In May/June 2016 I had the good fortune to attend the Rotary International Convention in Seoul, South Korea. This was a somewhat unexpected trip but a great opportunity to get to know a little about the region and its culture, and to meet up with Rotarians from all around the world.
My wife, Wendy [Aldred] and I made the trip because she had been asked to run a workshop on the development of ELearning during the Convention. I was one of the speakers so we both had a little work to do.
We arrived a few days early so that we could get acclimatised and do some sightseeing. I knew a little about the Korean Peninsula, the war and the resulting north / south divide. I was expecting a bustling city full of high tech companies and we had a hotel booked right in the centre.
What we found was indeed a busy thriving metropolis, but it felt more like a large friendly community. The Palaces and Mausoleums of the past royal dynasties sat side by side with the new and developing city.
The early Confucian influence is clearly still felt very strongly. Used by the royal dynasties to help keep order and good conduct. In the democratic republic it seems to keep family values high and supports a tolerant culture. There were many protests going on in and around the city and unlike those outside of our own Houses of Parliament that have been banned, in Seoul they seem to be managed and supported by bus loads of young policemen.
There is much I could write about the city and our time there. We are preparing a presentation for our Rotary Club and here is a link to a copy on SlideShare.
The Convention, attended by over 40,000 Rotarians started formally on the Sunday and was a mixture of inspirational Plenary Sessions and workshops. The RIBI Boat trip, an opportunity for us Brits to get together and share our Rotary friendship with other from around the world, allowed us to obtain another view of the city and its surroundings.
There was a large House of Friendship with, for me, a rather too large area put aside of retail outlets from several of the local companies. But there were plenty of innovative and inspirational stories to hear both in the Rotary booths and during the main convention sessions.
The speakers included our Founder Paul Harris, UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon, The Prime Minister of Sri Lanka and Mark Waddington from Hope & Homes for Children among many others. An inspired choice by RI President Ravi was the great Indian Spiritualist Mahatria Ra. You can see the whole of this inspirational speech, along with many others, on the RI web site - here's the link Mahatria Ra Invites us to be a Gift to the World. If you haven't got the time to watch it all I would encourage you to go to 21.50 minutes in and listen to the last few minutes.
Workshops were available on every subject relevant to Rotarians including for me Membership, the Foundation Cadre, Rotary Action Groups for Family Health and of course the one we came to Seoul to present the ELearning experience in RIBI. We were thrilled with the positive reaction and discussion from those attending. The RI staff were very supportive and considered the event a success from their perspective.
Had you asked me a year ago if I would be going to the Seoul Convention and presenting during a workshop I’d probably have said “no way”. But we did and for me it shows yet again what opportunities are available within Rotary if you want to take them. The Convention was, as ever, full of positiveness and we came away inspired to find more ways to make use of the power of Rotary in both our local and international communities.