Wednesday, 28 September 2016

An Insight into the RI Convention Seoul 2016

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.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Back to putting a virtual pen to paper - Carlisle Community Health Mela 14th May 2016

It's a while since I posted one of my random thoughts and its about time I started putting pen to paper again so to speak.

There's been a lot going on in recent months and years and I suspect that now that I have started again there may be a number of posts to come in the next few weeks.

The recent highlight of my Rotary journey must be our Carlisle Community Health Mela held on the 14th May 2016.   Partly funded from a Rotary Foundation Global Grant this event is part of a wider project aimed at improving a range of First Response activities in our Region. 

Here is a video that explains the background to the project.

We have now provide our Mountain Rescue Teams with life saving equipment, installed around 30 Community Public Access Defibrillators in the region  and the Community Health Mela concept is the final part of the project.

So what is a Health Mela,  The second video in this blog answers the question for you.

So on the 14th May 2016, in the city centre of Carlisle, many hundreds of people had a great day in the sunshine taking advantage of the Health MOT's, receiving advice and support on improving their personal health and well-being, and being entertained.  Rotarians and many friends helped in managing the event and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.  

Rotary worked in partnership with Sustainable Carlisle and the National Forum for Health and Wellbeing.  We were supported by the City Council and the Cumbria Community Foundation.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Reflections on a Journey of a Lifetime

At the start of the year, RI President Ron Burton said  “At the end of the day, I hope to leave the woodpile just a little higher.”   As I have noted during the year “It’s what we leave behind for future Rotarians that is important for every President & Governor.”  

Pericles said "What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others." 

The following observations are from a speech I made during the District Officers Handover Dinner, held in Windermere on the 29th June 2014.  
At the Calvert Trust
"In the past year ……..
I have seen the lives of young people changed by taking part in RYLA, RYPEN and attending the Calvert Trust. Who can forget the feedback we received from Collette Southworth following her visit to the Calvert Trust with 18 year old Peter, she said that “it was the best week she had had with him since he was born.” 

Young Chef gets some advice
Our competitions for young people have again showcased the talent within our schools.   Details of our Youth Services Activities can be found here   

Mobile Dental Clinic Bangalore
Internationally we have used both our Foundation District Grants and District Designated Funds to good effect supporting for example the Microfinance Project in Coche, Ethiopia; the Dental Van and Ambulance in Gumballi, Karnataka, India; Water and Sanitation projects in Kenya, Education in Colombia; supporting Students in Uganda and Morocco and of course researching our Palliative care VTT project with friends in Bangalore. (we hope that the multi-disciplinary team from India will be with us in early September to learn from several of the Hospice organisations in our District)

Foundation Chairman Vas storytelling 
Closer to home our Foundation funds have supported disadvantaged groups on the Fylde; Literacy projects in Rossendale; Hospice at Home in West Cumbria; some of our local Food banks and our Community Melas or Health Fairs.

I’m really excited and pleased that we are also now making final preparations for the implementation of our First Response, District wide, Community Project, funded by a £65k Foundation Grant and supporting much needed equipment for our Rescue Teams, capital investment in defibrillators and the further development of Community Health Fairs in our disadvantaged communities.   Find out more about this project by clicking here.

Not every Grant Application will be successful and the Foundation Team will continue to learn what is acceptable and what is not under the new grant model, providing advice and support to Clubs in their endeavours.  

Still within our Foundation Programme we had the pleasure of hosting Frannie Noble a Peace Scholar from Boston studying at Bradford.  Following her input to our District Conference she spent a few days in the District visiting several Clubs, the Calvert Trust and being grilled by a team of Rotakids from Hayton School.

One of our Rotakids Conferences
And talking of Rotakids we cannot let the year go by without mentioning that we won the First National Rotakids Development Award from RIBI.  We also held two Conferences for our Rotakids. Thanks go to all the Clubs, Teachers and children who made these happen.

Polio Eradication continued to focus the minds of many with our Flash mobs and other awareness raising activities in October and the Worlds Greatest Meal in February.  This activity has resulted in a 50% increase in giving to the End Polio Now Campaign.

Giving to the Annual Fund was down a little but this was offset to a large extent by the fact that we have several new projects underway there was a 4 fold increase in funds going to Foundation directly to these projects. Overall our giving to Foundation has increased by around 30%.

