Amazing Stories of Polio – in a shop window

317-polio1-thumb-300x390-316.jpgOne reason I’ve posted less and less to my blog this year is because I’ve joined a Rotary club. Rotary has been a tremendous amount of fun and given me a real big buzz of feel good factor seeing the difference my effort, combined with others, can make as we ‘Do good things‘.

The best thing for me this year has to be converting an empty shop window in Canterbury to an educational display about Polio, re-using enlarged images from a comic called “Amazing Stories of Polio”. I’m going to unashamedly claim credit for the idea of this window display, or at least, I joined ideas from other places to come up with this one. However it wouldn’t have happened without the help, both in time, effort and resources of friends who shared the vision.

We’re not talking a small effort either. From getting permission to re-use the artwork, to finding the shop, to the managing agent agreeing, to the graphic design, the printing of the large panels (which in itself took many hours) and the hours spent hanging them carefully in the window of the empty shop.

I’ve still a lot of things to write about the window project and I’ll probably never be satisfied with anything enough to put it here in full. So, without further ado, why not follow this link to the artist, Steve Buccellato’s blog to read all about it.

Other ideas are in the pipeline. I expect I’ll be posting less and less to this blog as a result.

Are you in Medway on Friday?

If you’re in Medway on Friday evening, 17th July, please consider going to to this event organised by some friends of mine.
Thanks everyone!
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Concert programme first proof .pdf

Dear Steve,

Only a week to go until the big event which promises to be the biggest of its kind ever seen in Medway.

As you know, our group of volunteers, attached to the Rotary club of Medway, is aiming to raise funds to End Polio Now once and for all.

Its still infecting hundreds of children and adults in some parts of the world and its presence is still here in Medway; among the audience next Friday night will be local people who know first hand how the disease affects patients.

We need your help, so please let me know how many tickets you want and whether I should post them to you or leave them at the reception at Dickens World.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Best wishes

Clive Lawrence
Rotary Club of Medway

PS And if you know anyone else who might be interested in supporting the campaign, please point them in my direction!

DATE: FRIDAY 17 JULY
TIME: 7.30pm
WHERE: BRITANNIA THEATRE, DICKENS WORLD, CHATHAM MARITIME ME4 4LL
COST: 10 PER TICKET
CHEQUES: ROTARY CLUB OF MEDWAY
ADDRESS: c/o 1 SOUTH AVENUE GILLINGHAM ME8 6EG

Rotary International Convention 2009 – Volunteering

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The afternoon of the first day was my turn to volunteer. There was no pressure to volunteer but no good reason no to. There were two perks of volunteering, the first was an orange cap with the Birmingham convention badge upon it (Believe me, it’s a perk, one American asked wher eto buy them from) and the second was meeting Rotarians from all over the world as I gave out the goody bags.

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One of the noticable traights of Rotarians is their age, most Rotarians are over 60, many over 50. Being the only male volunteer that looked youthful (now I’m the grand old age of 33). Immediately I was given the job of moving boxes full of goody bags from the back store into the distribution area. Having moved all those in fairly quick time, I had to get bags from the ‘container’. No problem I thought, these boxes are easy to move and they told me there was a pallet truck – just like being at work really. Well, not quite. All the bags that were boxed had already been moved in, all the remaining were loose. Some small attempt at bundling them had been made, strapping them in groups of 20, but most of these fell apart if not when carried when the whole pile would collapse. Still, there was no point moaning about it and another Rotarian, Colin, who came from Scotland was helping too, so we had a good chat about the differences in our clubs and the projects we’re involved in.

Giving out the bags, we had one returned from an Australian lady who (rather appropriately as she said herself) had been given an incorrectly printed bag. All the text and logos were printed upside down! So, I gave her another and suggested she tell all the local media back home how we Brits had made merry fun with her by giving her the misprinted bag, and that they can use it as an excuse to recruit more people into the great environment Rotary is. She went away happy. Rotary really is as much about fun and fellowship as “Doing Good Things“.

