The Rotary Club takes a step forward

Blackpool's youngest Rotarian, 22 year-old Miguel Serodio, who runs his own business, has a degree in Marine Biology and has represented his native Portugal at both rugby and show jumping.'Miguel at the Hesketh Hotel in Bispham where he helps out when not at his own business.  PIC BY ROB LOCK'9-3-2013
Blackpool's youngest Rotarian, 22 year-old Miguel Serodio, who runs his own business, has a degree in Marine Biology and has represented his native Portugal at both rugby and show jumping.'Miguel at the Hesketh Hotel in Bispham where he helps out when not at his own business. PIC BY ROB LOCK'9-3-2013
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There are not many organisations in 
the world as 
unanimously trusted as the Rotary Club.

It can count among its peers the likes of the fire brigade, St John’s Ambulance volunteers and Sir David Attenborough’s narration voice as institutions people instinctively think of as being honest, credible and reliable.

The problem is – how many people actually know who Rotarians are and what they do?

We’ve all seen them out and about with collecting buckets at fetes or on the streets.

But aside from perhaps a fleeting glance at their cheerful “thank you” as you toss a few spare coppers into their tins, when else does the 1.2 million-strong global organisation enter Joe Public’s consciousness?

For Gail Williams, President-elect of the Rotary Club of Blackpool Palatine, this is a problem.

She said: “We’re too static so I’m trying to get my head round how I can change things.

“I don’t want to lose the camaraderie there is, but I want to take it forward and get more people involved.”

And the people Gail wants to target are young, vibrant and with plenty to offer the community around them.

However, with a prevailing stereotype the Rotary movement is the preserve of older, retired and worldly wise folks who don’t have the stresses of working life and child rearing to hinder their commitment to the cause, how can the next generation of philanthropists be encouraged to adopt the club’s motto of “service above self” and devote some of their spare time to the good works which are the hallmark of the organisation.

What it needs is a poster boy – a David Beckham figure who wholeheartedly embraces those principles of selflessness and altruism, but can also convince his own generation of the convival aspects of the club.

And luckily, Blackpool Palatine has one ready made in the form of its youngest member, 22-year-old Miguel Serodio.

The Blackpool and The Fylde College business management student runs his own specialist marine pet shop, North West Aquatics in Cleveleys, and has previously represented his native Portugal at both show jumping and rugby union.

For Miguel, becoming a 
Rotarian was the natural step to make after he moved to these shores from his homeland in 2008.

His grandfather had been heavily involved in the movement and the ethic of the club resonates strongly with him – indeed he describes it as his “perfect hobby”.

“I always think about other people first, it made it the perfect place to go,” he said.

“It’s important for young people to get an interest for themselves.

“There’s lots of incentives and it’ll help people open their eyes and appreciate what they have.”

The feel-good benefits of helping others are there for all to see and Blackpool Palatine itself has raised more than £42,000 for 33 different Fylde coast causes, and seven overseas charities, in the last two and a half years alone.

But does being the baby of the club bother Miguel at all?

“Personally? No, I think I’ve got used to the idea of being the youngest one around.

“Besides, the others 
aren’t old in the head – 
you can learn from them
 and they know loads of 
stuff.”

So hanging around with people twice or three times his age isn’t a problem.

But why would it be? An active and varied social scene ensures there’s something for everyone.

Miguel mentions outings to Liverpool and the casino as among the highlights of his time in the club.

“We go for a few drinks,” he laughs – much like myriad other lads his age up and down the land then.

Miguel operates the 
branch’s social networking operation and it is hoped ventures on to the likes of 
Facebook will ensure a new generation of Rotarians emerge ready to engage not only in public-spirited fundraising and learning, but also to enter a lifetime of friendship and fun.

With more than 34,000 branches round the world offering precisely this, the Rotary movement shouldn’t have to worry about re-branding itself just yet.