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90 years of service and friendship

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Rotary Club of Bermuda member David Sullivan grinned when he heard the name of the this year's Teen Services Outstanding Teen Award.

The winner, Lindsay Fisher of Warwick Academy also happens to be one of the newest Rotary Exchange students.

“If only the full Rotary story was known,” Mr Sullivan said. “Not only is she about to go off to Chile on a Rotary exchange, but her father, Michael, was also a Rotary exchange student and went to Mexico when he was a teenager.”

For more than 90 years the Rotary Club of Bermuda has been making opportunities like this one happen. The Rotary Club is a social club that promotes volunteer service and universal friendship and dialogue. Its monthly club speakers are broadcast over local radio. There is a youth exchange programme and the club is also involved in several important global health initiatives.

The Rotary Club itself is an international organisation first founded in 1905 in Chicago, Illinois. A hotel landscaper helped to charter the Rotary Club of Hamilton in Bermuda on March 15, 1924, and this month the Rotary Club is celebrating the nine decades in Bermuda.

This week Lifestyles spoke to several members of the Rotary Club to find out what it means to them.

George Cook

“Ninety years is significant,” said Rotary Club Historian George Cook, who joined in 1978. Mr Cook has seen many important changes in the last four decades. For example, when he first joined women were not allowed to become members. That has now changed and he estimates that maybe 40 percent of members are female, and women have held the presidency.

Since its founding Rotary has grown into four different clubs including, one in Sandys, St George's and Pembroke. It has about 200 members.

He has also seen the staggering success of the club's Polio Plus campaign to eradicate polio around the world.

“When The Polio Plus campaign was started in 1985, the object was to eliminate polio from the world,” he said. “Rotary International initiated the campaign along with the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Gates Foundation and the Bloomberg Foundation. Bermuda is significant because the first Executive Director of the Polio Plus Campaign was Walter Maddocks from Bermuda. He was Chair of the campaign. He raised $264 million for it.”

The campaign reduced polio in the world by 99 percent.

Mr Maddocks died last year, and the clock being erected outside City Hall is being named in his honour.

Mr Cook said he has also seen attitudes in the community change, and not always for the best.

“There has been a sea change in attitude,” said Mr Cook. “I don't think the sense of community service exists today, the way that it used to. In the days when I joined the Rotary Club of Hamilton, major employers would support their people belonging to the Rotary and in some cases pay for their dues. I don't think that happens as much today.”

He said when the club first started in the 1920s it was started by a group of Hamilton businessmen and had an elitist outlook.

“Those days are long over,” Mr Cook said. “It is completely changed from that. Frankly, if anyone is interested in joining, we would like to talk with them.”

David Sullivan, an entrepreneur, joined the Rotary Club of Sandys in 1990 and was appointed club President in 1998-99.

For Mr Sullivan, Rotary had opened up an international stage. At one point he held the position of District Governor, which includes areas in New York City. As a result he lived in New York for six months while he held the position.

“Each club is supposed to be reflective of the community that you are in,” he said. “So people in the Manhattan would have different concerns than the club in Bermuda. Rotary is represented in 34,000 communities around the world so you can imagine the diversity.”

He said Bermuda was blessed to have been involved in many of Rotary's international projects, most especially Polio Plus.

“To be a part of an organisation that has played a part in eradicating a disease for only the second time in history, I think is pretty powerful,” he said.

One of Rotary's most popular programmes is its student exchange programme which sends students all over the world for a year and also arranges exchange students to come to Bermuda and stay with host families. Rotary member Greg Soares is himself a past exchange student who was sent to Thailand for a year. He got involved again with Rotary two years ago.

“The exchange was a fantastic and life changing experience when I was 17,” said Mr Soares who is now 41 years old.

“During my career I spent four years working at Butterfield Bank in Hong Kong,” he said. “The exchange definitely kick started my interest in Asia.

“I did go back to Thailand. When I lived in Hong Kong it was only three hours away. I was a frequent visitor for vacations.

“I am still in contact with Rotarians and host families that I met.”

Gilda Furbert became a member of the Pembroke Rotary Club March in 1997 when women were first admitted.

“I have had a number of wonderful experiences,” she said. “I was the first female member, the first female President, the first female Assistant District Governor.

“The benefits to being a member of this great organisation of Rotary are service above self, and seeing to the needs of those less fortunate and enriching their lives,” she said.

She believes that the future of Rotary is continued growth.

“This great organisation will continue to grow and be a meaningful avenue to Bermuda and the people around the world as it will always make a difference.”

Founding fathers: Rotary Club International founder Paul P Harris visiting with the Bermuda Rotary Club in 1926.
The Bermuda Rotary Club in 1933 in the Terrace Room of the Hotel Hamilton at the time of the District Governor's visit. Joe Outerbridge was the local Rotary Club president at the time.
<p>Clock dedication</p>

The Walter Maddocks Memorial clock will be dedicated on Friday in the forecourt area of Hamilton City Hall between 11.55am and 1pm.

The public are invited to attend the dedication of this four-faced Rotary clock, dedicated to the memory of the late Walter Maddocks who exemplified the work of Bermuda’s Rotarians with a lifetime of service at home and abroad.

A Salvation Army band and choir visiting from Peterborough, Ontario, will also provide music for the enjoyment of the public.

After its dedication the clock will serve as a public amenity.

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Published March 05, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated March 11, 2014 at 7:00 pm)

90 years of service and friendship

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