By Tzviatko Chiderov, Rotary Club of Chicago Lakeview, Illinois, USA
Rotary’s values and mine align in more than a few ways. Looking back I’m surprised it took me so long to become a member of Rotary.
Although I have known about Rotary for several years, it wasn’t until last summer that I official joined the Rotary Club of Chicago Lakeview after meeting Club President John Hannes at an expo in the city. He introduced me to the club and the work they are doing in our community. After I got to attend a couple of events and meet some members, I was on board.
I work as a regional field director for ONE, a grassroots, non-partisan, advocacy organization dedicated to fighting global extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. ONE and Rotary have had a national partnership for a few years. Now when I travel for work throughout my region, I try and visit local Rotary clubs. I have visited clubs in all six of the states that I cover – Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. I have even been invited to speak about ONE several times.
On a trip last year, I stopped at the Madison West Towne-Middleton club in Wisconsin, and learned about the club’s Orphan Train Project, which made a great impression on me. Through this program, the club is able to support orphanages in a few different countries, including Bulgaria, where I was born and raised. The thought that some of the most vulnerable of my fellow Bulgarians are benefiting from the great work of a Rotary club in Madison was mind blowing. It made me incredibly proud to be a member of such a tremendous global organization.
During a vacation in Cape Town, South Africa, and then a trip home to Plovdiv, Bulgaria, I again visited several clubs. The Rotary Club of Cape Town told me about the Adopt a Learner project they have been leading for over 10 years, covering school fees for students in poor townships. Over breakfast at the Rotary Club of Waterfront in Cape Town a few days later, I learned about their work enhancing school libraries. The Cape Town Noon Gun Rotary Club shared with me how members assist a soup kitchen, give non-perishable food donations, and work with a primary school to meet student needs.
I didn’t have time to attend the Rotary Club of Plovdiv-Philippopol in Bulgaria, but Club President Lyuben Pashev graciously met me for coffee. He is the first Bulgarian Rotarian I’ve met. He told me about his family’s long tradition of Rotary involvement and we spoke about some of his club’s projects. I was happy to hear that among other things, they are working on restoring a popular local theater that had been badly damaged in a fire.
As my knowledge of Rotary increases and my network grows, I continue to be impressed by our organization’s commitment to communities all over the world, and by the people I meet putting Service Above Self. I look forward to doing my part to change communities for the better.
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