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Celebrating 100 Years of Rotary in Wales
Maggie Abbett, Public Image Chairman
for Rotary Southern Wales, reflects on 100 years of Rotary service in Wales.
The closing months of the Great War may not have seemed like the
most auspicious time to start a Rotary club, but on May 22nd, 1917, nine
businessmen from Cardiff met at the Park Hotel to discuss the possibility.
Although doubts were expressed about the appropriateness of
starting a Rotary club during wartime, the proposal to form a Rotary Club in
Cardiff, in affiliation with the British Association of Rotary Clubs, was
The first formal luncheon was held at the Park Hotel with
electrical engineer, William Ashcombe Chamen, the founder president for the
17th Rotary club in the United Kingdom.
A few months later in 1918, several members attended the
inaugural meeting of the Rotary Club of Llanelli, and in 1919 the Rotary Club
of Swansea was formed.
So began a centenary of Rotary service in Wales.
The Rotary Club of Cardiff has always played an active role in
local and international communities. For the club centenary, the members raised
£25,000 towards building a Maggie’s Centre, alongside Velindre Cancer hospital,
Centenary celebrations are being held across Wales, continuing
throughout the Rotary year.
Any commemoration in Wales would not be complete without singing
and on Saturday, October 21st, massed male voices from seven West Wales clubs are
staging a centenary choral concert in Llandeilo.
Then on November 1st, Cardiff Rotary Club’s centenary
celebration dinner will be held, with a commemorative oak tree planted in a
city park the following day.
“Rotary is ideally placed to play a
role for people who
want to give something back.”
A number of landmark community fundraising projects are also in
the pipeline including a Rotary Centenary Mile. Clubs will be teaming up with
leisure centres to encourage the public to complete a sponsored mile by treadmill,
static bike, rowing machine, running or swimming.
Money raised will go towards End Polio Now and Tenovus, to
support a treatment room for the cancer charity’s mobile treatment unit which
treats cancer patients on their own doorstep.
Two years ago, centenary District Governor, Maggie Hughes, began
working on the legacy project to make Wales a dementia-friendly country. It’s a
partnership with adjoining District 1180, which covers North Wales, along with
the Inner Wheel, plus Scouts and Guides groups.
Maggie met with the Welsh Government and other bodies to create
a new dementia strategy for Wales, and arranged for dementia to be added to the
information form in the Message in a Bottle container.
These are small plastic bottles with a green cross on the label,
which are usually kept in a fridge, and contain vital medical information for
emergency services in the event of a call-out.
As a result of this groundwork, many Rotarians in Wales are now
sitting on dementia-friendly steering groups, and trained as both dementia
friends and also dementia champions to train other Rotary clubs and community
Rotarians are involved in initiatives including Memory Cafés,
such as the one in the image above, in Rhiwbina and Narberth, dementia
engagement and empowerment groups in Kidwelly and Llanelli, sensory gardens and
Brecon was the first community in Wales to receive official
‘working to become dementia-friendly’ recognition from the Alzheimer’s Society,
and Brecon Rotary is playing an active role. It has sponsored books explaining
dementia for schoolchildren and supported a sensory garden at Trenewydd Care
Rotarian Hayley Ridge Evans (Rotary Brecon) Rotarian Mary Adams
(Rotary Narberth & Whitland) and Rotarian Paula Pippen (Rotary Henllys)
have been appointed dementia ambassadors to bring the initiative to completion.
Maggie says she is proud of the role the Rotary family is
playing to achieve her legacy aim. “Although there is much work still to be
done on this project, the work of Rotary in Wales is supporting the
government’s target that all communities should be dementia-friendly by 2020,
so I believe we have made a positive start,” she said.
Like other parts of the UK, Rotary in Wales has realised that it
has to continue to adapt and change to attract and retain members.
Rotary Club of Cardiff’s centenary President, George Mercer, was
awarded the RIBI President’s Award as a Champion of Change last year for his
concept of satellite clubs as a new membership tool. While the Cardiff
Satellite Club is aimed at attracting new working members, George also believes
that there is a large untapped resource in newly retired people.
“Many of us are living longer and in good health” he said.
“Rotary is ideally placed to play a role for people who want an active
retirement and want to give something back.”
Subrahmanyam Ganesh is still in active retirement in his
eighties. A Past District Governor of Southern Wales and a director for the
Jaipur Limb project for over 20 years, he believes that Rotary needs to adapt
to changes in the workplace.
“When I joined Rotary, it was very different to what it is now”
“Today the workplace is very different and people are much more
time-poor. Rotary clubs have started to recognise that they need to change the
way they meet and run their clubs if they are not to die out.”
Henllys Rotary Club near Cwmbran has a younger profile than many
clubs in Wales with its President and President-Elect both in their thirties.
President Andrew Pippen believes Rotary is under-selling itself
to younger people. To him the unique selling point is the opportunity to help
multiple charities and international projects, rather than focusing on one.
He said: “Rotary needs to let go of some of the perceived
formality surrounding the way clubs operate and to ensure younger members don’t
feel like they are taking a step back in time when they go to their first
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published in Rotary, the official magazine of Rotary in Great
Britain and Ireland. Find out more at www.rotarygbi.org
expressed in this make-up article do not necessarily represent the opinions of
Rotary eClub One and its editorial staff