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Rotary projects around the globe

March 2024


United States

Most North American plant species depend on insects, predominantly bees, for pollination. “Your whole food web is supported by bees,” says Dave Hunter, a member of the Rotary Club of Woodinville, Washington. The club leads a project that nourishes bees while beautifying the Seattle suburb. Members use donated wine barrels to construct planters to attract pollinators. Local businesses can sign up to have one placed at their storefront for a donation of $150 a year to the club’s foundation. The planters have QR codes that take visitors to information on the club’s website about the program and pollinators’ importance. “We are not just putting planters out; we’re educating through them,” says Hunter, proprietor of Crown Bees, which sells bees, bee houses, and other materials. The club also partnered with the city, businesses, a garden club, and a nonprofit organization to host a Pollinator Fest in May that attracted about 500 people to hear the latest buzz on bees.


The Rotary Club of Olds, Alberta, is livening up its process for awarding grants to community groups. In November, representatives of about a dozen organizations pitched their proposals at a contest modeled on Dragons’ Den, a CBC television program (much like Shark Tank in the U.S.) in which venture capitalists judge entrepreneurs’ proposals for investment. The organizations were allotted five minutes to make their pitch, followed by five minutes of questioning by a panel of Rotarian “dragons,” or judges. Club President Randy Smith concedes that the awardees would have received their share of the roughly $10,000 regardless of who won. But he says the spirited affair gave the groups, including Interactors and fire department cadets, an opportunity to hone their presentation skills and showcase their creativity.

  • 2.00 millimeters

    Size of the smallest known bee in North America, Perdita minima

  • 3.50 million

    Number of entrepreneurs in Canada


When the operator of a summer camp for children with Down syndrome or other cognitive disabilities announced in 2021 that she could no longer run the weeklong program, the Rotaract Club of Kecskemét stepped up. The initiative to keep the program going has become “our club’s biggest and favorite project,” says Anna Antalfalvi. She and other members of the university-based club are education and psychology students. “Our aim is to help children develop through activities during the day. This allows parents to relax and work through their difficulties in support groups.” The club’s eight active members and a few volunteers run workshops, cook, serve, and clean. The camp, which is free for participants (17 children and their families in 2023), costs the club about $3,100 a year. “Our sponsoring Rotary club helped for the first time this year, providing a day’s food and cooking a lunch on another day,” Antalfalvi says. “When they personally experienced the atmosphere of the camp and the importance of the work we do there, they decided to make it part of their annual fundraising goal to help fund the camp.”

South Africa

What began with an enthusiastic health worker telling U.S. Rotarians about water scarcity in South Africa has blossomed into a partnership that has overhauled kitchens, bathrooms, and other sanitation facilities at nearly a dozen schools serving more than 7,200 students. It began with Julia Heemstra, who grew up in South Africa, speaking to a meeting of the Rotary Club of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in 2018. Club members decided to support her in providing handheld water filters — and were eager to do more. Heemstra connected the Wyoming Rotarians with the Rotary Club of Grahamstown, South Africa, which was at the time rehabilitating sanitation facilities at Ntsika Secondary School. “They had an inconsistent water supply. When the water is shut off, the schools have to shut,” says Stuart Palmer, a past governor of District 5440. “We were seeing the children shortchanged in their education.” The clubs partnered on a global grant to do that work, then a district grant to upgrade the water systems at 10 additional schools. Then, in 2022, the two clubs received a $400,000 global grant to upgrade toilet and kitchen facilities at seven of the schools where they’d previously worked. “Seeing the incredible change — you not only have water, but you’re getting a face-lift on all these schools — it’s huge,” Palmer says.

  • 419.00,000

    Estimated number of people with Down syndrome in Europe in 2015

  • 728.00

    South African public schools where pit latrines are the only toilet facilities


Monsoon rains regularly pummel Maharashtra state. With the support of a $50,000 global grant, the Rotary Club of Mumbai Down Town Sea Land oversaw construction of five check dams that will help farming families manage flooding in the Palghar district. “The majority of the rainwater runs off the surface, as the land is mostly rocky and consists of hard soil,” says member Chandraprabha Khona, who directed the project in cooperation with the Rotary Club of Colombo, Sri Lanka. A nearly $30,000 contribution from Shabbir Rangwala, a past president of the Mumbai club, was instrumental. The new concrete dams will allow farmers to expand irrigation and cultivate additional crops, as well as store water for sanitation and top off bore wells. Khona adds that the project will lead to “an exponential jump” in farmers’ income.

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

Rotary projects make a difference in communities around the world.