WHEN it comes to New Year resolutions, the motto of more than a million members of Rotary International shows just how big you can go: “To do good in the world”.
Members of Rotary are part of secular, non-partisan clubs delivering service above self
Such a commitment could be seen as motherhood. However, a former Australian who was president of Rotary International, Sir Clem Renouf, saw a need and thought big. The seeds were sown for an international commitment to eradicate polio.
In 1985 Rotary International made a resolution to “rid the world of polio by 2005”. Members of Rotary in their millions have supported this program.
They came close in 2005 – but are still not quite there. In 2017 there were still 16 cases of wild polio in the world, with 11 in Afghanistan and 5 in Pakistan.
When Bill and Melinda Gates saw the achievement of Rotary, they decided to boost the effort starting with an injection of $55 million which rose to $355 million by 2009. For every $1 raised by Rotary International the Gates Foundation donated $2 and this continues to this day. Rotary will work with others to rid the world of polio.
Thinking big also works locally. The Rotary Club of Canberra is just one of 16 Rotary clubs in Canberra “doing good in the world”. Tackling poverty in Canberra had the immediate challenge to assist hungry families. For more than 10 years the Rotary Club of Canberra with Foodbank NSW and more than 25 Canberra charities have delivered meals to families, as well as homeless and elderly people in need. Four million meals were delivered in the five years to June, 2017.
The “Safe Shelter” program offers safe, warm, overnight shelter in inner-Canberra for homeless men and, where appropriate, provides StreetSwags. Doing good in the ACT!
Tackling the causes of poverty in Canberra included a role in breaking the cycle of “no home, no education, no job”. The outcome is “Our Place – live, learn, achieve”, an integrated package supporting a cohort of young homeless people in Canberra providing shelter, educational support and mentoring for employment. A partnership with Foyer Foundation is establishing similar models around Australia.
In November each year around 400 senior Canberrans are provided an afternoon of entertainment at Albert Hall. The Canberra Rotary Club arranges transport, provides afternoon tea and, with Sing Australia, gives all a good time. As part of the club’s resolution to do good in Canberra donations have also been made to organisations such as St John’s Care’s Christmas dinner, Canberra Hospital Oncology Ward, NSW Bushfire Appeal, Brain Tumour Research Foundation and many others.
A New Year resolution “to do good in the world” means going beyond Australia. Rotary Clubs in Australia regularly donate “Shelterboxes” as part of emergency disaster relief internationally. The contents include items such as a family-sized tent, solar lights, water storage and purification equipment, thermal blankets and cooking utensils to help start the process of creating a home.
To meet the commitment to “do good in the world”, members of the Rotary Club of Canberra’s international commitment also work with Rotary in Tonga to provide drinking water to schools; they sponsor a teacher for St Judes School in Arusha, Tanzania. Donations are made to social justice mentoring, the UN Women Safe Buses Program in PNG and to empowering women in developing countries through education and economic activity. Books and schooling materials have been provided to schools in PNG and the Philippines and ablution blocks constructed in Zambia.
Many good works are carried out across the world by Rotarians in Australia with funding matched by the Rotary Foundation. The Rotary Foundation is Rotary’s Charity and the American Broadcaster, CNBC, ranked it number three in its annual list of “Top 10 Charities Changing the World in 2016”. Part of the reason is that 93 per cent of all donations are used on the ground.
You too can donate to the Rotary Foundation in Australia (tarft.org.au) and help “to do good in the world”.
Michael Moore is a member and past-president of the Rotary Club of Canberra and has been honoured as a Paul Harris Fellow.