Our International team have also been encouraging Clubs to support projects including Mary’s Meals in Malawi, Sand Dams in Kenya, renewing our activity with the Eshowe Project in Kwa Zulu Natal and the Water & Sanitation Project in Maikot, Nepal following on the successful Matching Grant for Khiraule School also in Nepal.   Alongside activity to limit the impact of Malaria with REMIT.

It is clear to me that those Clubs that have active Community and Vocational projects, those that truly engage with their local communities, have more success in recruiting and retaining Rotarians.  This was truly recognised by the Award, by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, of one of the first RIBI Champion of Change Awards to Jeff Fawcett of the Rotary Club of Penrith for his dedicated work in the town.

Yours truly as Santa - in a gale!

Our Stroke Awareness activity, Bonfires, Santa Sleighs and support for Food banks are all a part of this. Clubs are also actively pursuing links with the Prison Service and I would like us to investigate what more we can do to help those with profound Literacy and Numeracy problems in our Communities. We must go out and talk to community groups, parish and town councils.  From talking to several mayors and other civic leaders in the past year they do value what we do and would like us to do more where and when we can.

We have been fortunate, apart from the gales in the winter, not to have had the problems some areas of the country had.  And when the Typhoon hit the Philippines as ever you went out to do what you could to help with funding for disaster boxes, Teddy Bears and, still to come, replacement fishing boats.

Getting many of our Good Deeds into our local and regional press continues to be a challenge, but I know we are getting better at it with, for example, great coverage of the Polio activity on Radio and in newspapers. Increasing use is being made by many Clubs and individuals of Social Media and we must continue to develop this important area.   Our magazine Norwest has continued to thrive, using the savings to make available new banners and flags for use within the District.  Thanks go to all our contributors, advertisers.

We have certainly “woven Rotary into the lives of others”  - Engaged Rotary and Changed Lives

Many Clubs have Engaged with Change, whether simply moving meeting times, reducing the number of meals, setting up networking events or embracing diversity.  They have all made inroads into making sure that Rotary continues to thrive in their community.  I’m pleased that several others have decided to take up the offer of support using our Toolkit for Change.
Amanda Watkin encourages members

Our Development activity also involved workshop on Membership and Leadership, these were both very well received and I know that Roger will be making sure that we continue to offer this important support to Clubs as they continue to investigate what needs to change to ensure our future survival.

I think we have a net gain in membership of around 50 or 2.5%, better than last year but not enough to be sustainable.  So the work being undertaken by Clubs in the deep SW to start a new Club in Buckshaw Village is key to making sure we overcome the inertia we have elsewhere.  As is the work on setting up our E-Club for those busy people who cannot attend a formal meeting regularly.

I have agreed to take on the formation of New Clubs for the next few years and will be exploring new areas and the use of satellite groups to help us grow and become even more diverse.  I believe that one of our key legacies is to make sure that we have an organisation that is fit for purpose and the Rotarians who are able to continue community service on a global scale for many years to come.

It was Harold Whitman that said "Don't ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that.  Because what the world needs is people who have come alive."
The lapsed Morris Dancer

We all certainly “came alive” at District Conference and I have to thank the whole team for putting on a great weekend.    Wendy & I have been to see Maddy Prior since; Angela Locke from the Juniper Trust has spoken to a few Clubs and I expect some partnerships to emerge; Jo Berry continues to develop “Bridges for Peace” and I am aware of other Rotarians who would like to support her activities; We have a visit to Todmorden and Incredible Edible arranged for the 19th July, do let us know if you want to join us and find out how we can get our hands dirty.   Some of the presentations at Conference are on our D1190 YouTube site including the Rotakids from Hayton School and the Youth Speaks Team from Balshaws CoE High School.  Click here to access the videos

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the whole of this years District Team for supporting Clubs in their service activity, arranging our development & learning events, setting up our Youth Competitions and our own internal sports events.

