Every Rotarian joins Rotary for his or her own reasons. Often, the reason someone decides to join isn’t the same as the reason that person ultimately decides to stay. When I was asked to join Rotary, I accepted because I thought it would be a good way to get more involved in my community. In the end, though, what really got me excited about Rotary service was something I didn’t even know about when I joined: our Rotary Foundation.
I knew I could do plenty of good work through my Rotary club in Norman, Okla., USA. But through our Foundation, I could have a hand in the work of every single Rotary club and district around the world. I could look at any Foundation-supported project, any Foundation program, any country that was declared polio-free, and say: I helped make that happen.
Once I realized that, there wasn’t any turning back.
I’ve been very fortunate that over the years, I’ve gotten to see an incredible amount of our Foundation’s work firsthand. The more I see, the more passionate I become about our Foundation. When you visit a school for AIDS orphans and meet the kids who are being cared for, educated, and taught a trade – and when you know, as you look into their faces, that if it weren’t for our Foundation, they would be sleeping on the street, eating out of the trash – you don’t ever see our Foundation in the same way again.
We are in the middle of one of the most exciting years we have ever known for our Rotary Foundation. We’ve just rolled out a new grant model, one that will challenge and inspire us all to think bigger and to develop more ambitious projects that will have a more lasting impact. We’ve accepted a new challenge from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has committed to match, two to one, every Rotarian dollar contributed to polio eradication for the next five years, up to US$35 million per year. And we are now fighting the final battles in our war against polio – a war we are absolutely committed to win.
Our Foundation’s goal always has been Doing Good in the World. With our new grant model, we aren’t going to be satisfied with simply doing good. We will do the most good we can, in the most lasting ways possible – for the people who need us the most.