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Meeting of 25th April 2013

Meeting of 25th April 2013

                                                                                             Meeting of 25th April 2013
                                                                    Speaker: Graciela Waen, Governor Elect of Rotary District 2203

                                                                                                 New Developments in Rotary

Graciela is a Godmother of our Rotary Club and we always enjoy having her explain Rotary International policy to us, because most of our members are fairly new to Rotary.

Recently Graciela went to a meeting for Rotary District Governors Elect in San Diego. Ron Burton announced the Theme for the year which is  “Engage Rotary, Change Lives”. While watching the  ceremony to welcome our new member, Laurie Taylor, Graciela was aware of the importance placed on members to engage with Rotary, your family and everyone around you “we Rotarians want to Change Lives!”. Graciela then asked several members what Rotary means to them and received a number of replies including “a service organisation” “loyal to other Rotarians” “fellowship” “giving”.

“Changing Lives” what does this mean? Compassion;  improving lives of others but also our own by giving and receiving friendship. Rotarians are leaders in their own fields so a District Governor is a Leader of leaders. Graciela played a short video of “Bolero” by Ravel and we focussed on the Conductor who was smiling and listening to the orchestra as well as conducting - leading - and trying to ensure that the total sound was the best. All of the members of the orchestra were looking at the Conductor.  To be a Leader of leaders is a very difficult job. You need first to listen and then to direct each section like the Conductor of an orchestra; but always to listen. Graciela bought herself a Conductor’s baton to remind her to be a good Leader of leaders;  but at the same time this is what is expected of all Rotary Club Presidents and officials.

Graciela does not like the word “Tolerance”. To her this means accepting but disagreeing. Rotarians need to agree not tolerate. Ron Burton said “Get together to be a Rotarian family”. She commented that our members Lynda and Paul had recently met Martha Wild (the organiser for Spain and N.Africa at Rotary Foundation) for lunch when they were passing through Zurich and that having lunch with Martha was like being part of a family.

We were warned to be careful not to think of Rotary as a charity or an NGO. Rotary is an organisation that is run democratically by representatives of all 520 Rotary Districts. Every third year there is an International meeting attended by representatives of every District throughout the world, who bring in the proposals of amendments or changes in the RI Code of Policies from their Rotary Clubs. Here they vote on any new Rotary laws. All changes in Rotary are made by democratic choice, not imposed from above as happens in NGOs. We are not a charity because we are required to give help on the basis of service projects, which arise from our occupation and use our skills. To solely give cheques is not Rotary. We should be able to control the use of the money and the sustainability of the projects to those who we might try to help or care for.

The most recent meeting was held in Chicago and the main point of discussion was “What is the greatest difficulty with Rotary projects?” Many clubs do a lot of fundraising and give cheques to projects but do not become involved in these projects. The main point of Rotary is to prepare real service projects in which the whole club gives some personal help in the local area. Graciela gave the example of her own club, the Rotary Club Marbella Benahavis, in which she prepared the architectural drawings for a water project in Morocco, which the club is now carrying out. She said that cheque-giving is not good enough; we should be working personally . Projects should last over several years and not just be for 1 year. Ron Burton wants a club project to carry on for several years with members having personal involvement. During her year as District Governor, Graciela will visit the 70 clubs in the Mediterranean area of Spain, the Balearic  Islands and Ceuta and Melilla in north Africa, where she has been asked to look at the projects in which the clubs are involved. She expects to spend 100 nights away from home and has a budget of only $21,000 from Rotary International.

Graciela stressed that simply fundraising is not Rotary. A Rotary project should involve spending money on the project, supervising the project personally, controlling it and ensuring that it is sustainable over several years. The example of a good project that was not sustainable was one in which a village in Africa was given solar panels to provide electricity. The local monkeys very quickly destroyed the panels. Sustainability would have meant that the Rotary club was told that this was a problem and also provided some monkey-protection for the solar panels. A project abroad always needs someone from the local area to be in touch with the donor club, as well as the local enterprises who can control it officially, to confirm what is happening at the project and check whether it is still working over a reasonable period of time. An example of poor control was when the Benahavis club raised 13,000 Euros  for tsunami  victims. As the club had no Rotary contacts in the damaged areas, they decided to send the money through the British Embassy in Sri Lanka; they have never heard where the money went and cannot find out. It would have been better if they had taken more time to contact a local Rotary club in Sri Lanka that was helping tsunami victims and sent the money through them, and not the British Embassy.

Ron Burton has put the responsibility on each club to run its projects. The final word is with the President of each club. Rotary is an organisation of leaders in their own occupations and each club must aim to have ethically and socially responsible projects that will increase Rotary membership. A  club should plan a project, in fellowship, and ensure that the club’s name is on the project. We must also try to ensure that the new generation gets involved. Graciela suggested that our club could get a really good project going by arranging for members to talk in the local International schools, to both the children and their parents, about our professions. She believes that there is very little careers advice given to the children who attend the International schools.

Finally Graciela talked about the way that club members can present the image of Rotary to the public. She said that we should try to explain what we are looking for as Rotarians and do this by the work that we do and not by what we are personally. Generally we should only publish photos of our ‘service projects’ and definitely avoid publishing photos of us eating at club events. We should try to explain, even to our own very little children and grandchildren, what the Rotary message is. Explain about Rotary feeding hungry children, improving their health with vaccinations and clean water in their taps, providing schools so that they can learn to improve their lives; even planting trees after the wildfires in the summer. When Graciela tried to explain all this to her 4 year old grand-daughter, the little girl decided that Rotary does something to make nests for birds. Graciela believes that this is a good start in teaching the little child to help those who are weaker and less fortunate than we are!

We all really enjoyed Graciela’s talk and there were several questions before time ran out:

Lynda asked if Ron Burton’s desire for club projects to go on for several years means that clubs will now be allowed to make project commitments of longer than 1 year.  Graciela replied that a club can still only formally commit to a project for 1 year but there should be an internal agreement amongst the members that they personally will commit to the project for much longer and try to vote for it again each year and, in particular, to follow its sustainability.  Clubs should be careful not to just give out cheques.

Anthony said that he was glad that Graciela had said that Rotary is a ‘service organisation’ and not a charity. He thanked Graciela for explaining that aspect of Rotary so well and explaining that Rotary can help charities but is, itself, not a charity.