Psy is one of the many celebrity ambassadors for Rotary International's End Polio Now program, a program that achieved success in Southeast Asia in 2014. Image: PRNewsFoto/Rotary International.

Service Above Self: Rotary International’s Presence in Asia

Asia ASEAN Japan Taiwan

Rotary International recently extended its partnership with ShelterBox, a charity from the United Kingdom, to serve as Rotary’s only official project partner. Since the partnership began in 2012, ShelterBox and Rotary International have played a major role in humanitarian aid and disaster relief (HADR) in Asia. The two have played a role in HADR efforts during the recent earthquakes in Nepal, in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, and in Japan after the Fukushima Disaster in 2011.

In addition to HADR assistance, Rotary International prioritizes health initiatives, such as global polio eradication. Since the formation of the PolioPlus Program in 1985, Rotary International has partnered with UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the US Centers for Disease Control, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in the hopes of eradicating polio by 2018. When the program started, 125 countries were polio-endemic countries. In 2014, 11 Southeast Asian countries were declared polio free. Today, only Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria remain polio-endemic countries, a testament to this program’s success.

Rotary International is also known for its educational exchanges. Established first in 1929 with European exchanges, student exchange programs to Asia started after 1972. For long-term exchange programs, secondary school students can choose to study in three Asian countries: Japan, the Philippines, or Taiwan. This past year, over 10,000 students globally participated in the educational exchange program, continuing Rotary’s goal of preparing youth to become future global leaders.

Since its first meeting in 1905 in Chicago, Rotary International has grown to over 34,282 clubs worldwide with over 1.2 million members. Rotary clubs started their expansion to the Asia Pacific region in 1919, with the first club established in the Philippines. Now, 10,460 clubs are located in 35 Asian countries, representing approximately 30% of all Rotary clubs worldwide.

Nina Geller is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a recent graduate of the Monterey Institute of International Studies.