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“We aim to connect with the local community through schools and organisaitons to do things for them and with them.” – Johnny Graham

Service above self

By Francesca Ryan

There’s a line in the film Stand By Me that always got me wondering: “The Women’s Auxiliary barfed all over the Benevolent Order of Antelopes.” Who are these people and just what do they do? Until last week I wondered the same about Rotary Clubs.  While I never really found out about the Women’s Auxiliary and the Benevolent Order of Antelopes, I’m delighted to report that Rotary Clubs are thriving and doing a great job too.

I recently had the opportunity to sit in on a meeting of the Rotary Club of Belfast West and have a chat with two of its members.  While the title infers it is a club solely for West Belfast, don’t be fooled.

“We are not territorial, we are not constituency based,” explained Johnny Graham.  “Belfast West means west of the Lagan so much of our activity is in a great part of Belfast.”

A fair point, considering we met with these rotarians at the Belfast Boat Club in the south of the city.  Every week the members gather at the Boat Club where they lunch, hear from guest speakers and give updates on the organisation’s business plan.

So what exactly does the organisation do? We asked the President of Rotary Club of Belfast West, Mary Graham.

“Rotary International is the world’s first service club organisation currently comprising more than 1.2 million male and female business, professional, and community leaders who volunteer their time, talents, professional skills and energy to improving the lives of people in their local community and others around the world.

“Rotarians are expected to help the community that they live in and also people in other parts of the world that are in need. As a member of a Rotary Club, you have the opportunity to give something back, to give hope to those less fortunate and to make lives worthwhile and fulfilled. Sometimes this help can be charitable giving and sometimes it can be hands-on. We are involved with a number of charities both at home and internationally.”

And the evidence is there to see. This particular club has worked with numerous organisations and lent a hand to the Lapland Trust, the substance misuse charity FASA and many schools in the area, to name a few.

“Although we raise money for charity, it’s not our raison d’être,” says Johnny.  “As well as the several fundraisers per year, we aim to connect with the local community through schools and organisations to do things for them and with them.”

Johnny adds that joining the Rotary Club has enabled him to give something back to the community.

“In my life I always found that I was too busy for charity, now I feel I can give something back. I think it’s nascent in all of us to want to help others.

“I think it’s fair to say there has been a loss of community spirit, less people go to church, that doesn’t mean they are bad people, it can be difficult to stay connected, we can fulfill that with the work we do.”

As President, Mary is keen to highlight the outstanding selfless work they do and to attract more members.

“I want to build on the progress we have made in the last few years in terms of the rejuvenation of the club,” she says.  “My aims for the year are to further improve communications, increase membership, more service activities, fellowship and fun.

“I love the club and I love that in any country in the world, you can walk in to a Rotary Club meeting, we even had an American here today.

“We have great respect for differing opinions and have witnessed speakers and members talking about anything from the Marx brothers to sea explorers.

“The only pre-requisite is that you share our values.”

The future certainly looks bright for this club and Mary is keen to meet all challenges in the year ahead.

“I have every confidence as we look forward to 2011/2012 that The Rotary Club of Belfast West, will continue to rise to the challenges ahead and will continue to live up to our motto: Service above Self.”


You can contact the Rotary Club via post     at:

Rotary Club of Belfast West,

Belfast Boat Club,

12 Lockview Road

Belfast,BT9 5FJ

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