Regional Conferences Recreational and Vocational Fellowships
CONCERN FOR THE AGING
One current area of special emphasis for Rotary clubs focuses on providing "new opportunities for the aging." In 1990, the RI Board of Directors urged Rotarians to identify new projects serving the elderly that emphasize intergenerational activities and the integration of seniors into society and the workplace. The following year, the board called for an approach that stressed service "with" the elderly as well as "for" them.
With the substantial upswing in the worldwide population of older persons, their needs for special attention have greatly multiplied. As citizens grow older, it becomes increasingly important for them to retain their personal independence and to remain in control of their own lives to the extent this is possible.
Many Rotary clubs are seeking ways to serve the older persons of their community who face problems of deteriorating health, loneliness, poor nutrition, transportation difficulties, inability to do customary chores, loss of family associations, reduced recreational opportunities, inadequate housing and limited information about available social agencies for emergency assistance. Some clubs have initiated a valuable community service to assist older persons in retirement planning and adjustment by organizing and sharing the wealth of information available within the club's membership. Other clubs have developed foster grandparent programs and other intergenerational activities that allow seniors to use their experience and knowledge to help young people. Rotarians often can provide services which seniors can no longer do for themselves.
The greatest need of aging individuals is frequently a mere expression of real caring and concern by thoughtful friends. All Rotarians should seriously consider how they and their clubs may actively participate in programs for the aging. It is one area of community service in which there is a growing possibility that each of us may some day be on the receiving end.
Each May or June, Rotary International holds a worldwide convention "to stimulate, inspire and inform all Rotarians at an international level." The convention, which may not be held in the same country for more than two consecutive years, is the annual meeting to conduct the business of the association. The planning process usually begins about four or five years in advance.
Future RI conventions are scheduled for Nice, France, in 1995, Calgary, Canada, in 1996, Glasgow, Scotland, in 1997 and Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.A., in 1998. The RI board determines a general location and invites cities to make proposals. The conventions are truly international events which 15,000 to 20,000 Rotarians and guests attend. All members should plan to participate in a Rotary International convention to discover the real internationality of Rotary. It is an experience you'll never forget.
From time to time Rotarians may read the promotional literature announcing a regional conference to be held some place in the world. Such a conference is quite similar to the annual Rotary International convention, but generally smaller in attendance and serving Rotarians and guests in a region which is at a considerable distance from the site of the international convention.
The purpose of a regional conference is to develop and promote acquaintance, friendship and understanding among the attendees, as well as to provide a forum to discuss and exchange ideas about Rotary and international affairs related to the geographic areas involved.
Regional conferences usually attract two or three thousand individuals and because they are considered special events in the Rotary calendar, are not held on any regular schedule. The conferences are arranged periodically, according to the interest of the Rotary leaders in specific regions. Many of the operational tasks of the conferences are handled by the RI Secretariat.
Although there is no special effort to promote attendance by Rotarians outside of the region involved, members from all parts of the world are always welcome to attend. Attending a conference in another region is an enjoyable, rewarding and fascinating experience. They provide another facet to the international fellowship of Rotary.
In 1931 Rotarians in France and Germany organized the "petit comite," a small group with the goal of fostering better relations between the people of these two neighboring nations. Since that time, Rotarians throughout Europe have led the way in creating Intercountry Committees to encourage contacts between Rotarians and Rotary clubs across national boundaries.
Intercountry Committees have now been established in many parts of the world to promote friendship as well as to cooperate in sponsoring World Community Service projects, student exchanges and other activities to improve understanding among nations. Frequently, the Intercountry Committees sponsor visits of Rotarians and their families across national borders and arrange intercity meetings and conferences. In some instances, Intercountry Committees are created between countries separated by great distances in an effort to encourage goodwill and friendship with matched or partner areas of the world. The Intercountry Committees coordinate their efforts with the district governors of their countries and always serve in an advisory capacity to districts and clubs.
Intercountry Committees provide an additional means for Rotary clubs and Rotarians to fulfill the responsibilities of the Fourth Avenue of Service-international understanding, goodwill and peace in the world.
The structure of Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland (RIBI) forms an interesting chapter in our history. In 1914, after Rotary expanded across the Atlantic to Great Britain and Ireland, a British Association of Rotary Clubs was established as part of the International Association of Rotary Clubs. During World War I there was little contact between the international clubs, and the British association held the small number of Rotary clubs together in Great Britain, Ireland and a few other European communities.
Following the war, a new Rotary International Constitution was adopted in 1922 which established the principle that whenever a country had 25 Rotary clubs it could become a "territorial unit" and thus have a representative on the RI board and receive other specific powers. The clubs in Great Britain and Ireland immediately petitioned for and received the status of a "territorial unit." No other group in the world made such a request or received that status.
In 1927 Rotary International terminated the territorial unit concept and organized Rotary clubs by "areas" of the world. However, all of "the rights, privileges and powers of existing territorial units" were forever protected and perpetuated. Thus, since RIBI was the only territorial unit, it has continued to function as an independent unit of Rotary International, subject to certain approvals by the RI Constitution.
The RIBI form of administration is uniquely appropriate to Great Britain and Ireland because of geography, language, tradition and custom. Because of this historic relationship, RIBI maintains a slightly different administrative structure from all the other Rotary clubs and districts in the world, even though it is a full member of Rotary International.
In the early days of Rotary, any change in the RI Bylaws or Constitution was proposed and voted upon at the annual convention. As attendance at conventions increased and open discussion became more difficult, a Council on Legislation was created in 1934 as an advisory group to debate and analyze proposals before they were voted upon by the convention.
Finally at the 1970 Atlanta Convention, it was decided that the Council on Legislation would actually become the legislative or parliamentary body of Rotary. The council is composed of one delegate from each Rotary district as well as several ex-officio members. It was agreed that the council would meet every three years at a time other than at the Rotary convention.
The council, which next meets in 1995, has the responsibility of considering and acting upon all "enactments," which are proposed changes in the Bylaws and Constitution, and "resolutions," which are recommended changes in Rotary policies and procedures. Proposals may be submitted by any Rotary club, district or the RI board. The council's actions are subject to review by all the Rotary clubs of the world before they become final. If 10 percent of the voting strength of the clubs oppose a council action, such legislation is nullified and it is submitted for final consideration to the next convention.
The Council on Legislation provides the membership of Rotary a democratic process for legislative change in the operations of Rotary International.
From stamp collecting to wine appreciation, the hobbies of Rotarians are as diverse as the membership itself. Yet, among the more than one million Rotarians worldwide, an amateur-radio enthusiast or a chess player is bound to find others who share the same passions. But Recreational Fellowship members share more than just their common interest in sport diving or Esperanto; they share an interest in fellowship and service and in promoting world understanding. As such, it's no wonder that the International Skiing Fellowship of Rotarians donates the profits from ski events to The Rotary Foundation or that the Flying Rotarians help ferry medical personnel and supplies.
One has only to look at the types of Vocational Fellowships to recognize how they differ from their recreational counterparts. With Rotarians united by their shared professional interest in such fields as Hospital Administration and Finance/Banking, it's obvious that Vocational Service is as important a concern as international fellowship to the members of these groups. Members exchange technical information and seek opportunities to employ their expertise in service not just to their own communities and countries, but to their professions as well. For example, the Ophthalmology International Vocational Fellowship organized a professional seminar on the subject of eye surgery in developing countries.