Monday, September 21, 2009

Diverse clubs hold key to the future of Rotary

On the outskirts of Amsterdam, 21 people gather at De Houten Vier restaurant each week. The group includes members of Dutch, Moroccan, Surinamese, and Turkish descent. The 14 men and seven women range in age from 28 to 69. They come from various professional backgrounds; there are designers, hotel managers, and academics as well as lawyers and accountants. Despite their differences, everyone has at least one thing in common: Rotary.

The newly chartered Rotary Club of Amsterdam-Arena exemplifies the diverse membership that Rotary International leadership has stated is necessary to keep the organization strong. In November, the Board updated the RI statement on diversity. The Amsterdam-Arena club is based in the borough of Amsterdam Zuidoost, a community of about 80,000 situated in the city’s southeast corner. Andro Bottse, the club’s president, says the area is “multicultural and multiethnic by definition.”

A group of past district governors in Amsterdam determined that few residents of the borough had joined a Rotary club. With support from Jan Koster, past governor of District 1580 and a member of the Rotary Club of Amsterdam West, the new club was chartered in November. Bottse, of Surinamese descent, says the club’s diversity helps it reach out to the community.

“It helps that our networks extend to all levels of the community we serve, including grassroots organizations, businesses, and municipalities,” he explains.

The club has focused on helping children, especially those with mental and physical disabilities. “We want to serve our community by making dreams real for the children of Amsterdam Zuidoost,” says Bottse.

Except for Koster, who is an honorary member of the new club, the Amsterdam-Arena Rotarians are all new to Rotary. “We have an open mind to new developments [such as] the way we raise funds and the way we serve,” Bottse says. “To me, it’s all about enriching your life by meeting people from different backgrounds.” He adds that his club would like to help other clubs increase their membership. “I learned that many clubs in the area of Amsterdam have difficulties attracting new members even though they try very hard,” he says. “Perhaps we can support them in their efforts.”

Adapted from De Rotarian, the Rotary regional magazine serving the Netherlands.

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