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Club innovation

The more the merrier

Rotary Club of Dar es Salaam Oyster Bay, Tanzania

Chartered: 2009

Original membership: 24

Membership: 64

Cultural crossroads: Dar es Salaam, a seaport whose Arabic name means “abode of peace,” is a cosmopolitan city, home to more than 4 million people of many faiths from all over the world. The Rotary Club of Dar es Salaam Oyster Bay illustrates the joys of such coexistence: Members represent nearly 20 nationalities and bring a mélange of viewpoints. The club has a track record of success and an agenda that is packed with projects.

Club innovation: To expand Rotary’s reach in the city, the Oyster Bay club sponsored not one new club, but five, including an e-club. At the four new location-based clubs, evening meetings without meals allow more people to fit Rotary into their schedules at a reduced cost (about $230 a year compared with $600 for the parent club). To immediately infuse the new clubs with the concept of service, each was required to undertake projects during its provisional term.

The Oyster Bay club hosts annual goat races as a fun fundraiser.

Vexed by the dwindling number of Rotarians in her country, Sharmila Bhatt took a top-down approach to attracting new members during her year as district governor in 2018-19. “District 9211 consists of Tanzania and Uganda, and growth for many years was solely coming from Uganda,” notes Bhatt. “Tanzania was a sleeping giant, full of potential. We appointed movers and shakers as district governor special representatives, held two membership seminars, and increased our training sessions.”

Inspired by the district team training seminar, Vikash Shah, then incoming president of the Oyster Bay club, conceived a bold plan. “I came up with the idea of forming five new Rotary clubs,” he says. “Why not? Dar is a big city and there were still people here who had not heard of Rotary. My target would be those people. My club members thought I was crazy but were ready to accept my proposal.”

Bhatt lauds Shah’s acumen at fundraising and persuading club members to share his vision. “He simply had big goals,” she says. Shah delegated four Rotarians to helm four new clubs, and tasked himself with stewardship of an e-club.

In January, Rotary International approved the Rotary clubs of Dar es Salaam City, Dar es Salaam Mbezi Beach, and Dar es Salaam Sunset, the last with a remarkable first class of 43 members. The Rotary Club of Dar es Salaam Peninsula and the Rotary E-Club of Masaki were chartered in June. While “they’ve got the same kind of dynamics and vibrancy” as Oyster Bay, Shah says, each club offers a unique take on the Rotary experience. And in keeping with the idea of bringing more people from underrepresented groups into Rotary, he notes that all of the inaugural presidents were women.

Shah and Bhatt at a club event.

To ensure that all the Rotary bases were covered, the club also sponsored a Rotaract club at St. Joseph University in Tanzania, an Interact club at Miono High School, and a Rotary Community Corps in Muungano, an impoverished area with infrastructure needs. There the club aims to focus on maternal health.

The new clubs have delivered goods to a facility that serves children with cancer (Sunset) and have done projects at a primary school (Mbezi Beach).

“In a fairly short time, we were able to renovate a kindergarten classroom and provide water filters to the primary school,” says Mbezi Beach club member George Lwakatare. His club, like all the others sponsored by the Rotary Club of Dar es Salaam Oyster Bay, is bringing in new Rotarians and delivering results.


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• This story originally appeared in the November 2019 issue of The Rotarian magazine.