Thank you to you all and best of luck as we continue to Engage Change and Light up Rotary"

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Rotary Pic n Mix

Some months ago in was asked to prepare a speech on the topic of Pic n Mix.  This particular Club Charter celebration being held on world chocolate day. I thought that what I came up with was worthy of a sharing with a wider audience so here goes

As Rotarians we sometimes have to remind ourselves of the Areas of Focus we have within our community activities – on this occasion let me do that with a twist, or should that be a Curly Whirly or a Twirl?   We have 6 areas of focus to pick from and we often mix them together to provide all that a community needs

Peace is at the heart of what Rotary aims to bring to the world.
The founders of many of our well loved Chocolate brands were of course Quakers, Messrs Rowntree, Fry and Cadbury. And Chocolate can affect people in many different ways like this story from the Berlin Airlift  Suddenly, out of the mist came a parachute with a fresh Hershey chocolate bar from America. It took me a week to eat that candy bar. I hid it day and night. The chocolate was wonderful, but it wasn't the chocolate that was most important. What it meant was that someone in America cared. That parachute was something more important than candy. It represented hope. Hope that someday we would be free. Without hope the soul dies.” 

Our second area of focus is Health & Wellbeing
I’m told that good dark Chocolate is  packed full of good stuff like alkaloids, theobromine and phenethylamine. .  An April 2001 review of recent studies indicates that high dark chocolate consumption can decrease your risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke by as much as 30 percent.  
But you really have to be a fan of raw unrefined chocolate and not to forget that many of these studies were paid for by Mars….

I’m not sure what would be said about eating chocolate at the various Health Mela (Fairs) I have now attended. Rotary is taking part in these events not as a practitioner but as a catalyst for community activity and awareness raising.

Third is Water and Sanitation
If you had to name a crop that was absolutely essential to human survival you probably wouldn’t say cocoa. But the crop that’s the main raw ingredient in chocolate is one we should all be paying close attention to.  In September 2011 scientists produced a report on the likely impact of climate change on the cocoa plantations of Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire – that’s where more than half the world’s cocoa comes from, produced mainly by smallholders with few alternatives for earning a living. - only dentists would be happy about the news that rising temperatures were going to take a big bite out of chocolate production. That’s unless, a new report makes clear, a series of measures is introduced. These range from the development of hardier cocoa varieties, to improved agronomy, to investments in irrigation infrastructure. 

So our Sand Dams projects may be critical to the future livelihood of many rural farmers, and we already know this  … but also critical to the availability and affordability of chocolate for future generations, well for some that may spur on some action.

Next is Maternal and Child Health
Chocolate as an aphrodisiac?  Probably not,  but to the Mayas, cocoa pods symbolized life and fertility.
To us in moderation OK, but how much of our children’s health is affected by chocolate and other sugary candies is open to question …

Our 5th area of focus is Basic Education and Literacy
One of our areas of focus is aimed at helping literacy and education, helping people read and understand the wrappers.  

Numeracy can be supported by Buttons and Smarties - we’ve all done the one for you two for me trick 
Adverts could of course be educational tools, any one care to discuss the following? 
Yorkie;   its not for girls
Cadburys Eat More Milk;   1.5 pts in every bar?
Kit Kat;   2 hours steady nourishment
Penguin;   P' P'  Pick up a penguin

And of course jokes
I heard a rumour that Cadbury is bringing out an oriental chocolate bar. Could be a Chinese Wispa."    Voted the best Joke at the Edinburgh Fringe 

And finally Community and Economic Development
Fair Trade is something that has been encouraged by consumers and of course seen as a good sales pitch.  It only started in earnest in the mid 90’s with Green and Blacks Mayan Gold.   But for us it is something that we almost take for granted – our 4-Way test doesn’t allow us to forget the need to make sure that everything we think do or say is beneficial to all.

The Divine brand is 45% owned by the growers themselves, something we are helping to develop with our microfinance support of the Coffee Growers in Ethiopia

So Pick & Mix – where did the idea, exemplified in Woollies come from?  

Who can forget standing in Woolies... plastic scoop in hand... wondering which of the colourful sweets to add to our paper bag? Or watching in horror as the urchin in front picked his nose and then proceeded to make his selections without the use of the scoop. You'd be amazed at some of the things that used to be seen in the clear perspex tubs (or maybe you wouldn't!)

So maybe it's just as well that this particular institution is pretty well a thing of the past... and that it has been replaced by the hygienic pick and mix of online sweetshops.

For me the best chocolate bar has to be Old Jamaica, apparently no longer supplied to UK stores.  What was yours?

I’ve taken us through a quick insight into the Pick & Mix of Rotary activity.  And I haven’t even mentioned POLIO’s something we have stuck at since 1985.  Just after the launch of Wispa, Boost Coconut has come and gone even Inspirations failed to make it past 1998.

