Rotary – Club Visit 4 to Medway

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There’ll come a time when I’ll visit a club and not learn anything while I’m there. At least about Rotary, though there is perhaps infinite scope to learn from meeting people anywhere. My fourth club visit was much closer to home, the Rotary Club of Medway. I grew up in Medway and a long time friend (someone I met in the early years of starting Roots) has been a member there for longer than he’s known me. I’d said to Clive a few months ago that I really need to visit and just as I was coming back from holiday he suggested meeting for lunch. Instead of lunch, I said I’d meet him at his Rotary club before dinner (Medway is an evening club).

All was set, this time I told Jarle I was going so could pass the presidents greetings with conviction. It was a special meeting in a way as the District Governor, John Wilton, was also visiting to set out his goals as governor for the Rotary year. Something else special happened too, but more on that latter.

A district governor serves for one year. Before then they are District Governor Elect. Before that (so 2 years before being District Governor) they are Vice District Governor… I think. Coming soon – Acronym Dictionary for Rotary! Anyway, I missed his presentation to our club as I was on holiday so this was quite good timing. Despite the tendency people in his position can develop of talking rubbish or in such a way as to send the audience to sleep, I found his speech (about 45 minutes if I remember correctly) pretty specific, relevant and interesting. Of course, this is the first time I’ve seen a District Governor speak so perhaps it’s the same every year but from a different person so may have been very boring to everyone else. He clearly set out the current focus of Rotary on an International Level and it’s chosen charities. He clearly set out the current focus of Rotary at a national (RIBI) level. He clearly set out the current focus of Rotary at District Level. He did make it clear that while all of those are good causes it really is up to the club to choose whether to support it or not – its not mandatory for each Rotary club to support those charities but support is welcome. He said that District is there as a support framework for the clubs and should be used as such. If there is a problem, let him know and he will do his best to keep the wheels in motion effectively during his year in office.

He then took questions from members one of which was, to me at least, was nice to hear. The question was “Shouldn’t we be focussing on more local charities than all the National ones?” or at least words to that effect, I paraphrase. The answer from the District Governor was; each club sets it’s own goals and local good causes are normally expected to feature but it is for the club to decide. I stood (not being frightened of standing and making a fool of myself) and added my two pence. Starting with the question “Has anyone here learnt the Object of Rotary by heart?” – answer given without exception – “No!” I continued, that as a new Rotarian, in a new club, I hadn’t learnt it either. I had though reduced it to three words that I could understand and work towards… “Do Good Things”. That Do Good Things applies to our activities locally, nationally or internationally, that Do Good Things is not defining any amount of money to be raised and given, but includes things as simple as collecting tents left behind at a music festival to distribute to youth clubs free of charge, or raising 50,000 (we hope) in an event in aid of the Pilgrims Hospice. My close was rubbish – that’s what you get for not planning to speak – in that I agree we shouldn’t forget the local charities. I’ve not thought how I’d close that properly, but thinking now I’d say it doesn’t matter whether we do things locally or nationally or internationally, just that whatever we do is as effective as it can be and meets the aim of “Do Good Things”. I think that’s what the Object of Rotary says, just in 103 more specific words than my version.

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Just before I visited this club our club Pennants arrived. What’s a club pennant? It’s like a little flag that when clubs visit each other they exchange. I mentioned them all around the walls when I visited the Rotary Club of Lochabber. Jarle posted me one and at this meeting I exchanged our first club pennant with another club. One more step along the road to club traditions and the honour fell on me. I’m a lucky chap. Here’s the photo of me exchanging the pennant with Medway Club President Bob Curtis

If you thought the pennant exchange was special, well, it was, but not so much as this astounding event that occurred at the meeting. There were two visitors. I was one, the other visitor was member who joined his local club near his home Brisbane in Australia just 11 months ago. His name is Derrick Coppack and he was visiting the UK for just 2 weeks. Nothing unusual there…

As a teenager I went skiing with my family and a group of friends in France. Derrick Coppack was on that same trip. My Dad used to do plumbing work for him when he lived in Rochester but he returned to Australia about 8 years ago to look after his parents. I haven’t seen Derrick in over 15 years. I recognised the name as familiar but knowing this visitor had arrived from Australia the same day of the meeting really didn’t think it would be the same person. What are the chances of that? Both of us joining Rotary this year, both of us meeting in a club that we would never normally visit. I’d work out the mathematical probability….but it’s late so feel free to do it for me if you fancy a challenge.

Learnings from this meeting:

  • Jarle probably has a suitcase full of pennants given to us by other clubs. It would be nice to display them, another Rotary tradition for us to work on.
  • I met and spoke with 3 members at the club who’d been members for less than a year. Fresh enthusiasm is contagious.
  • It’s a small (and friendly) Rotary world.