As Kiwanis grew during its first century, so did its reach and its capacity to affect massive change. The transformation has been staggering. In 1916, a year after its founding, Kiwanis boasted only three clubs and roughly 500 members. Today there are some 600,000 members in our Kiwanis family, with clubs in 80 nations.
Those clubs and members address the unique concerns of their own areas, while tackling global issues as well. Kiwanians annually stage roughly 150,000 service projects, raise approximately US$100 million and contribute more than 6 million service hours. But those numbers become even more impressive when combined with the work of Kiwanis affiliate organizations. For instance, Key Club
kicks in 12 million hours of service yearly, Circle K
500,000 and Aktion Club
members another 92,000.
Over the decades, the old Kiwanis motto "We Build" aptly described the organization's charity efforts, from providing vital assistance during the Great Depression to combating voter apathy in the 1950s. Today, under a new motto, "Serving the Children of the World," Kiwanians help the planet's youngest residents on an unprecedented scale. Working with UNICEF, Kiwanis helped establish programs to battle iodine deficiency disorders (IDD), one of the leading causes of preventable mental retardation. Members and clubs contributed and generated some US$100 million to this project, playing a key role in eliminating the disorders.
Today Kiwanians have set their sights even higher, via The Eliminate Project
—a program, again in conjunction with UNICEF, to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus. By raising US$110 million, Kiwanis aims to end this painful and deadly disease by the end of our anniversary year of 2015, potentially saving some 129 million mothers and babies.
What will the next century bring? No one can say for sure. But if the last 100 years is any measure, the ensuing decades will be filled with acts of kindness and charity both small and large. Some will alter the trajectory of a single young life. Others that will change the fate of millions.