rotary-in-maidenhead.org.uk