Here’s a surprising fact: despite war raging in Ukraine, Rotary membership there has increased.
Relative to Great Britain and Ireland the numbers are smaller. But since February 2022, 13 clubs have been created and 350 Rotarians have been inducted for a 31.8% growth rate.
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Olga Steblianko is the Ukraine District’s membership lead. She was forced to flee her native Crimea in 2014 following the Russian invasion and is now living in the port city of Odesa with husband, Mykola.
“For us, the growth is not surprising,” she told Ukraine’s District Conference in Dubno. “Following the invasion, Ukraine had to become united, we had to stand together. People wanted to be part of Rotary, they wanted the opportunity to do more, and they saw how Rotary had some power.
“Now we are united to help our people, our refugees and our military as we are united with Rotary clubs in other countries.”
Both are members of the Rotary eClub of Ukraine nurturing the dream of one day returning to Crimea to re-empower local Rotary.
However, fundamental to the growth is that clubs are project-based, whose member meet socially, but are driven by results. Their average age is also remarkably low, with most working professionals.
During my time in Ukraine in June, Rotarians sought me out specifically to tell me about their projects.
For example, the Rotary Club of Kyiv-Capital described their partnership with Rotarians from Ireland to raise $25,000 with a Disaster Response Grant from The Rotary Foundation to support families whose homes had been destroyed in the village of Krupychpole in Chernihiv region.
Rotary clubs in Kharkiv, which sits right on the front line, are working together with a project called “Rotary for the kids of the heroes”, supporting 500 children in the region whose parents have been killed.
They provide medical and psychiatric help, along with educational support. Thanks to funding from German and English Rotary clubs, the Kharkiv Rotarians have arranged short breaks away from the war zone. They are now looking for further Rotary support to spread this scheme Ukraine-wide.
Now we are united to help our people, our refugees and our military as we are united with Rotary clubs in other countries.”
The Rotary eClub of Ukraine has worked with international partners to secure Global Grants for a landmine-clearing project to free up agricultural land, and rebuild a school in the village of Buzova, near Bucha, which was 80% destroyed by Russian rockets.
They have been also supporting the Ukrainian Kids Film School which is providing creativity and rehabilitation for children scarred by the war. They too are looking to partner with other Rotary clubs and districts to widen the initiative across Ukraine.
You could suggest comparing membership in Ukraine with Great Britain and Ireland is like comparing apples with pears. But is it?
These are a few examples of clubs crying out for partners to support Global Grants – projects which have grown membership in Ukraine, giving clubs a sense of purpose and direction.
At the start of a new Rotary year when clubs are looking for a fresh focus and a membership driver, surely it’s worth a thought about partnering with Ukraine.