Shah and Bhatt

Vikash Shah with Sharmila Bhatt, 2018-19 governor of District 9211, at a club event.

By Vikash Shah, Rotary Club of Dar es Salaam Oyster Bay, Tanzania

My year as Rotary club president was approaching, and I knew I had to do something substantial to leave my mark. I had participated in a district team training seminar by our district governor, Sharmila Bhatt, and was inspired by her vision for growing Rotary. For many years, the growth in District 9211 (Tanzania and Uganda) had come mostly from Uganda. But she saw potential in the “sleeping giant” of Tanzania. It was then that I conceived the bold idea to form not just one, but five new clubs during my year as president.

My fellow club members thought I was crazy. But Dar is a big city and I said “why not?” They were willing to accept my idea. So we set out to reach people who had not yet heard about Rotary.

Finding the right vibe

My first concern was finding members who had the energy I wanted to see. “Who had the vibe to join my tribe.” I knew they needed to buy into this crazy idea and yet we also had to keep it simple and cost effective. So we set about establishing an evening meeting time between 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. so that people could come for drinks but wouldn’t have to spend a lot of money on anything else.


The task was now to identify a core team who could assist me in forming all these new clubs. We got the approval of our district governor, and we began our journey in August 2018.

With the Dar es Salaam Sunset Club, member Thomas offered his premises for our meetings. It is a brilliant structure with a great presentation and attracted many people. He invited everyone in his contact list and we had more than 30 people at our first meeting. Thereafter, we drew in even more guests, and chartered with 43 members, making us the second largest club in Tanzania.

Our Mbezi Beach Club is made up of prominent and respected families in Tanzania, a large extended family that is all related in one way or another. After trying two different venues, we finally landed on a more permanent place.

Slow starts for number three

With Dar es Salaam City, we were so encouraged when we had more than 20 guests at our first meeting. But we did not know what was ahead. At the second meeting, two members and I waited for someone else to walk through the door. We were about to leave when one person finally showed up. But when you have set your mind to something and are determined, nothing stops you. We carried on, and after struggling through four venue changes, found a better permanent place.

At each meeting, we talked about different aspects of Rotary. While the clubs were still in their provisional status, we charged each club with undertaking a service project to keep members engaged and motivated. On 19 January, the first three clubs, Dar City, Sunset, and Mbezi Beach, were chartered with a total of 83 members.


Two more clubs – our twins – were born on 25 June; the Rotary Club of Peninsula made up of Rotaractors who were joining Rotary, and the first E-Club in our district, bringing in 52 more members.

We are committed to mentoring all these clubs for at least the next year to make sure they continue to grow and become more active.

So my crazy vision of five new clubs brought Rotary almost 130 members in a period of five months. And very importantly, all these members are contributing $100 a year to The Rotary Foundation to make their clubs an Every Rotarian Every Year (EREY) club.

I learned these lessons: Attract new members, encourage giving to the Foundation through EREY, and make your costs affordable. Then you will be on a roll. Let’s use this formula everywhere to extend our membership. Be Inspirational and Connect the World.