Step back for a moment and perceive how an outsider views Rotary. If he or she evinces interest in joining your club, then as president of your club, you are on the right path. But on the other hand, if there is no outward show of enthusiasm in club activities, then there is something wrong and we need course-correction,” said RIPE Barry Rassin, addressing the PETS and SETS of Districts 3000 and 3232 in Chennai.
However, he was all praise for Rotary in India as the members had impacted their communities in both direct and indirect ways. “Now that CSR funds have opened new opportunities for Rotary clubs in India, you need to coordinate with your districts and chart out joint programmes,” he said. The WASH projects done in Indian schools that he had posted on his Facebook page had received tremendous responses from all over the world. “Many Rotarians have asked for details and how Indian clubs are implementing these projects.”
Every Rotarian must feel there is an inherent value in belonging to this global voluntary organisation. “Ask your members what they love, what they are passionate about and how they can bring value to your club. For ultimately, Rotary is all about ‘people in action’ who do transformational projects,” he added.
Listing out important leadership qualities, Rassin said these would help them do “transformational projects that leave a lasting change” in the community. Rotary leaders have only two options; “either continue in their jobs for the sake of survival or step up to become the best-ever presidents of their clubs by inspiring their members through personal example.” To do so, the leader must pay individual attention to all members and “let them know that you love them intensely.” One must have that energy and drive that are contagious and set “audacious goals” for the club.
Rassin called upon the Presidents-elect to start leadership programmes to incubate young talent which can take up onerous responsibilities. Rotaractors in the Bahamas have joined hands with members of the Toastmasters clubs to leverage the enthusiasm of youth and develop their leadership skills. “But we need to address the issue of how to captivate Rotaractors and motivate them to continue their journey in Rotary clubs later.”
Rotarians are not just dreamers, “but we act to make lasting change in the community through sustainable projects. Through social media, tell people, of the amazing work we do and the transformational projects that have changed the world,” Rassin said. He is hopeful that 2018–19 will see the last of the few polio cases, and from then on “the world has to be polio-free for the next three years to be certified so by the WHO.”
Don’t ever underestimate the power of working together as Rotarians, as the 1.2 million-strong organisation with presence in over 200 countries has undertaken community projects, including rescue efforts, for global welfare. Whether it is bringing relief to a distraught father in New Zealand whose daughter was buried under the debris in the Haiti earthquake (January 2010) or an African child in Malawi who came with a smile and “thanked me for new school buildings, toilets, fresh water and sanitation facilities”, Rotary is forever making the world a better place.
However, he emphasised the need to “awaken the soul of Rotarians” and work towards creating strong clubs which can do impactful projects. Hence, the vision statement — Be the Inspiration — for 2018–19, displays on its logo the image of a wave, a force of nature which ushers in lasting change, he added.
As club leaders they would have to do a reality-check to ensure whether their members’ heart and direction were on the right path. If not, they would have to effect course correction.
In an interactive talk, RI Director C Basker urged the future leaders to take learning and training seriously as “only through this process you get information on what you don’t know. Life is all about what and how you learn and then put it into practice.”
On some Rotarians showing anxiety over mounting expenses while conducting training courses, he advised them to consider “money spent on training as an investment to progress as it will offer opportunities to hone your skills to better implement projects.”
PETS is a unique training programme that empowers an ordinary man with leadership skills, he noted and urged the presidents-elect to inspire their club members. “The 365 days will fly away like 365 minutes if you don’t have a master plan to implement. First, create a good team which will work with you by sharing your vision and ideas.”
Merit should be the only criterion for the selection of club officers who also need adequate training at the DTA (District Training Assembly). “Club presidents will begin with 70 per cent chance of success, if they select their officers on merit, and remove those unwilling to attend the DTA workshops,” he said.
Recalling the growth of District 3000 since the days it was bifurcated from Sri Lanka with just 32 clubs, the RID said his home district “has grown in strength, is more organised now and performance levels have reached new heights, for which the credit goes to the PDGs and past presidents who had sacrificed their time and energy to nurture their clubs.”
RIPE Rassin was pleasantly surprised to see a large assemblage of Rotarians in uniforms, “which only points to the discipline followed by the new office-bearers,” Basker noted. He congratulated DGE RVN Kannan for executing the PETS after meticulous planning.
Speaking at the PETS of D 3232, RID Basker said the zone would henceforth be represented by more directors at the RI Board given the spike in membership. The district is expected to double its membership from its current strength of 4,200 in the next two years. “In Rotary, the biggest challenge is to lead the club as its president. A club leader must speak less, allow others to participate in meetings and projects and encourage them to bring out innovative ideas for growth.” Innovative projects will ensure Rotary the public image it deserves.
Expressing concern over the lower number of women Rotarians in India, Basker said that we have only 11 per cent women Rotarians compared to 49 per cent in Africa. “Pakistan has a woman governor and Bangladesh has a woman DGE; we need more women governors in our zone. We need to invite and induct more women members and encourage them to take leadership roles as they are better service-minded with an uncanny knack for fund management,” he said.
He urged the Rotarians to give ₹1,000 each for a corpus towards End Polio, and DGE Babu Peram said this would be implemented.
Addressing the D 3000 meet, DGE Kannan said the 27-year-old district has an energetic team, and “we will be going to the villages to empower people and enrich them with the support of Rotary so that they can be transformed into Happy Villages.” The district has 104 Rotary clubs with over 5,000 members.
Addressing the training session, DG R Srinivasan said the first year after bifurcation has been really good for D 3232 with all its 104 clubs taking up service projects with enthusiasm and vigour. “Our district is the first in membership in Zone 5 with 500 Rotarians being inducted this year so far. All club members will rally behind a president who is inspiring and leads from the front.” In his district in three clubs the average age was less than 30 years and “in some clubs the waiting period for new members is three years.”
DGE Peram recalled the Vision Statement at the Dubai Institute and said his membership growth target for the next year is 15 per cent and he plans to start Rotary clubs for Rotaractors. “We will be doing projects along with Rotaractors and past DRRs as we have 150 Rotaract clubs and new ones will be chartered by our clubs next year.”
Every club will take up one high-impact project worth $15,000–20,000 next year with the help of CSR funding which will usher in positive change in the community, he said. For the coming year, the DGE has set a target of $2 million in TRF giving while implementing service and community projects worth $5 million. PDG Sv Rm Ramanathan was honoured by Rassin for announcing a donation of $500,000 to TRF over the next two years. PDG J B Kamdar was also honoured for announcing a donation of another $250,000 to the Foundation to reach AKS-Level 2.
Pictures by V Muthukumaran