By Zuhal Sharp, Rotary Service and Engagement staff
Rotary Fellowships began informally in 1928 when Rotarians with a shared interest in the language Esperanto joined together. In 1947, a group of Rotarian boating enthusiasts began flying the Rotary flag from their crafts, calling themselves the International Yachting Fellowship of Rotarians; this fellowship now boasts the longest continuous existence.
The scope of Rotary Fellowships has greatly changed over the years, but today their purpose is still to unite Rotary members, their family members, program participants, and alumni in friendship and provide venues for enjoying their favorite recreational or professional activities. In 2015-16, 68 fellowships reported a combined membership of 50,703 people in more than 180 countries worldwide. The average size for a Fellowship is 746 members. Rotary Fellowships cover interests from tennis to wine, marathon running to cooking, scuba diving to recreational vehicles, jazz to computers, and more.
Fellowships provide opportunities to give back to the Rotary Foundation
In 2016-17, the family of Rotary has been celebrating the Rotary Foundation Centennial by performing 100 acts of good throughout the year. In the last 100 years, Rotary members have supported thousands of projects to provide clean water, fight disease, promote peace, provide basic education, and grow local economies through the Foundation. Rotary Fellowships not only gather around shared interests, but take on service initiatives to contribute to the foundation. Here are just a few ways Rotary Fellowships are giving back in their own acts of good:
- The Rotarian Fellowship of Quilters and Fiber Artists members donated a variety of handmade items at their booth in the House of Friendship during RI Convention in Korea raising over $9000 USD for PolioPlus.
- Rotarians’ Wine Appreciation Fellowship members contributed to a district grant to provide an electric forklift for a local food bank allowing them to increase their production and food distribution.
- Fellowship Cycling to Serve organizes annual World Championships, where members raise money for local youth organization and PolioPlus. The fellowship also annually participates in a four-day cycling event raising money for local school organizations.
- Chapters of the International Fellowship of Motorcycling Rotarians organize major rides within their region and raise funds for local causes. For example, the Australia Chapter donated proceeds from their annual ride to the Royal Flying Doctor Service, an aeromedical and health organization. The group has also been contributing to the Rotary Foundation by awarding Paul Harris Fellows.
June is Rotary Fellowships Month! We’ll be celebrating by sharing inspirational services stories from various Rotary Fellowships. We hope these stories inspire you to join or start a Rotary Fellowship. View a complete list of all fellowships to find what interests you!