But we’ll continue to close the gap on Polio won’t we ?     

The packaging may change from time to time but “Doing Good” in the world is what we have been doing for 100 years and let’s hope we have many more to come.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Sustainable Communities – Rotary District 1190 Conference March 2014

The theme of our District Conference in March 2014 was sustainable communities

The following is a précis of the talk I gave, as District Governor, during the Conference in which I noted a number of key issues facing our communities and what we as Rotarians are, or could, or should be doing about them.

One of the nations to join Rotary in recent years is Kiribati with a Club on Kiritimati or “Christmas Island” as many of you may remember it.  I remember it well as my father was out there in the mid 50’s building airfields.  This country is no longer worrying about the effects of bomb testing but, along with many other low lying countries this series of Atolls is concerned about the sustainability of life on the island as sea levels rise.

Political Sustainability is challenging many of the countries which Clubs in our District have been supporting in recent years.  In recent months I have been particularly thinking of the Ukraine and Mali.

Closer to home  we are being challenged on issues of unemployment, particularly amongst young people, health issues, particularly in some of our more deprived areas and this year I suspect that the issue of Climate Change and the impact on our communities will really start to hit home across the whole country. 

Sustainable Communities - this concept will take on many different meanings for each of us and I want to take a little of your time to explore what this concept might mean for Rotarians like ourselves

We pride ourselves in being for our Communities and we provide that Community Service on a Global scale.  But do we really know what our communities expect or need from us?

When was the last time you asked your local Parish, Town or County Councillors what support they might like from you?

I was at a meeting with the Rt Hon Francis Maude recently as he met staff and students at Heathlands, a centre for those with disabilities, where we are considering developing Rotaract Club.  It is clear from the national Agenda that the government continues to pursue that, whilst the Big Society may have been re-badged, the concept of self help is still very much in the forefront of their thinking.   Whether you agree or not with the reasons behind the move to this more localised agenda, it is likely to be with us for a long time to come.

Matthew Fox a Catholic Priest noted in his book Creativity that
“We are not consumers.   For most of humanity’s existence, we were makers, not consumers: we made our clothes, shelter, and education, we hunted and gathered our food.

We are not addicts. “I propose that most addictions come from our surrendering our real powers, that is, our powers of creativity.”

We are not passive couch potatoes either. “It is not the essence of humans to be passive.
We are players.
We are actors on many stages….
We are curious, we are yearning to wonder, we are longing to be amazed… to be excited, to be enthusiastic, to be expressive.                      In short to be alive.”

We are also not cogs in a machine. To be so would be to give up our personal freedoms so as to not upset The Machine, whatever that machine is.

Creativity keeps us creating the life we wish to live and advancing humanity’s purpose as well.” 

This definition of who we are has much to offer active Rotarians as we both individually and as an organisation can 
·         Act as catalysts for change
·         Explore innovative ways of engaging with our communities
·         Support those communities who are in need practically and financially
·         Use our vocational and life skills to inform and advise

So what are we doing ?
There are a number of initiatives being considered at the moment at a national level.  One you might have hard of is the Prince of Wales’s “Step up to Serve” Programme, I’m pleased to be able to report that …..
“Rotary International in Great Britain & Ireland (RIBI) pledges to support Step Up To Serve by generating hundreds of opportunities for young people to transform communities and their lives with the creation of 125 new Interact clubs and 300 new Rotakids clubs by 2020. This will be achieved by working with schools and community groups. RIBI will celebrate the inspirational successes of young people with the annual RIBI Young Citizen Awards, in association with the BBC News Channel. The five awards showcase and celebrate the positive citizenship and important responsibilities assumed by many young people under the age of 25 in these islands. “
This one of RIBI’s recently best kept secrets, - and we in District 1190 have already contributed well to this target with our wonderful Rotakids Clubs

Our Foundation Global Grant Bid to support First Responders with Defibrillators and training equipment also encourages the development of Health Melas or Fairs.  Encouraging people in our most disadvantaged areas to take more direct interest in their own Health & Well Being.

During and in the aftermath of the 2005 and 2009 floods we saw a great need, as our colleagues in the South of England have done this year, to support our communities through direct Community Emergency Support.  But whilst we will always lend a hand, it is best to be prepared in advance of any need occurring. 