The next post will be about the Opening Ceremony that was held this morning but that will have to wait until later. Shortly we leave for the Medieval Spectacular at Warwick Castle.

Rotary Internation Convention 2009 – First timer notes

Here I am, hooray! blogging from the NEC for free, at a net cafe at the Rotary Interational Convention in Birmingham.

In another 15 minutes I’ll be off to be a “HOC Ambassador”, HOC means “Host Organising Committee”, and ambassador means I volunteered to help. In my case, I’m told I’ll be handing out goody bags.

We (Rhonda and I) arrived early this morning from the Peak District where we’d been camping and walking (more on that later, with photos of the wonderful midsumer English weather – gale force winds, rain, thunder, lightning…. guess the weather God forgot what summer means). Getting our pass was a breeze – we were booking number 51 thousand and something and they found our envelope within a minute. A quick wander around the “House of Friendship”, get our goody bag, then off to find our hotel in Birmingham.

The “House of Friendship” has lots of stands, many representing charities, many representing fellowship (like the Fellowship of Flying Rotarians (if I remember that correctly) – may be I’ll get back to flying one day). One thing I found funny, a stand taking 4 spaces, selling just handbags – larger than many of the other good causes and larger than some of the Rotary parephenalia stalls. Speaking of which, Rhonda said she’d make me a Bow Tie in special colours… guess I should learn how to tie a bow tie then.

Of to volunteer now. If there’s no image with this post, it means the internet connection is so slow here I couldn’t get one in time. Although I have logged into my MovableType admin page OK, my home page still isn’t up, and even the RI home page isn’t loading.

Rotary – Club Visit 9 to Lige Rive-Droite

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On the way to Eurocon I decided it would be good to visit a foreign Rotary Club. One of the objects of Rotary deals specifically with encouraging international friendship so Rotarians all over the world are welcome at clubs wherever they happen to be visiting.

Having decided, the next problem was finding a suitable club. The criteria were quite specific:

  • Along the route from Calais to my destination (Simpleveld, Netherlands)
  • Ideally less than 1 hour away from my destination
  • Meeting on Thursday Lunchtime
  • Meeting conducted in French
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After a lot of reserach on the internet (it took longer as I didn’t know the town names. For example, if a Visitor was going to Canterbury on holiday, how would they know Faversham is along their route?) Eventually, I choose to visit the Rotary Club of Lige Rive-Droite. There were a couple of options (Thursday being a lucky day for passing through the area) but Liege Rive-Droite was chosen because their web site had more information about them than the other clubs. They seemed active and approachable, so I sent an email. I wrote it in French first, then English in case I made no sense. The reply (you’re welcome to join us) came back in English. A good sign, if my French wasn’t up to scratch there’d be someone to help out.

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After an unexpected long journey to meet them, I’m glad I went there. Asside from being very friendly, the food was definately the best I’ve had at any Rotary event.

Learnings:

  • Vousing and Tuing – All Rotary friends are Tu, and also “Chez ami” (Dear Friend) even when you’ve just met them [note 1]
  • When I speak in French to a group (when I present our club banner), I really must prepare a bullet list. speaking in english I can remember the 3 things I would like to emphasise, whereas speaking in French I forgot the messages I wanted to put accross as I had to think long and hard to find the right words – along with ensure the best pronounciation I possibly could.
  • To raise funds for charitable purposes, they organise an annual, 8 hour long go kart race of around 30-40 go-karts. It raises (from memory) around 20,000. Useful to know as our develops into its second year

[note 1] At a recent meeting, when Lucy gave her presentation on herself, one of the questions was when should you use ‘vous’ and when should you use ‘tu’ when speaking to a French person.

