Many of the service clubs active today were founded in the early 20th century in the United States. Civitan, founded in Birmingham, Alabama in 1917, had a global focus from the early days of the organization. The founders believed the values of the organization, rooted in service to others, had a universal appeal. When Civitan incorporated for expansion in 1920, it included international in the name as an indicator of a higher purpose.
It wasn’t long before the dream became a reality. The first international club was chartered in Switzerland in 1922 followed by a club in Ontario. Although these clubs folded during the Great Depression, Civitan expanded into Toronto in 1932 and remains active there today. For much of its early history, Civitan focused on North America but its influence reached people worldwide.
Civitan returned to Europe in 1969 when the “mother club” in Birmingham, Alabama sponsored a new club in Norway. This expansion overseas sparked much international growth for Civitan. Germany and Sweden added clubs in 1970, strengthening Civitan’s foothold in Europe. Civitan has grown to contain a European office and has vibrant clubs in Italy, Norway, Germany and France who sponsor projects around the world.
Asia has been a strong area of growth for Civitan for many year. In 1974, Civitan expanded into Asia with the Seoul Civitan Club in South Korea in 1974 and the Nippon Civitan Club in Japan in 1975. Civitan opened its second century of service with rapid growth in the nation of Nepal, where clubs support local orphanages with donations of food and clothing. Clubs in Nepal have also played an impactful role in disaster relief.
Civitan maintains a strong presence in Mexico where clubs support a school for children with I/DD, provide nutritional care for infants, and care for children with other physical disabilities. Future expansion in the region is promising thanks to strong leadership and a message of hope, community, and service.
Civitan exists in more than 30 nations with clubs in North America, Central America, Africa, Europe, Asia and the the Pacific islands. In each of these regions, Civitans actively serve their local communities. Whether it is clean water in Africa, medical research in Norway, Special Olympics in Korea, a sensory park in Germany, or an orphanage in Nepal; Civitans are impacting the lives of people in need.
Civitan actively seeks to make a difference in the lives of others around the world. If you are interested in chartering a Civitan club in your community, we are here to help. Contact our growth and membership team.