As a result of taking active roles in these areas of activity & situations we prove that we really are For Communities.  In addition we continue to support our young people, promote community development and arrange fundraising activities

I know from travelling around the District in the last 8 months that Rotarians in District 1190 really are at the heart of our communities.  We are helping make them sustainable as ……
·         We see differently: Our multidisciplinary perspective helps us see challenges in unique ways.
·         We think differently: We apply leadership and expertise to social issues—and find unique solutions.
·         We act responsibly: Our passion and perseverance create lasting change.
·         We make a difference at home and around the world: Our members can be found in your community and across the globe.

There is still much we can do to develop even more positive relationships within our communities and I will continue to help you do just that in the months and years to come.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Nelson Mandela’s Legacy to us all

I spent the morning of the 10th December 2013 listening to the celebration of Nelson Mandela's life.  His family, friends and world leaders all praised his leadership and courage but, more importantly, invited the world to continue the fight for justice, tolerance and equality.

I can recall several Mandela moments over the years during which I have been inspired to work in my own small way to improve the lot of people across the world.   I guess I would have to say that Rotary has been a key vehicle to allow me to realise this work.   By focusing on Peace and World Understanding, Rotarians are following the ideals that Madiba encouraged in all of us.

As President Obama noted in his speech on the 10th December, "For the people of South Africa, for those he inspired around the globe – Madiba’s passing is rightly a time of mourning, and a time to celebrate his heroic life.  But I believe it should also prompt in each of us a time for self-reflection. With honesty, regardless of our station or circumstance, we must ask:  how well have I applied his lessons in my own life?"

So what small legacy can each of us leave in remembrance of Mandela?   Our actions in relation to any of our 6 Areas of Focus will help influence the struggles for justice and peace.  Our giving to our Rotary Foundation will help future generations of Rotarians in their work.

More specifically we have our Rotary Peace Centers and the scholarships for present day activists.  This programme continues to support the many struggles across the world and provides a growing network of individuals who are "Doing Good in the World" and Rotarians who better understand many of the issues they are trying to tackle.

Our work on the eradication of Polio not only enables us to rid the world of only the second global disease in history, but ensures that every child on this globe has the opportunity to have some form of health care and attention.  Mandela was keen to help us Kick Polio out of Africa, we have an obligation to finish the job everywhere.

We need many more "activists" both locally and internationally.  I have come across many Rotarians who are doing their bit, quietly and without fuss in the past 6 months.  How much more could we do if we encourage more people in our communities to Engage with Rotary?  How many more Lives can we Change?

President Obama went on to say that "We, too, must act on behalf of justice.  We, too, must act on behalf of peace. There are too many of us who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality.  There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people.  And there are too many of us who stand on the sidelines, comfortable in complacency or cynicism when our voices must be heard."

None of our world leaders are perfect and it is all too easy to be cynical about their words but it is true that we all, as citizens of the world, have a part to play.

How will you make your voice heard?  We can start locally by embracing diversity and change in our own Clubs; By encouraging the use of the ethical values embodied in our 4-Way Test; And by continuing our humanitarian work, wherever it is needed.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

The Uniqueness of Rotary

We are all part of the international organisation we call Rotary.  Whilst each club can decide on its own priorities dependent upon the skills, the time members have available and of course the needs of the communities that it serves, they also have to meet a number of obligations and standards.

What we do and how we do it is summarised well in the Objectives of Rotary and in the 4-Way Test, of what we think, say or do.  If we follow these principles we won't go far wrong and we should be able to easily follow the appropriate statutory and moral codes.

Our guiding principles also include the core values of Fellowship, Leadership, Integrity, Diversity and Service. We shouldn't isolate one or two of these and forget about the rest.  We have to have Leaders who act with integrity, clubs who provide service and welcome diversity and of course good fellowship from which comes friendship and a sense of purpose.

Recent work by consultants working on behalf of Rotary Internatinal suggested that Rotary was unique within the world of NGO's citing the following reasons.

  • We think differently because of multifaceted classifications
  • We act differently, because of the range of skills we have
  • We have passion and perseverance, but we don't demonstrate it
  • We join to make a difference and develop friendships.  

Community service on a global scale is what makes us stand out from the others , makes us unique.  So do you feel that we are a category of one?   An accolade we can be rightly proud of.