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Canterbury earthquake rekindles community spirit and drives

Canterbury earthquake rekindles community spirit and drives change

Auckland, March 6 2011 – The way people have responded to help each other and the people of Canterbury after the region’s devastating earthquakes has been welcomed by more than 350 Rotarians at a special conference in Auckland.

Rotarians in Christchurch are working alongside other agencies and the “student army” to help hand out supplies and to clean up. A Rotary New Zealand (www.rnzwcs.org) charity fund has already raised $260,000, which will be 100% channelled into helping the recovery and rebuild of the region.

The spirit of families, their neighbours and communities looking after and helping each other is a cornerstone of the international service club’s existence.

But the Rotarians attending the conference received a strong warning from Rotary leaders: to survive another 100 years Rotary has to change and become more relevant to new members, like New Zealanders pitching in to help Canterbury.

Stuart Heal, a Rotarian from Cromwell who is now a Rotary International Director, told the 230 “presidents-elect” that when they take over their clubs on July 1 this year they need to consider what type of club would suit their communities. The tradition of having to attend weekly meetings, have a meal and listen to a guest speaker may no longer be always appropriate.

Rotary internationally has trialled and formed e-clubs, embraced social media like Facebook and Twitter and a variety of new formats, including young professionals clubs within a host club, are evolving. Old style “sunset clubs” are being urged to set up newer ones and then eventually die.

“I think the earthquake has reinforced that people living in this country are, mostly, by nature caring and giving and will support a cause,” Mr Heal says. “Rotary can provide them a proven channel for doing that. But many people nowadays don’t want to feel constricted by conservative club rules.

“Rotary needs to find ways to become relevant to the way potential members live their lives and to show them that the networks and friendships that come with belonging to a powerful, international organisation like Rotary also have worthwhile benefits for them and their families.”

The Auckland meeting was the first time the 14 countries in the New Zealand and Pacific Islands zone for Rotary have combined for leaders’ training. Rotary International President Ray Klinginsmith, was in Auckland to reinforce the message for change.

Mr Klinginsmith also presented Rotary’s prestigious Paul Harris Fellow awards, for meritorious service, to Lina Joannes (Papakura), Rebecca Signal (Otorohanga), Judy Bain (Hutt Valley), Lindsay Crossen (Christchurch), John Prendergast (Invercargill) and Rufino Pineda (Vanuatu).


Rotary is an organization of business and professional leaders who provide humanitarian service and help to build goodwill and peace in the world. There are 1.2 million Rotary members in 33,000 Rotary clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas.

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