The first Kiwanis club was organized in Detroit, Michigan. The group received a charter from the state of Michigan on January 21, 1915, and this is regarded as the birth date of Kiwanis. The name "Kiwanis" was coined from an expression in an American Indian language of the Detroit area, "Nunc Kee-wanis," which means, "we trade" or "we share our talents."
Kiwanis became international with the organization of the Kiwanis club of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, in 1916. Kiwanis limited its membership to the United States and Canada until 1962, when worldwide expansion was approved. Since then, Kiwanis has spread to all inhabited continents of the globe.
Today Kiwanis is a global organization of volunteers dedicated to changing the world one child and one community at a time. Our members develop youth as leaders, build playgrounds and raise funds for pediatric research. We help shelter the homeless, feed the hungry, mentor the disadvantaged and care for the sick. Working together, members achieve what one person cannot accomplish alone. And along the way, club members share friendship and laughter.
The Kiwanis Motto: "We Build."
There are more than 8,600 Kiwanis clubs with nearly 300,000 members in 91 nations and geographic areas.
Kiwanis International sponsors several service clubs for young people: Circle K International has 11,000 members on 570 university and college campuses; Key Club International has 215,000 members in 4,600 high schools; and Builders Clubs have been organized in 2,000 junior high and middle schools. Other members of the Kiwanis family include K-Kids in elementary schools, young European adults in Kiwanis Junior, and Aktion Club, which involves persons with disabilities in community-service activities.
Each year Kiwanis clubs sponsor nearly 150,000 service projects, raise more than $107 million, and and devote more than 12 million hours of service.
Kiwanis' continuing service emphasis is called "Young Children: Priority One," which focuses on the special needs of children from prenatal development to age five. Projects conducted as part of the "Young Children: Priority One" service emphasis involved $14.3 million and 1.3 million volunteer hours.
In 1994, Kiwanis launched its first Worldwide Service Project, a $75 million campaign in partnership with UNICEF to eliminate iodine deficiency disorders by the year 2000. Iodine deficiency is rare in areas where iodized salt is used, but in other parts of the world, IDD is the leading cause of preventable mental and physical retardation. As many as 1.5 billion people are at risk, especially young children