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 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 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.