Rotary club’s focus primarily local

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Oamaru is a small town but it is home to hundreds of different clubs and organisations. The Oamaru Mail has decided to find out more about some of them. This week, Daniel Birchfield looks at one of the district’s prominent service organisations, the Rotary Club of Oamaru.

The Rotary Club of Oamaru is just as relevant now as it was when it was first established more than 90 years ago, the service organisation’s new president, Robert Gonzales, says.

Chartered in May 1925, it is one of the oldest Rotary clubs in New Zealand and currently has about 40 members.

With 1.2 million members in about 200 countries, Rotary is one of the largest service organisations in the world.

“One of the focuses of Rotary is the eradication of polio. That’s the main focus of Rotary, but there are other areas of focus,” Mr Gonzales, who joined Rotary in 2007, said.

Those include eliminating other diseases, peace and conflict resolution, child and maternal health and education and literacy among others.

The Oamaru club raises funds locally for several causes with money often being put back into the community to support projects that benefit community groups and individuals.

Robert Gonzales

“We raise funds, of course, and use that fund to help projects in the community that need funds, and our areas of focus. Over the last 12 months, we’ve helped in the Waitaki Community Gardens.

“We’ve helped fund the creation of their educational kitchen where a lot of people, including school kids, are going there and having educational sessions on ways of gardening and cooking and that sort of thing.

“More recently, we have contributed funding to the hot house at the gardens. We have contributed to local schools in terms of school awards – there’s a whole list.”

In total, the club contributed $10,000 to the community gardens projects.

The Oamaru club supported the Waiareka Weston Church’s Impact Youth outreach group that travelled to Manila earlier this year, where they offered medical and dental services, provided food and supplies, and led building maintenance projects.

“We also give to local causes on request,” Mr Gonzales, the chief executive of Waitaki District Health Services, said.

Rotary’s largest local fundraiser is the annual Bookarama sale, which this year raised more than $20,000.

While fundraising and supporting the community is a focus for Rotary, there are other important aspects to the club.

Those included involvement at international level through promotion and networking, while the club also offered opportunities for individuals to “develop and enhance” their roles, Mr Gonzales said.

“It’s all about service and friendship. It gives people an opportunity to give back to the community.”

He believed the club was in good stead, but said like any club it had to move with the times.

“We have sort of redesigned our club’s activities so there’s more of a balance in terms of time commitments. It used to be that we met every week but we’ve reduced that to two-weekly. We’re always looking at other creative ways of planning our activities so people have greater opportunities for involvement and it’s relevance in today’s world.”

Mr Gonzales was installed club president at the end of June, replacing David Paterson, and will hold the role until the end of next June.

“I hope to make the best of the year really,” he said.

“The job is really about making sure that Rotary’s values and aspirations are promoted in the district and to encourage generous contributions in terms of funding and the club itself, because Rotary is made up of its members. Its members than make it happen. I see my role as a function, as well as being a leader of people.”

This year he will attend his first district conference.