Helping hand from rotary

Rotarians helping out at Biggleswade Hospital.
Rotarians helping out at Biggleswade Hospital.

Rotary is a name synonymous with charity and good causes – but few are aware of just how much its clubs do.

In Chronicle Country the Rotary Clubs of Biggleswade, Biggleswade Ivel and Sandy serve their communities in many different ways.

But Rotarians feel that the Rotary name is often misunderstood.

Alfred Levy, president-elect at the Rotary Club of Biggleswade, is keen for as many would-be members as possible to attend an open evening the three clubs are holding on Wednesday, November 13.

Potential Rotarians can speak to members of the clubs about their work and what is involved.

The Weatherley Centre in Biggleswade will be the venue to attend.

Mr Levy said: “Rotary clubs help their communities in many different ways but to be honest a lot of people seem to think we’re just a group of people who meet up for lunch once a week!

“We’re keen to broaden our membership, spread the word about all the things that Rotary does and bring new people on board.”

The work of the clubs takes in all sections of society.

Rotarians, for example take a trolley of books and refreshments around Biggleswade Hospital once a week for patients.

They have also spent time in the hospital garden, pruning and working on maintenance and upkeep, while the Rotary Club of Biggleswade has also helped with the improvement and upkeep of Biggleswade Common.

Schools and young people are also a priority for the clubs.

Mr Levy added: “We offer opportunities to young people who want to undertake charity work abroad, and we also have a Youth Exchange programme where a young person can travel to another country and stay with a host Rotary Club while they are there.”

Closer to home, the annual Youth Speaks contest aims to improve the confidence and public speaking skills of youngsters.

Teams of students from different schools can choose a topic to speak on and are assessed on the content and effectiveness of delivery.

They then qualify for future rounds, moving from the club’s area to the Rotary District 
and eventually to the national final if they progress that far.

Other initiatives aimed at school students include Young Musician, Writer, Photographer and Chef competitions.

The Rotary Youth Leadership Award programme (RYLA), meanwhile is another way young people can boost their confidence and self-esteem and learn new skills.

Participants aged from 18 to 26 spend a week at Grafham Water Centre in Perry, near Huntingdon.

They are split up into groups and given tasks and challenges to complete, and everyone has the turn to be the leader.

While Rotary organises regular challenges and schemes for youngsters, the young people themselves can also set up their own clubs.

Seven to 10-year-olds can establish Rotakids clubs, while for children and teenagers aged from 11 to 18, Interact clubs are the relevant organisation.

For young adults who prefer not to join actual Rotary clubs, Rotaract clubs for 18 to 31-year-olds are always an option.

The annual Rotary Stroke Awareness Day also sees Rotarians teaming up with doctors in the area to offer free blood pressure checks and advice on healthy living.

Internationally speaking, the clubs have helped a wide variety of charities and good causes, including Water Aid And Disaster Aid.

Rotary has also helped to almost eradicate polio from India, while clubs in the Biggleswade and Bedford area helped to raise £1,500 for Paralympic teams from developing countries who took part in the London 2012 games at a charity event last month.

Charities the clubs have helped in Chronicle Country also include the East Anglian Air Ambulance and the Biggleswade Talking Newspaper.

Anyone would like to attend the open evening can email or contact 01767 314669.

For more information about the clubs and their work contact Mr Levy on 07775 710918 or Mary Whitehead on 07929 015591.