by Kalyan Banerjee, Rotary International President

In late August, Binota and I were in Ghana, where Rotary Foundation Trustee Vice Chair Sam Okudzeto and enthusiastic local Rotarians took us to the ribbon-cutting for a water project in a little village, Abutia Teti, about 60 miles from Accra. We arrived at about 11 a.m., and the whole village seemed to be there. Everyone had been waiting since early morning to welcome us. In the past, the women had to walk over 3 miles to carry pails of water from a river. Now they had a supply of safe, clean water from tube wells in the village itself. It was a simple but effective project in which Rotary and USAID had worked together. But what struck us most that day was family: The men, the women, the children were all there together, dancing, singing, and welcoming us. It made me think about how everywhere around the world, people come together in families, and families join together as communities.

And this made me happy that the first of our emphases in this Rotary year is the family, because the family is where everything begins. It is where life begins, it is where our day begins, and it is where our Rotary service must begin. Because it is the family, and not the individual, that is the building block of the community – and of Rotary.

It is one of my great priorities to encourage the involvement of families in Rotary service. I feel incredibly strongly that Rotary should never, ever come between the Rotarian and the family. Rotary service should be something that brings the family closer together. For myself, if I cannot bring Binota with me to a Rotary event, it’s simple – I don’t go! Rotary is not just for me; it is for both of us. This is why I encourage districts to welcome families at district conferences, to involve spouses and children in service projects, and to plan meeting times with families in mind. The more that families are involved in Rotary, the more Rotary will thrive – today and tomorrow.

What is Rotary about? It’s about so many things, but at its core, Rotary is about these words: Love your neighbor as yourself. Rotary is about love, and that love has to start with us – and with those closest to us.