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Rotary International unveils first club in Palestine

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AMMAN – One of the largest service organisations in the world grew a little larger this week as Rotary International unveiled new clubs in Amman and Ramallah.

During a visit to the region, Rotary International President John Kenny unveiled the first Rotary club in Palestine, a club that was 17 years in the making.

“We are very proud to welcome our new members,” he said in a press conference in Amman on Tuesday.

According to Kenny, the focus of the Ramallah club will be children, with Palestinian Rotarians preparing an “ambitious” park programme entailing the establishment of 100 parks in Palestine.

“There are currently no parks in Ramallah for children, and the Ramallah club has shown interest in providing them spaces, and facilities for children with disabilities,” Kenny said.

Ramallah leaders are “proud” to have a club and to have the opportunity to give back to their community, Rotary International Director Phillip Rivers said.

He underlined how Rotary International aims to promote peace and understanding, pointing out that with the recent tensions in the region, “Rotary International is needed now more than ever.”

Jordanian Rotary clubs, which now number 10 after the introduction of a new Amman charter on Tuesday, will cooperate closely with the Ramallah branch, according to Usama Bargouthi, Rotary district governor nominee.

Jordanian Rotarians will attempt to apply successful programmes in Palestine, such as the Gift of Life initiative, which provides corrective heart surgery for children, and the establishment of a centre for the production of artificial limbs, he added.

“Rotary clubs in Jordan are our gateway to Ramallah,” Rivers said, noting that there has been “intense” interest among clubs across the region and the world for partnering with the new club.

In recent years, Jordan’s Rotary clubs have financed a microscope to examine cornea cells for the Jordan Eye Bank, provided a public park for Safawi residents, opened a brick factory to build limited-income housing in Al Adassia in addition to providing computers and educational programmes to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Bargouthi said.

Rotary clubs across the Kingdom are also embarking on a nationwide project to improve water access by digging wells for water harvesting in areas identified as water-poor, he noted.

Globally, Rotary International aims to improve literacy rates, eliminate hunger and ensure clean water and sanitation for communities in the developing world.

The international service organisation is still committed to the complete eradication of polio, Kenny pointed out, adding that “we are 99 per cent of the way there, but 99 per cent is still not good enough.”

Polio remains endemic in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, he said, underlining that in Tajikistan, polio made a return after two decades of its apparent eradication.

Rotary International, with the first branch established in Amman in 1956, played a large role in eradicating the disease in the Kingdom in 2001.

Rotary clubs are open to business and professional leaders who take an active role in their communities.

Approximately 1.2 million Rotarians belong to more than 32,000 clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas around the world.