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About Rotary

ROTARY was founded nearly 100 years ago by Chicago attorney Paul Harris, who took the name from the practice of rotating meetings around members' offices.

That first club was established on 23 February 1905, and Rotary's popularity quickly spread across the United States over the next ten years before crossing the seas. By 1921, there were Rotary clubs on six continents and the organisation became Rotary International in 1922.

Although the original aims of Rotary had been social and professional, the principal motto became 'Service Above Self'.

Rotary has played a key role in promoting international understanding, both during the Second World War and since. The formation of UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) was prompted by a Rotary conference in 1942.

The Rotary Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation, and the first programme it funded was a series of graduate fellowships, using the donations made by Rotarians worldwide when Paul Harris died in 1947.

Those contributions totalled $2 million but today donations to the Foundation total more than $80 million every year and support humanitarian grants and educational schemes that promote international understanding.

Since 1985, Rotary has been working in partnership with governments and other organisations to eradicate polio through the PolioPlus programme.

As well as being the largest private-sector contributor to the global polio eradication campaign, Rotary has mobilised thousands of volunteers and immunised more than one billion children worldwide.

Women have been able to join Rotary since 1989 and there are now more than 90,000 female Rotarians.

Today, 1.2 million Rotarians belong to some 29,000 Rotary clubs in more than 160 countries.

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