Southside Rotary of Tulsa was founded in 1958 by a group of Tulsans determined to make a difference in their community. We’ve since been involved in dozens of projects around town, in Oklahoma and across the world.
There are over 32,000 Rotary clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas. Clubs are nonpolitical, nonreligious, and open to all cultures, races, and creeds. As signified by the motto Service Above Self, Rotary’s main objective is service — in the community, in the workplace, and throughout the world.
About Our Sister Club in Bushenyi, Africa
Joel Assimwe, a Ugandan, joined Tulsa Southside Rotary in 2000 while he was serving as Assistant Priest at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Tulsa.
Through Joel we learned of the Ebola outbreak in northern Uganda and helped to divert two Medical Supplies Network, Inc. (MSNI) containers to Gulu. Rotarians in Uganda asked for, and received, permission to obtain immediate release and waiver of duties of the (58) pallets of medical supplies from Customs. Tulsa Southside Rotary and other District 6110 clubs raised funds for transportation from the port of entry to the Gulu area where they were distributed to the hospitals and clinics, helping in the fight to control the epidemic.
Joel returned to the Bushenyi District in southwest Uganda at the end of 2000, but not before extending an invitation to Southsiders to visit. Tom Wilson and his wife, Laura, took advantage of the opportunity and headed to Uganda, arriving in January, 2001, along with a directive from Tulsa Southside Rotary to find the club an International project.
A year later, in 2002, Rotary International awarded a matching grant that provided funding to purchase sewing machines, buttonholers, related equipment and a years supply of material for the purpose of opening a tailor shop. The tailor shop makes school uniforms, shirts, slacks and sweaters and has been a source of employment for up to ten men and women. They became profitable in 2003.
Tulsa Southside Rotary partnered with the Rotary Club of Bushenyi (Joel became a member upon his return) to establish the tailor shop. In 2004 RI approved our two clubs becoming “Twin Clubs”.
In 2005 the International Director of the Rotary Club of Bushenyi, Ephrance Nuwamanya, was our guest speaker. At the meeting she was presented a Paul Harris Fellow as a gift from Southside—she is the only member of her club to hold that distinction.
Student Orphan Program
Joel also introduced us to a “student orphan” program established by the Episcopal Diocese of Oklahoma that provided a secondary education to students who had lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS or malaria. The Ugandan government provides for primary school only and these young people would be faced with a lifetime of poverty without the opportunity to continue their education.
Southside began by sponsoring three student orphans in 2001. The weekly collection in the “orphan bowls” funds these students at $350 each which covers the cost of tuition, room & board, books, and a school uniform. In 2006 one of our students graduated, Medrine Araytuha, and we agreed to fund her college education with a grant from the Tulsa Southside Rotary Foundation ($1,350 per year). She will graduate with a teaching diploma in 2009 from Uganda Christian University in Kabale and plans to return to the Bushenyi District to teach.
In 2006 a humanitarian non-profit was formed, Bushenyi Alliance for Rural Health & Development, and they took over responsibility for the “student orphan” program.
Two Southsiders, Keith James & Tom Wilson, are on the board of this organization and they; along with another Southsider, Donna Petty, will be visiting Uganda in February, 2009