It was 1987 and 23 gentlemen got together to form the Sooke Rotary Club. Meetings, at that time, were held in a variety of places including the Sooke Harbour House, the Castle, Sooke Region Museum, Broom Hill Golf and Country Club and lastly the Village Food Markets boardroom. Early director’s meetings were held around first president Stu Youngson’s dining room table.
One of the long time members, John Arnett, wrote in a 10-year history of the club that this was the only Rotary Club conceived at a pipe band practice. And, it was also one of the first clubs in Canada to have women members.
At a meeting on Oct. 24, present members gathered to celebrate 25 years at their luncheon, still held at Village Food Markets boardroom.
John Arnett, in remembering, said that when they used to hold their meetings at the Castle, people would wonder why there were so many cars parked at the beer parlour in the middle of the afternoon.
“They thought we pulled in for a quick one,” said Arnett.
A special guest in attendance at the meeting was Maness Samuel, a student at Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific in Metchosin. She is one of the success stories born from the girls’ school sponsored by Rotary International in Malawi, Africa.
Samuel spoke with pride and humbleness at the opportunity she was given after being accepted at Atsikana Pa Ulendo, (Girls on the Move) APU. After she graduated she was accepted and is in her second year at Pearson and plans to go back to Africa when her education is complete to encourage and inspire other young women to further their education.
She said, “Your help is really making a difference in the life of young girls.”
She outlined how education gave hope to young women who, without it, were forced into a life of servitude to their husbands and his family. Many young girls were sold by their family to pay off debt and became essentially slaves.
“APU gives girls a voice and a choice, without education we have no choice,” said Samuel. “Going to APU is not just about me but other people in my community.”
She outlined the need for a teacher’s school where women could be employed because even after being educated it didn’t mean they would find employment.
“I see a new born generation out of APU. I see a generation that is educated and employed, a generation able to send its children to school,” she said.
Rotarians are focused on service, with a belief that actions speak louder than words. They have given scholarships to more than 100 students, and hundreds of individuals helped with donations on an as-needed basis. They have completed dozens of community projects such as the Rotary Pier, the SEAPARC youth bus, gazebo at Ayre Manor Lodge, the stage curtain at EMCS, stairs at the ball park, etc. Locally they host the Rotary Auction and Spring Fair and support youth, literacy, Safe Halloween, Canada Day Raft Races and Adopt-A-Highway.