HELEN BURTON: My visit to one of town's Rotary Clubs
I was recently invited to spend an evening with the Rotary Club of Sovereign Harbour to find out more about Rotary and what they do.
Rotary is an international organisation which aims to improve communities and support charitable work at a local level across the globe. It started with several friends in Chicago who were all businessmen and in 1905 they formed a group to encourage fellowship within the business community. Some people still think of Rotary as being an all-male organisation dominated by businessmen, but things have moved on! There are over 1.2 million members in 34,000 clubs across more than 200 countries and Rotary consists of men and women from all ages and backgrounds. There are five Rotary clubs in the Eastbourne area, Sovereign Harbour meeting at Seasons at The Waterfront, Eastbourne Rotary Club meeting at the Cavendish Hotel, Eastbourne Sovereign meeting at the Chatsworth Hotel, Eastbourne Beachy Head meeting at the Hydro Hotel and Eastbourne AM meeting at the Chalk Farm Hotel.
Members join by invitation and every club has its own style and focus. The Sovereign Harbour Rotary Club meet once a week at the Seasons Café and the evening starts with dinner for those that want to eat, or members can just attend later when the meeting begins formally. I joined the group for dinner and was made to feel very welcome. There was a fun atmosphere with lots of laughter and it was like meeting up with a large group of friends. I was amused to discover that as well as the annual membership fee, another way funds are raised is by fining members for several ‘misdemeanours’. One of the misdemeanours was not eating your greens at dinner, so towards the end of the meal several members were causing hilarity by trying to hide cabbage under knives, forks and other leftovers! When the more formal part of the evening began we started to find out about the work the club was doing locally. The group holds regular meetings and events which raise money for several local charities, since 2010 Sovereign Harbour Rotary have raised £97,000.
The club organises lots of events and trips, it is a very social group to be part of. Getting a mention in the newspaper also result in a fine so I won’t name any members in particular but thank you to the member that invited me and the two members that came to the recent Pevensey Volunteers meeting! I know how challenging it can be to be a campaigner and community activist, I’m lucky to have a great group of people around me now working with me and supporting me in my community work but if you want to get more involved in your community and don’t know where to start then perhaps getting in touch with your local Rotary Club would give you the support you need to make a difference to other peoples’ lives, as well as your own, because I’m sure you will soon find yourself amongst a group of friends.