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Rotary projects around the globe

May 2024



A community kitchen built by the Rotary Club of Nuevo Santander at a local school is ensuring hundreds of children have meals in low-income neighborhoods of Nuevo Laredo, a city on the U.S. border. “Most of the houses in this area do not have running water or electricity,” says Club President Jorge Tello. The club launched the $150,000 project in 2018, and the kitchen at the Comedor Santa María school began operating in August 2020; meals were first served to-go due to the COVID-19 pandemic before the dining room opened in May 2021. “Operation costs for providing breakfast and lunch for 230 children every day is $9,300 a month,” Tello says. The funds are donated by businesses and individuals. Club members supervise the operation, and Rotarians are providing solar panels to the facility.

United States

The Viva! Vienna! festival offers a master class in how a special event can galvanize residents and community groups, says Gunnar Spafford, a member of the Rotary Club of Vienna, Virginia, which took on the project in the mid-1990s. The Memorial Day weekend event in a suburb of Washington, D.C., has grown into a celebration that features food, ukulele performances, singing princesses, and tributes to those who’ve died in military service. The 2023 event raised $230,000 and attracted 60,000 people. The biggest share of the proceeds, about $130,000, came from carnival rides. The next highest sum was brought in from vendors, who pay higher fees for spots closer to the town green, the hub of activity. “I see this as an opportunity to have other Rotarians experience Viva! Vienna! for the fundraising prowess it has,” Spafford says.

  • 30.00,000+

    Meals served by Comedor Santa María school in 2023

  • 14.00th century

    Origin of the word “festival”


Thousands of Rotary members celebrated the centennial of Rotary in the Netherlands in 2023 in typical Dutch fashion: with a bicycle tour, specifically a yearlong, 3,100-mile journey on an electric cargo bicycle. Cyclists taking turns in the relay-style tour visited most of the roughly 500 clubs in the country. Past RI President Holger Knaack, district governors, and about 1,000 other revelers were on hand for the start of the relay in January at Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam. At the end of the ride in December in the province of Zeeland, Rotarians planted trees for a food forest, a type of food cultivation based on woodland ecosystems. “With the electric bike and the forest, we made many people aware of Rotary’s environment area of focus,” says Madelon Schaap, of the Rotary Club of Amsterdam-Zuid, immediate past governor of District 1580. The project made Rotary visible to the public. Schaap adds that “connecting the clubs and unifying them is a great achievement that we did not expect at the beginning.”


In December the Rotaract Club of Durrës delivered care packages to 30 families in need in the city on the Adriatic coast. Each package was tailored for the recipients, an approach that was important to the project’s success, says Club President Geri Emiri. Rotaractors gathered information on the number of family members, their genders, and their health needs before assembling the packages, which were supplied using monetary and in-kind contributions. The club distributed food packages, along with panettone (a Christmas sweet bread), lemonade, fruit and vegetables, hygiene goods, detergent, children’s books, toys, clothing, household appliances, and furniture. The aid “was modest and does not solve the problems of these families,” Emiri says, “but it aims to strengthen the relationships.”

  • 22.00,000+

    Miles of bicycle paths in the Netherlands

  • 620.00s B.C.

    Durrës founded as Epidamnus


A spinal surgery for a child in Burundi was made possible by the coordination of Rotary members on multiple continents. The young girl, named Maïssa, had early-onset scoliosis, a curvature of the spine. A team of Belgian surgeons working in the country found that she was in urgent need of intervention. A local doctor was not available, and her family could not afford to travel out of the country. So the doctors contacted Pierre De Vriendt, a member of the Rotary Club of Gand Maritime-Gent Haven with experience coordinating medical missions, to help recruit surgeons from India in hopes of finding a lower-cost option. Word of the girl’s need eventually reached Els Reynaers Kini of the Rotary Club of Mumbai Sobo, which supports the work of the Spine Foundation in India with the help of a Rotary Foundation global grant. In November, two doctors, Abhay Nene and Harshal Babulal Bamb, traveled at their own expense to Burundi, where they performed the first operation on Maïssa, now 6. Reynaers Kini, who intends to expand the medical work in Burundi, relays the gratitude of the girl’s mother, Martine Karabona: “Not only has Maïssa been given a new lease on life so she can grow into a confident woman, but along the way all of us have grown really close and are now truly one global family spread across India, Belgium, and Burundi.”

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


Rotary projects make a difference in communities around the world.