Rotary – Club visit 8 to Chestfield

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It’s true to say my rate of posting to my blog has diminished of late, but that’s simply due to being so busy with other things. While it’s fresh in my mind I must just post about this mornings visit to the Rotary Club of Chestfield.. The last time I visited was a special evening meal and presentation though I’d decided to go during that same day. This time, I decided to go less that 24 hours before hand too, partly to spread the word about our club ‘Outdoor Skills Day’ (more another time on that).

Although it’s been a while since I’ve visited another club (having been so busy), once again it was time well spent. They had an excellent speaker talking about how to implement successful, sustainable water projects in the developing world. The speaker (who spends 3 months in America and 3 months in the UK for her work in this field.. or perhaps lake seeing as we’re talking about water) clearly understood the issues involved in not only delivering an aid project, but making it sustainable. She’s also worked with Rotary in the past, including at the Rotary International level and explained some of the RI logic in allocating the international charitable funds. For example, RI wont support a project to put a well into a village unless there is a justification this is the best of all systems for that village. She had a photo of an RI person at a well in a village that was very overgrown. The well worked fine but the locals didn’t use it, they were happy to drink the water from the river not aware that it caused disease. For that particular village, a different solution would have been a more effective investment of resources.

Summary of things learnt at this meeting:

  • Rotary International is careful about how it spends funds collected for the international projects
  • Even a single Rotary Club can call upon the skills of experts working internationally
  • All daffodils are Narcissus*

*Thanks go to President Andrew for that fact, they were selling flowers, I think to raise club funds.

Steve meets the president (yes, the nice one, from America)

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12 months ago I never thought I’d title a blog entry like that. Then again, 12 months ago I didn’t really know anything about Rotary – a lot has changed this year.

The picture is of me with Rotary International President D.K. Lee. DK (He’s always introduced by his initials, his full name is Dong-Kurn) is a Rotarian from Korea. His day job is chairman of a company called BuBang Techron, though I have to wonder how he gets time to work there and make time to travel the world serving Rotary

I’ve just returned from the “Rotary Presidential Membership Conference”. Membership is a big issue in Rotary at the moment and to address the problem the DK Lee is traveling the world to attend special conferences to address the problem. Membership levels in Rotary are important because without members Rotary can’t continue to do all the good things it does in the future. More members also means more opportunities to do good things. Simple stuff really. So why did I, new Rotarian in a new club go? To get answers.

As a new Rotarian in a new club, I thought Rotary in the UK was growing. Surely 30 new members in the last year was a common occurance in every town and city in the UK? No, I’ve mentioned that I asked for some real statistics and when they arrived they were surprising. In the UK 10 years ago there were 60,000 Rotarians. Today there are 55,000. My next thought was “how many should there be?”. I got two answers, one I worked out myself and one worked out by my friend Clive. Clive looked at the population of the medway towns, compared it with the membership of the clubs in the area, did some thinking, and came up with the idea that there could be around 3 to 5 million Rotarians in the UK. I was a little more pessimistic. One of the ‘qualities’ a Rotarian has is to be a ‘leader in the community’, leader in the sense many will be senior managers in business. Now that’s not the most accurate of defnitions but it was enough for me to extrapolate from. Let’s say, I will only count people who run a business as potential Rotarians. There are 4 million small and medium businesses in the UK, so let’s make that 4 million potential Rotarians. Let’s say half of those don’t have the attitude or ability to put “service above self” in rotary words, or put back into their community. For example, in the early years of my business I didn’t have the free time. So, 2 million people in the UK, by my rough reckoning and not counting a huge proportion of people who are actually members, could be in Rotary. There are only 55,000 now, so why am I so special to get an invite to join?

The answer is someone made the effort to form a club in my local area and I was lucky enough to be invited. Lucky too, in that they formed a club that decided to meet at I time I could manage (breakfast). I couldn’t join 5 of the nearby 6 clubs simply due to the time they meet, let alone never being invited. My question developed into “Why is there only one person in our district (covering 82 clubs) working on creating new clubs? Why is club formation not a task encouraged of individual clubs?”.

