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Rotary projects around the globe

January 2024


United States

The Rotary Club of the Lower Keys, Florida, is known for the Independence Day festival and fireworks display it sponsors in Big Pine Key. At last year’s event, the night had a sweet send-off: the creation of a massive Key lime pie in celebration of Monroe County’s bicentennial. Rotarians joined local chefs Kermit Carpenter and Paul Menta as they scooped free samples of the pie, which spanned a precise 13.14 feet in diameter. The dimension, harking back to the mathematical constant pi, squeezed past a 12.25-foot creation made in 2018 by a Florida business; its producers were awaiting certification of the grand concoction — made of Key lime juice and condensed milk spread atop a graham cracker crust — as the world’s largest. The precise tally of servings was unclear, but club member Keara McGraw says it’s safe to say it was “a lot.”


Improper disposal of household cooking oil is not only an ecological hazard, it’s also a missed opportunity to recycle the waste into new products. Oil poured down drains also increases water treatment costs. Members of the Rotaract Club of Penápolis in São Paulo state distributed 400 funnels to help residents collect oil in bottles, along with pamphlets explaining the benefits of recycling and how to do it. Members of a recycling cooperative in Penápolis gather the bottled oil and sell it to be turned into biodiesel, homemade soap, paints, resin, and animal feed. “It’s essential to reduce and prevent pollution in all its forms,” says club member Lucas Silveira de Campos.

  • 1493.00

    Year Christopher Columbus introduced citrus seeds to the West Indies

  • $6.00 billion

    Value of the global market for used cooking oil in 2022


Rotary members are working with the Finnish Environment Institute to collect, categorize, and measure trash in the Baltic Sea. “Scientists have little time for this kind of work,” explains Liisa Stjernberg, a past governor of District 1420 and a member of the Rotary Club of Helsinki City West. Stjernberg, the Finland country coordinator for the Environmental Sustainability Rotary Action Group, leads a group of volunteer members from her district who monitor blue algae blooms, raise funds for research, and promote marine conservation. In September the group enlisted 22 Rotary Youth Exchange students to join a measurement outing off the islands of Suomenlinna. They fished out trash including polymer fibers and shock tube detonators used in construction, Stjernberg says. Afterward they took up their oars for another cause: the Rotary-led “Rowing for Herring” longboat regatta, which drew 300 participants.


Dr. Anand Jha, a pediatrician and past president of the Rotary Club of Birganj, noticed that many children in his region of Nepal, about 50 miles south of Kathmandu, were underweight. “Most parents would feed only [cow’s] milk to their children,” says Jha. “As a result, the children were mostly iron-deficient,” a condition easily addressed with an improved diet. Since 2018, Jha has conducted 11 conferences on child nutrition, attracting as many as 80 parents at each session. The events include discussions of problems parents face, including, he says, the challenge of steering children from junk food. “I try to give them practical solutions. The biggest mistake that parents make is that they do not plan the diet” and fail to consider the nutritional value of foodstuffs, he says. Members of the Birganj club assist with the logistics and the management of the sessions.

  • 242.00

    Recorded fish species in the Baltic Sea

  • 19.00%

    Share of Nepalese children under age 5 who are underweight

South Africa

The Rotary Club of Polokwane, northeast of Johannesburg, has given new meaning to the expression “waste not, want not.” The club has helped train more than 550 preschool teachers and caregivers to turn common household waste items — cardboard tubes, plastic sticks, egg cartons, newsprint, and more — into craft projects for children. In 2017, the club teamed up with Shayne Moodie, founder of an initiative called Empty Toy Box Education, to train rural educators to engage children with such projects. Club members collect recyclables and supplies such as glue and scissors, assist with the training, and provide the certificates for teachers. “The early childhood development program has been the most successful, sustainable program offered by our club in recent years,” says club member Ursula Moodie, who is Shayne’s mother. The program has reached as many as 17,000 preschoolers, the club estimates.

This story originally appeared in the January 2024 issue of Rotary magazine.

Rotary projects make a difference in communities around the world.