Rotary Cyprus lends a helping hand

Rotary Cyprus lends a helping hand to students

VOLUNTEER organisation Rotary Cyprus is being inundated with applications for the scholarships they traditionally offer to top students whose families cannot afford to send them to university.

“It’s not three or four people that need help, it’s 103,” said Elena Tanou, Rotary Cyprus’ public relations officer. “It’s difficult but we’re going to try and give more this year.”

Tanou explained that they usually offer scholarships but the financial crisis has seen a sharp increase in requests for help.

“The situation is overwhelming…it makes me want to cry,” said Tanou, describing how following a television presentation she gave recently the club was inundated with phone calls from parents who could not pay their children’s university fees.

There are 19 Rotary Clubs in Cyprus, 16 in the Republic and three in the occupied areas. Each club provides upwards of three scholarships a year amounting to about €2,000 for each student. However, this year due to the crisis they will try and provide more.

Despite Rotary’s eagerness to help during the recession, fundraising has become increasingly difficult, Tanou said.

In order to allocate the scholarships, said Tanou, the club chooses top students and then checks with their teachers and with the income tax department to make sure families really are in need of assistance.

“It’s much harder now but Rotarians like to give,” said Tanou, who said that they fundraise in a number of ways, such as seminars and dinners. “For example on April 1 I’m having a food and drinks event at my house where tickets will cost €25. I’ll feed everyone and then we’ll have a tree planting in Athalassa park,” she added. Rotary Cyprus has also been at the forefront of collecting food and blankets to send to Greece and is in the process of setting up a bank account to collect money too.

Rotary International with its motto ‘service above self’ celebrated 107 years last Thursday since its founding in1905. Rotary Cyprus was established in 1938 and currently includes 900 members. Rotary International consists of 1.2 million members.

Entrance to Rotary Cyprus is primarily through invitation from existing members. “We usually invite good friends to the meetings that we think would make good Rotarians. These are usually people who would be willing to offer their time and services without getting anything back,” said Tanou. “If we see that after a few meetings they like it then we propose they join.”

Apart from providing scholarships for students, the organisation also has a set number of projects each year. Some of this year’s projects include financial support to the Association of Parents and Friends of Children with Congenital Heart Disorder, renovation of the Cyprus School for the Deaf teaching hall and the donation of three defibrillators to the Limassol municipality.

Rotary’s ongoing projects involve the complete eradication of polio in conjunction with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which was recently achieved in India, according to Tanou. “There’s only Iraq and Afghanistan left where outbreaks occur but we can’t go there and vaccinate people because of the conflict.”

By Natalie Hami

Copyright © Cyprus Mail February 26, 2012