I was told that the PMC (Presidential Membership Conference) is a place where that would be answered along with many other things. So I decided to go. I was also asked if I would mind being interviewed ‘on stage’. Now, I didn’t know how many people were going to be there (around 250 as it turned out) but that didn’t worry me. As you have probably guessed by now, I don’t mind giving my opinion. Fortunately the interviewer emailed questions to those of us being interviewed in advance so we knew what was coming. I can’t say I ever enjoy presenting, more that I’m willing to challenge myself and learn from it. This challenge was not in the questions or the audience, it was the first time I’ve used a hand held microphone. Anyway, John the interviewer delivered a perfect question (just as he said he would before hand) – “Steve, you’ve got an idea that we could double the size of Rotary in the UK in a very short time, tell us more about that”… so I explained breifly my introduction to Rotary, my surprise at the declining numbers and my question to everyone there as to why only one person in a district forms new clubs, and not every club working on forming new clubs.

It appeared to be well recieved. Several people stopping me during the rest of the afternoon and complimenting me. When I questioned them as to what they heard me say, it appears they understood my question and didn’t have any reason why a new club couldn’t be formed by a club, that is, if the club (or rather, just 2 members of the club) would make an effort and make that their personal service project for the next 2 to 12 months. One specifically commented without prompting that I did well with the handheld microphone, keeping it close enough to my mouth to be heard, not too close to be too loud and distorted and especially since we were all sitting on stools limiting our movement on stage. Apparently I didn’t speak too fast either which is my normal failing when presenting things.

Hopefully delegates found my opinion useful, for me though I have learnt lots of different things:

  • I got two ideas for a service project that may be effective for our club to copy. There’s nothing wrong with copying good idea’s around Rotary.
  • I got an idea for a way of improving the ‘Outdoor Skills Day for young people’ our club is organising.
  • I was speaking with Clive about something my brother had said to me and he thinks there may be a way we can capitalise on it… if we do, it could be huge… so we both said we’ll investigate the opportunity further.
  • I spoke with DK Lee and asked him about how he was so succesful in growing membership in Korea (that’s within the standard text you read about him in all the Rotary publications). He said “If you start a new club, you need to find the right first president”. He started 32 clubs in one year I gather. Sure, there’s always more to something than one line could convey, but if/when I’m able to sponsor the formation of a new club, I’ll keep that in mind.

In summary, I’ve learnt a lot from the membership conference, and it’s not every day you get to say you’ve spoken with the president.

PS – I know the title is misleading, but Rotary International’s head office is in the USA and he had come from America, via several other countries, before returning to his home in Korea for Christmas 😉

Rotary – Club visit 7 to Faversham

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There are two Rotary clubs near me that meet on a Monday evening. One is “Canterbury Forest of Blean“, the other is “Faversham“. A couple of weeks ago I decided at short notice to visit Faversham. I hadn’t phoned or called anyone before going, I just took the chance they’d have space for one more. I arrived to the busiest club I’d seen for a long time – there must have been 50 people present. Strange I thought, I’m sure the club directory said they had 20 or so members, so where did all the extra people arrive from? It turns out all of the Rotary Club of Ashford were visiting and there was a presentation on the work of the Princes Trust.

Things learnt from this visit:

  • The Princes Trust still work with 14-30 year olds as I remember from growing up. They still have some business start up support but also run courses developing skills for young people without formal qualifications. They are particularly keen to recruit volunteer adult mentors, especially experienced business owners and managers.
  • The Faversham club have a strong twinning with a club in Germany (or was it Austria? I forget) and every year they all meet up at a Ski resort
  • The main project for them is the provision of 3 trailers that visit different schools. I can’t remember the aim of those trailers, but I do remember seeing it at our local school and both my children looking forward to the visit. This is another good example of where a club is providing a service in the community more than just raising money for other charities

