As the Rotary Club of Gibraltar celebrates 50 years of service to the community on the Rock, we met up with Committee member Barbara Sellors to find out all about the club from it’s beginnings to the present day:
Rotary Club was created by a group of business men in Chicago back in 1905. The group was a forum where like minded professionals could meet, exchange ideas and form life-long friendships. Their motto, which still stands today, is ‘Service above self’ , meaning that members were more than just individuals and that their aim is to provide service to others.
Within five years the Rotary Club had branches across the United States of America. It didn’t stop there though, just sixteen years after being founded, Rotary had clubs on six continents. As it grew, members pooled their resources and used their talents to serve their communities.
Rotarians have persevered through tough times. During World War II, Rotary Clubs in Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain and Japan were forced to disband. Despite the risks, many continued to meet informally and following the end of the War, Rotary members joined together to rebuild their clubs and their countries.
The organisation’s charitable works are far reaching, not just affecting the areas local to the branches. A major project for Rotary has been the fight against Polio. It began in 1979 with a project to immunise 6 million children in the Phillipines. Since then, the efforts of Rotary and it’s partners have seen a reduction in cases of 99.9%.
Closer to home, Gibraltar’s association with Rotary began in 1965 when the founder members launched the club under the sponsorship of the Rotary Club of Tangier. The inaugural meeting was held at the Rock Hotel in February 1966, the Hotel is still the venue for Rotary Club meetings every Tuesday night to this day. It is thought to be one of the most visited branches of Rotary as many visiting Rotarians on holiday in Gibraltar call in to meetings while they are here.
Once the club had been formed, it immediately set about making a difference in the local community. An early project was the Landport Sports Centre which was opened by Sir Varyl Begg in 1969. The club was also involved in providing facilities for pensioners. It found and converted what is now the Senior Citizens Centre on Town Range. Since its creation, the value of the Gibraltar Rotary Club’s annual fundraising has rarely been less than 4 figures and in recent years has often been in excess of £10,000.
How does the club decide what causes to support? Barbara says “each year we change Presidents and they get to choose the direction of where our support goes for that year”. Despite this, there are some things which remain on their agenda every year like their support for Clean up the World Day and their charity emergency fund which they can use to help people and organisations who find themselves short of money for crucial things like medical equipment or a wheelchair.
A big fundraising event for the group, and one Barbara is closely associated with, is the ever popular car boot sale which takes place regularly at Morrisons supermarket car park. In recent years the funds they have raised have gone to help local community organisations like the Youth Club circuit, Girl Guiding Gibraltar and Saffron Rose 4 Rett charity. Barbara says that one cause in particular brought her “great joy”; helping the Ignacio family buy a new car to help them transport their disabled son. The new vehicle improved the quality of life for the family immeasurably.
There is also an international dimension to the work the Rotary Club of Gibraltar does, along with the ongoing campaign to fight Polio, they support the ‘Shelter Box’ charity which was started by a UK Rotary member. The charity delivers Shelter Boxes to the scene of natural disasters like floods and earthquakes.
Each box contains supplies to help a family survive during the first few days and weeks after a disaster including a family tent, thermal blankets, ground sheets, water purification equipment, children’s toys, cooking utensils and mosquito nets. The boxes are tailor made for the destination they are going to and can be delivered within hours of any disaster happening. Gibraltar’s Rotary Club have sent many thanks to the funds they have raised here on the Rock.
Rotary Gibraltar’s current President, Penelope Pilley, says of the club “we prove that you can be charitable and sociable at the same time. Every week we try to have a speaker from the huge talent pool we have in Gibraltar. We plan to whom we will give donations and how we will raise the money but we also end each meeting with a social get-together and often dine out together too. There are few obligations on members: you can simply attend as often as you are able. The members are a true cross section of our community and we make a difference. It’s a very good feeling!”
So do you fancy finding out more about Gibraltar’s Rotary Club? It’s an over 40s organisation, and is open to both men and women to join. If you are interested in getting involved Barbara says “we’re always seeking new members. It’s a great way to get to know people, especially if you are new to Gibraltar or are even just here for a short time”.
Check out their website http://www.rotaryclubgibraltar.com or pop along to one of their Tuesday evening meetings at the Rock Hotel.
* Thank you to the Rotary Club for the images featured in this post.