On July 9, the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara Sunrise (Rotary Sunrise) hosted a fun Dolphin Dive Festival at Chase Palm Park, which raised funds for the multitude of projects it supports locally and beyond.
Dolphin races were held periodically throughout the afternoon in a giant, inflatable slip-and-slide-like course. Volunteers from the SB City Fire Department filled a water tank and when the gate opened, hundreds of brightly colored plastic dolphins purchased by guests passed furiously down the course, with prizes going to the lucky winners. Guests enjoyed old rock’n’roll tunes from the band Snapshot, food, wine, and games.
This 45-member-strong club, which meets twice a month at 7 a.m. at the Santa Barbara Club, has a big commitment to volunteering and providing financial aid in Santa Barbara and aiding a few communities in Nicaragua and Mexico.
In an interview, newly-elected President Judith McCaffrey, who has been in the club for 27 years and is now serving her second stint as president, shared how she enjoys giving back to the community and beyond through the club. She is grateful for the mentors the club provided her as a young professional and enjoys playing the role of mentor now for younger members. Add in the fellowship and life-long friendships she has made, and McCaffrey calls Rotary one of the greatest gifts in her life.
Immediate Past President Hannah Rael got involved with the club five years ago when she was working for the SB-based international aid organization Shelterbox, which was started by a Rotary Club in England and which is heavily supported by Rotarians. Rael related that she was struck by the dedication and proactive spirit of Rotarians and found the Sunrise club a good fit. She likes working with fellow members to give back to the community and internationally. Rael also enjoys learning from an interesting speaker at each meeting, a practice which she explained enables club members to be better informed about local and international needs and how the club can best provide assistance.
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For more than 25 years, the club has provided volunteers and funds to the United Boys & Girls Clubs’ Camp Whittier for repairs and upgrades, including for the rebuilding of cabins after the Whittier Fire. Another youth project is annually providing a dictionary to all third grade students in the SB Unified School District. According to Rael, the kids are always excited to receive the dictionaries which, she noted, are still relevant in the digital age as they facilitate discovery of new words. Unlike online dictionaries, with a hard copy, kids can flip through and browse words.
La Cuesta Continuation High School is another longtime beneficiary. Each month, the Club honors one student, a tradition that continued with COVID in virtual form. Rael noted that for many of the students, this is the first award they have ever received. This year, the club also began providing laptops to graduating La Cuesta seniors pursuing higher education. The Club serves the community in a multitude of other ways, including through its Team Rotary initiative, through which it supplies volunteers to other organizations for one-time projects, such as a fundraising event.
On the international front, Rotary Sunrise has focused its aid on two rural communities in Nicaragua and one in Mexico, which is in keeping with Rotary’s policy of seeking to make a long-term, sustainable impact. A key asset of Rotary, according to Rael, is having clubs all over the world, enabling clubs in the U.S. to partner with local clubs to tap into their knowledge and ensure that there is a local voice involved with the project, so that it is not just an outside organization coming in to do what it thinks best. Funding comes from various entities within the international organization’s structure. The vetting process that local clubs go through for funding further ensures that projects are welcomed by the local community, are needed, and are sustainable.
In Nicaragua, a project brought clean water directly to 500 families who previously had to travel a long distance each day to obtain water that wasn’t even clean. Another project has set up an aquaponics facility where families raise tilapia fish and vegetables for their own use and sell the surplus. In Mexico, each year the club partners with SEE International and a local Rotary Club in Celaya Nat-Tha-Hi to provide sight-restoring cataract surgery to residents, some of whom have been blind for years. In addition to helping plan and fund the clinic, club members also volunteer on site.
While Rael opted to join Rotary Sunrise, she noted that there are nine Rotary clubs between Carpinteria and Goleta, allowing for lots of options for anyone interested in joining the club. For more info, go to https://portal.clubrunner.ca/2855/.