Rotarian yachting enthusiasts sail into service

By Sergio Santi, Past Chair of the International Yachting Fellowship of Rotarians

After chartering three fleets of International Yachting Fellowship of Rotarians (IYFR) in Africa, I discovered many Africans were drowning in lakes and seawaters. In Kenya, after tourism, fishing is the second economic resource. Thousands of fishermen and families live on the fishing industry. However, from November to April, when the hotels are closed, tourism comes to a halt and there is a greater need to go fishing to survive. But during those months high winds blow from the south and ill-equipped boats or canoes leave fishermen in danger.

In 2012, Lake Victoria, claimed the lives of over 5,000 fishermen due to a lack of lifesaving devices and the local population’s inability to swim.

To address this issue, the IYFR Italian Fleets collected and shipped 4,000 lifejackets to Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Ivory Coast. With the support of local Rotary club presidents, jackets were distributed where they were needed most: at schools situated on the coast and river islands where students transfer back and forth from coastal villages and to fisherman who could not afford to buy one locally.

Under the leadership of the 2016 IYFR Chair Jun Avecilla, the Philippines Fleets came up with a home-made lifesaver device made of a plastic net bag with 2-4 empty plastic bottles secured inside. Luigi Apuzzo, the Roma Fleet Commodore, tested and modified this brilliant emergency floating device to create a lifejacket to also be used by fisherman.

By the end of 2016, with the combined efforts and support of IYFR fleets worldwide, a final plan to produce 5,000 life jackets came together. IYFR would not only be providing new lifejackets, but we would have them produced locally. Our young Commodore from Kenya, Simone Avola will provide free spaces for the manufacturing shop and storage in his Barracuda Inn Resort in Watamu. We will be providing 56 local workers with the machinery, the raw material not found locally and the educational training they need to get start.

The project was coming together well, but we had not yet addressed the local population’s inability to swim. Our Roma Fleet Commodore, Luigi Apuzzo, stepped up once again and to address this issue. He coordinated a meeting with the Princess of Monaco, Charlene, a former Olympic swimmer for South Africa, and asked her if she too could lend a hand. She graciously agreed and now we are setting up a swimming school in Watamu that will be frequented by all the children ages 10 to 13.

We hope this initiative will save and improve the lives of Africans while providing the locals an opportunity to earn an income. We invite you to join our efforts. All Rotarians with an active interest in boating are welcome to join a local fleet in their region, or an e-fleet. Learn more on our website and join today to make new friends while taking on service initiatives.

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The International Yachting Fellowship of Rotarians is the oldest and largest Rotary Fellowship. It began in England in 1947 and has grown to 126 fleets, with about 3685 members in 38 countries. Throughout the month of June, we’ll be celebrating Rotary Fellowships Month by sharing inspirational services stories from various Rotary Fellowships. We hope these stories inspire you to join or start a Rotary Fellowship.

Mariners support education along the shores of Lake Victoria

By Peter Kasango, Bweyogerere-Namboole Rotary Club and member of the International Yachting Fellowship of Rotarians

map-Uganda-in-AfricaThe Buvuma Islands are a chain of more than fifty islets located a few kilometers off the northern shore of Lake Victoria; the main island, Buvuma, measures about 200 square-miles (517 km²) with a population of nearly 20,000 people.

The area is very poor compared to other parts of Uganda. There are high rates of illiteracy and the work centers predominantly around the local fishing industry. There is an unreliable ferry to the mainland, and until recently, the Buvuma Islands did not have a school.

schoolkids1For decades, children of the islands struggled to receive an education, often using fishermen’s boats and canoes to get to their classes, and at times failing to get transport back home. This led to many children ending their education early to join their parents in fishing the expanses of the lake.

The Rotary Club of Bweyogerere Namboole first learned about this issue when reviewing the poor national exam results of the Buvuma District. After conducting a needs assessment, the club resolved to address the lack of access by soliciting funds to buy a school boat to transport children from surrounding communities to a recently constructed school on the main island, and then back home, just like school buses of Kampala.

ferryThe Rotary Club, in partnership with an handful of Rotary Clubs of Western Australia, donated alarge power boat to Buvuma Christian School on the main island to safely transport children from surrounding islands to the school every morning and return them back home.

The project has already seen great results. The number of children regularly attending school from surrounding islands rose from 120 to 450, while the number of teachers increased from 8 to 26 as a result of secure and assured transport to and from the school.

boatsIn a bid to guarantee safety for the children on water, The Rotary Mariners of East Africa (RMEA) Uganda Fleet, affiliated with the International Yachting Fellowship of Rotarians donated 40 Life Jackets to be used by children while on water. The handover was completed in a colorful ceremony in which many Rotarians were present.

RMEA’s mandate incudes the promotion of boating safety in East Africa and presentations have been given to Rotary Clubs in Benin, Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya. Seeing the need to do something about the safety of the boaters in East Africa, RMEA received 1000 more lifejackets through the Lifejackets for Life Programme, an initiative of theInternational Yachting Fellowship of Rotarians.

schoolkidsThe new boat and safety equipment have enabled even more children to register for studies, and has rendered the use of one school boat insufficient to meet the new demand, especially as children who abandoned their studies early are encouraged return to school.

The Rotary Club of Bweyogerere Namboole is now seeking for funds to purchase a second power boat for the Buvuma Christian School, and looks forward to working with RMEA and IYFR in the future.


  1. A 50 Sitting capacity fiber Boat                                  USD 13,000
  2. A 25 Horsepower Boat Engine (YAMAHA)                 USD 7,000
  3. Boat Branding                                                             USD 1,200

The International Yachting Fellowship of Rotarians began in England in 1947 and has grown to 90 fleets, with more than 3200 members in 32 countries. IYFR’s first international event was held in 1964 in conjunction with the Rotary International Convention of Toronto, Canada. Since that time, the fellowship has expanded greatly with new fleets being added under the enthusiastic leadership of the many Past International Commodores who have been elected from a diversity of countries within the world of Rotary.

Rotary Fellowship combines service with a passion for the sea

Photo courtesy of Steven Ochieng
Photo courtesy of Steven Ochieng

By Rotary Programs staff

To many people, the word “yachting” connotes a lifestyle of wealth that would seem at odds with the guiding principles of Rotary. But the International Yachting Fellowship of Rotarians (IYFR) is more closely associated with humanitarian service that emphasizes the sea than it is to exclusivity and privilege.

For example, in the aftermath of the devastating November Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, the fellowship not only raised over $61,800 for those affected by the tragedy but also transported emergency relief supplies and medicines from international sources to areas reachable only by boats with experienced navigators.

And in October, with assistance from Rotary District 2201 (Spain) and numerous clubs, IYFR members helped train and empower fishermen on Lake Turkana in Kenya. The project aims to serve as an economic catalyst for the region and as a way to improve the nutrition of local families.

Whether taking action in a humanitarian crisis or introducing the sea to young mariners or participating in a global expedition to raise funds for the End Polio Now campaign, IYFR members demonstrate that while they are passionate mariners, they are also Rotarians, committed to serve those in need.

Go to IYFR’s website to check out the impressive photos — taken by IFYR members Fernando Aguirre, Steven Ochieng, and Ezquiel Romarione — of scenes around Lake Turkana.

Learn more about Rotary Fellowships.