By John A. Bernaden, Rotary Club of Milwaukee, USA
Did you know that Rotary Fellowships can provide a great way to make new friends around the world and enhance your Rotary experience? Rotary Fellowships are international, independently organized groups of Rotarians, family members, program participants and alumni who share a common passion.
The oldest fellowship dates back to 1947 when a group of Rotarians who loved sailing began flying the Rotary flag from their boats, calling themselves the International Yachting Fellowship of Rotarians. Today, more than 3,300 Rotarians sail together in one of 109 Rotary fleets in 37 countries.
Currently, more than 60 other fellowships similarly unite Rotarians in friendship and expand opportunities to enjoy their favorite recreational activities, sports, and vocation. These groups range from cycling to skiing, Latin culture to jazz, doctors to photographers, and even wine-tasting to beer. View the complete list of Rotary Fellowships.
I recently joined the Recreational Vehicle Fellowship of Rotarians and rallied for a week in Tucson this past February with a dozen couples from Rotary clubs in Canada, California, Colorado, Texas and Arizona. We toured local attractions together, shared meals and enjoyed the comradery of like-minded leaders including two past district governors. My wife Kathleen and I also hope to someday join the thousands of Rotarians in the United Kingdom who caravan together in recreational vehicles across Europe every summer.
The Rotary Wine Appreciation Fellowship is a learning tool for those who are interested in expanding their knowledge and sharing ideas regarding all aspects of wine appreciation. Like most fellowships, the group has an email newsletter and members are encouraged to visit an interactive wine website frequently for updates, features, articles and information on wine events and trips.
While most day-to-day fellowship activities may take place online or through correspondence, the most successful fellowships facilitate regular opportunities for members to interact in person. For example, sporting fellowships hold regional matches and world tournaments, fellowships related to travel or excursions plan destination trips, and vocational fellowships often plan get-togethers at professional conferences and seminars.
A growing number of vocationally oriented fellowships have been formed during the past decade. Rotarians who are doctors, lawyers, educators and other professions have started sharing their expertise and experiences with fellow Rotarians in the same professional field around the world.
Many fellowships also use their special interests to serve others. The Fellowship of Canoeing Rotarians has organized cleanups of polluted rivers; members of the International Computer Users Fellowship of Rotarians have conducted training sessions for Rotarians and others in their community; and members of the International Fellowship of Rotarian Scuba Divers join local Rotary clubs to undertake service projects on each of their diving trips.
Lastly, developing acquaintances and even friendships by participating in one of the Rotary Fellowships can help improve your understanding of the world. “The best way to cultivate international understanding is through business and social intercourse,” said Paul Harris at the Pacific Rotary Conference in Tokyo, 1928.
Throughout the month of June, we’ll be celebrating Rotary Fellowships Month by sharing inspirational services stories from various Rotary Fellowships. We hope these stories inspire you to join or start a Rotary Fellowship.