Satellite club with focus on expats

In Denmark, among the new possible club forms, so far only the satellite club model has been used. The first and – so far only – satellite club has been set up with a special idea in mind, namely to do something for foreigners who are coming to Denmark to work in the high-tech environments north of Copenhagen.

 “It is a vision that is several years old and has now been realized through the satellite club model,” says Bjørn Zebitz, who is the main force behind the Rotary International Satellite Club of Kgs. Lyngby Rotary.

Bjørn Zebitz is active in the international committee in Vidensbyen, which works to strengthen relations between universities, business and the municipality in Lyngby-Taarbæk municipality. This area houses both the Technical University of Denmark with 1600 international researchers and other educational institutions as well as a number of large companies such as Microsoft, COWI, Haldor Topsøe, Novozymes and Hempel, all of which have international employees – expats.

“There has been a great need to create local networks for the many expats, and we believe that the new club can greatly contribute to this,” says Bjørn Zebitz. The Satellite Club started last January with the necessary eight members. At the editorial deadline, it had 18 members from eight countries and some more interested in the pipeline. Thus, it is not far to the 20, members needed for the satellite club to become an independent Rotary club.

The club language is English and the club meets every other week. Its first president (or chair, as it is actually called when it is a satellite club) Frederik Willmes, is German and came to Denmark three years ago.

He himself has experienced that as a foreigner it is not easy to get into Danish society, and formulates the club’s task as follows:

“We must make it easier to land well in Denmark. In addition to being a good opportunity for foreign researchers and specialists who come to Denmark, we have also turned our attention to the students ”.

The club has started a project “Dine with Rotarians”, where foreign PhD students at the Technical University of Denmark are invited to meetings, and there are a couple of PhD students that the club have in the binoculars as possible new members.

For, as Frederik Willmes says:

“Denmark invests a lot in PhD students, so why not try to keep them a little longer for the benefit of the country?”

Fredrik Willmes was not entirely unfamiliar with Rotary. Both of his two brothers are members, so he knew a little bit about what it stood for, and it’s also been really interesting to get closer to what Rotary actually is:

“It’s great to be able to work within the framework of trust that exists in Rotary. You get plenty of space to try something new – and if you get on the edge, there will be an experienced Rotarian who can help get back on track.

Among other things, it could be the secretary, Rina Sture Kristensen, who as a former governor and with a lot of other things on the Rotary CV has deep knowledge about Rotary. “I went in as secretary so all the new in Rotary should not spend their attention on rules and the more boring routines, but could concentrate on content and values”, says Rina Sture Kristensen, who sees satellite clubs like this as an important part of Rotary renewal:

“We need to develop the international potential much more, and here new satellite clubs can really act as a renewal force ”.