Rotary International is the world's oldest service organisation. The first Rotary Club was founded on 23 February 1905 by lawyer Paul Harris in Chicago. The world's approximately 1.2 million members involve in some 36,000 Rotary clubs around the globe. Since 2012 I am also a member of a Rotary Club. At first I was member of the Rotary Club Oldenburg-Graf Anton Günther and since 2014 I am a member of the Rotary Club Lehrte.
A Rotary Club is an association of people who belong to very different professional groups and usually meet weekly. At these meetings they will eat together and there is usually a lecture or talk, either by one of the members or from external speakers. At these meetings, various charitable projects are planned and prepared. Under the motto Service Above Self the members have invested their different skills to rally around those, which is not even able to help them self: both in the local environment of one's own community and in international humanitarian aid projects. In particular, international projects are based on one or more of the six areas of focus of Rotary.
About 42 million people are displaced today 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. Rotary provides up to 100 peace fellowships per year at Rotary Peace Centers.
More than 100 million people are pushed into poverty each year because of medical costs. Rotary aims to improve and expand access to low-cost and free health care in underdeveloped areas. The members of Rotary educate and mobilize communities to help prevent the spread of major diseases such as polio, HIV/AIDS, and malaria. With EndPolioNow, the probably largest project Rotary has started, Rotary tries to eradicate polio worldwide.
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. Rotary's projects give communities the ability to develop and maintain sustainable water and sanitation systems and support studies related to water and sanitation.
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, Rotary provides immunisations 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.
Sixty-seven million children worldwide have no access to education and more than 775 million people over the age of 15 are illiterate. Rotary strengthens the capacity of communities to support basic education and literacy, reduce gender disparity in education, and increase adult literacy.
Nearly 1.4 billion employed people live on less than $1.25 a day. Rotary carries out service projects that enhance economic and community development and develop opportunities for decent and productive work for young and old. Rotary also helps strengthen local entrepreneurs and community leaders, particularly women, in impoverished communities.
Probably the largest project Rotary along with is partners such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), have adopted is the eradication of poliomyelitis or polio for short. Polio is a contagious viral triggered disease of the nerve cells of the spinal cord. If nerve cells are destroyed, it leads to the paralysis of muscles or complete muscle groups.
Approximately 30% of those affected with paralysis, it forms back as time passes. For each additional 30%, slightly or severe damage left behind. In the 10% heaviest affected, the respiratory muscles is affected, which can lead to death.
A therapy against the causes of polio does not exist. Only symptoms are being treated. The best protection against infection is therefore the preventive vaccine that is effective against all three types of the virus.
Since only a very small percentage of those infected ever develop symptoms and since the incubation period of up to four weeks to onset of symptoms is very long, only massive vaccination after the announcement of an infectious case can prevent the epidemic from spreading. At a recognized case hundreds of virus carriers show no obvious symptoms. Yet, they can pass the virus. Therefore, a much higher amount of vaccinations, compared to the still occurring less than 2,000 infections per year worldwide, is necessary when the transmission chain is to be permanently discontinued.
The goal, which Rotary has set itself in 1986, is almost reached. To date, over 2.5 billion children have been protected against polio. With PolioPlus a decline in infections by 99% could be achieved. Currently (as of July 2014) three countries are still polio endemic.
Already, the members of Rotary have donated over 1.2 billion US dollars for the fight against polio. This is the largest amount that was applied by a private organization. Anyone can support PolioPlus by making a small donation. A vaccine that protects a child for life against polio costs only 60 $-cent. Right now a donation is particularly helpful as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gives two dollars for each donated dollar until 2018. Every donated dollar has therefore threefold value.
With the world's biggest video campaign, with over 117,000 people from around the world participating, under them personalities such as Bill Gates, Jackie Chan or Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu, Rotary 2014 succeeded not only the entry in the Guinness Book of Records, but it brought EndPolioNow back into the public.