Rotary – 1120 District Conference – Other things

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After the speakers (well, between really, on the Saturday night) was the ‘ball’. An excuse to get dressed up in a dinner suit and have a mass produced meal that would have been prepared several hours before it reached me. Still, I don’t enjoy dinners for the food, I enjoy it for the company. I didn’t know for certain Rhonda and I would get into the ball as we booked so late (by Rotary standards, quite soon for my mind as a new Rotarian). We were lucky though, but our late entry put us on a table with people from other clubs. To me, that was a bonus. It’s not that I don’t want to be with my club, I love them dearly but I’m sure they’re bored of my conversation by now and if not they’ve got the Christmas meal where I can bore them further. I still haven’t learnt about all the formality of these things. When the announcement was made Gentlemen may now remove their jackets it was pure luck I still had mine on I would have removed it earlier if it wasn’t comfortable. The other confusing thing to me was a string of announcments along the lines of The District Governer John Wilton would like to drink wine with……. Fine, go and drink wine with them but I really don’t need to know you’ve just interupted the person I was listening to on our table. Perhaps there is a purpose to that announcment, maybe it reminds us who the important visitors are.

I also took the opportunity to meet some other people at the ball. Lyn Mitchell who’s been suffering some of my many questions about Rotary membership, she’s an Assistant Governer and in her club Chair of service projects like I am for my club.

Ian Thompson, president of RIBI, also suffered my questions because of something he said during his presentation. I need to find his email address to get the rest of the answer. The question was essentially, What proportion of the population should be in Rotary?, I want to know what the informed view is as to how big Rotary should be in the UK. His answer, the first person who’s actually given an answer, was 100% of all the eligible population should be in Rotary. I now have to find out just how many people are eligible.

At the end of the weekend, I’m sure I’ll be going to the next one. The best part of all being not each individual presentation, but the opportunity to meet so many different people all united by one cause. Speaking over lunch, speaking over dinner, speaking to another club member while we both served as stewards, it’s meeting with so many different people that I enjoyed most. Next year, the conference is off to Brighton so the challenge is set to see what can be achieved before then by our new Rotary club.

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This entry is last entry in a series about my visit to the Rotary District Conference. It might not make much sense on it’s own, why not start at the first post and read all the way through.
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Rotary – 1120 District Conference – Rotarian Dr Geoff McKay presentation

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This is one of the best presentations I’ve seen for a long time, so that’s two phenomenal presenations over the course of one weekend! I was worried at first, there was no title in my original programe and I really had no idea on what the topic would be. Some tired, aged Rotarian on an obscure detail of Rotary perhaps?

Geoff began by standing behind the lecturn, a slow introduction, tediously slow first presentation slide of his name coming up, the longest possible introduction ‘President of this, presedent of that…..’ and eventually ‘ and my fellow Rotarians’. Then the pace changed, he said ‘ photo! ‘ and dashed to the side as a photographer was taking a picture. Returning he said ‘Sorry, I didn’t want the microphone to be in the way of the shot’, which had most of us in laughter the joke being he was clearly larger than the microphone stand.

It got better from there on, video clips of silly things being used to highlight different points of his presentation. Covering all the good things of Rotary in his, if I rememember, 20 years of service. Dressing up as Father Christmas, helping build things in third world countries, meeting a myriad of different people united by the objects of rotary.

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The presentation was both motivating and entertaining. He said that Rotary needs to change today as it has always changed with time in the past. We, as Rotarians, need to tell people what we are doing and invite them to our clubs not for the boring bits of ‘business meetings’ but to the events and activities we organise. The long term future of Rotary as an organisation is up to us as members today. He did the best presentation gesture I’ve seen for many years. At the back of the stage, hanging from wires was a large Rotary emblem. During the part he was telling us that we could make a difference he took some paces back, pushed the emblem so it started swining and said Look even I can move Rotary, to great appluase from the audience.

I read later the topic he was speaking on was Laughter to the end! , pretty accurate then.

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This entry is part of a series about my visit to the Rotary District Conference. It might not make much sense on it’s own, why not start at the first post and read all the way through.
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