When digital is the old normal for the first E-club in Belgium

On January 28, 2023, president Karin Hiddink forwarded the members of the E-Club of Belgium 1 Passport, the email she re­ceived from Suren Poruri, regional chairman Grants, to congratulate the club for its ten years anniversary: ‘Your club completed ten years’ ser­vice today in RI, District 2130, in serving commu­nities across the world. Congratulations.’

When back in 2013, people launched the idea to create the first Rotary e-club in Belgium, many of their Rotarian friends looked at them as if they were weird blue men coming from an­other planet. Many thought that the concept of Rotary serving the world through friendship can only be done by sitting together around a table in person, sharing a glass of wine or wa­ter. But the founders of the E-Club of Belgium 1 Passport had another idea of how they want­ed to serve as Rotarians. They felt that weekly in-person meetings were not a pre-requisite to making this world a better place. They wished to contribute with like-minded people from all over the world who share the same values, and make friendships based on a common vision through a Rotarian lens but with more flexibility than the classic in-person meetings. As Koen Beckers, founding member, states: ‘We wanted to make a difference to those who are much less privileged than we are. While each of us could do this on her/his own, Rotary offers the opportunity to realize larger projects and create life-changing opportunities.’ For Koen, the e-club was the only way to be part of Rotary, as attending physical meetings once a week was simply impossible based on his schedule.

The e-club offers the opportunity, for those who wish to contribute as Rotarians but do not have the availability, to still be able to participate.

And so it became that on January 28, 2013, the E-Club of Belgium 1 Passport was chartered as the first online-only club in Belgium. As a founding member puts it: ‘The e-club acted as a frontrunner, a first-of-its-kind in our region.’ Its organization is easy and straightforward. At 9 p.m., every first and third Tuesday of the month, a group of motivated people check in to discuss in English (as this is the working language) and prepare the next project they wish to engage in. Also, speakers are invited on various topics to share their charity projects and inspire the club members (and anyone who wishes to at­tend) through real life-changing projects. And it worked, as at least two Global Grants have been obtained: the set-up of a mobile women health clinic as a joint project with Re Bangalore West in India, and last year a beautiful project in Mali, where the club supported the local community to construct water wells and give access to drink­able water. Moreover, in collaboration with Hos­pital Without Borders (HSF), the club supported the transfer of a whole container with material to Mali.

When, in 2020, the world went into lockdown and many clubs raised questions about how they would pursue their goals and organize them­selves, the members of the E-Club of Belgium 1 Passport continued to meet as usual. The beauty of this story is that back in 2013 the e-club was the outsider and seven years later it became the norm -you can’t predict the future!

Every year, new members join the club and they all have their reasons. For Caroline Teugels, who joined in 2021, her main goal was to find a way to stay a Rotarian while embracing life as a dig­ital nomad. ‘I am a Rotarian in heart and soul and since I decided to travel and thus be on a constant move, I found the perfect club for me, as I just need a good internet connection to join the meetings. I have found my Rotary-home. I can continue to serve while living the life I aspire to.’

‘For about seven years, I was a member of a tra­ditional Rotary club with physical meetings’, ex­plains Laurent Mollet, who joined recently too. ‘As one of the youngest members, meaning still professionally active outside the region where I live, it was not easy to attend the lunch and/ or evening meetings of my former club. As a re­sult, I lost the connection with the Rotary scene, so I eventually resigned. Resulting in a lack of everything Rotary stands for. By now being a member of the e-club, distance is no longer an issue, traveling via any medium makes it very easy to attend our meetings, which are short and sweet. And thus makes it easy to work on things before and after the meeting if necessary, and above all to stay involved with Rotary!’

E-clubs contribute to (re-)inventing and rejuvenating the image of Rotary ‘We can use the opportunities technology of­fers us to act globally’, says Jean-Michel Go­yard, member of the e-club for a few years. ‘The e-club supports my will of mobility and personal time optimization, and I can pursue my commit­ment to serve beyond myself the strategic goals of Rotary in a multicultural, English-speaking club gathering.’

The two main advantages of being a member of an e-club are its flexibility and its efficiency. At the time of its foundation, and still today, it an­swers the question of meeting the expectations of some (candidate) members asking for more flexibility-in terms of attendance, financial input and time to be devoted to meetings. Moreover, its efficiency is what makes it special. The e-club is the Rotary club for modern nomads, for business people who need to travel often, for Rotarians that want to be involved without having to travel to a meeting weekly, spending hours in restau­rants wining and dining, but are willing to enjoy Rotary in the most efficient and productive way.

Therefore, happy birthday to you, E-Club of Bel­gium 1 Passport! May you continue to grow and serve communities around the world.

Are you or a friend interested to hear more? Visit bit.ly/e-club-belgium or mail us at

Image: (c) ArtFamily/ Adobe Stock

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