Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Selecting good ambassadors for our country

Coronet Peak ski field near Queenstown, NZ during their South Island safari.
Rotarians get involved in many community activities, and in my 28 years in Rotary, no event has brought me greater pride than helping the selection of students to go to another country, to share in family life attend school with a commitment to learn and to enjoy a new culture. I have moved on to other things in Rotary as a Governor, and serving on the Board of Rotary Down Under with fellow directors from Australia, but I thoroughly enjoy continuing to offer my services to interview students and families for the Rotary Matched Student Exchange Programme between New Zealand and Australia.
This programme is a short exchange of 12 weeks, with secondary students selected from Year 9 (the first year at secondary school) to go on a matched exchange to Australia in the following year. Kiwi students go to South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland early in Year 10, and a selected matched Australian student comes to New Zealand for 12 weeks.
The lead up to selection is exciting, with much anticipation. Families get into the process of selection – will it be good for my son or daughter? can we afford the cost of travel? how will they get on living with another family, and what if there is a falling out?   The answers to these questions are sorted out in family interviews, and this is where I get my kick, as I love dealing with these issues and dozens of others.
The smiles come on the faces of students and their Mums and Dads when you show genuine interest in their well-being, that you are there to help build their confidence and to make the exchange experience a memorable one.  If the match is made and the students are well prepared, they will fit into their exchange as planned. With full knowledge given to them by their selectors and mentors, it is a very successful Rotary venture.
When you get a big hug and thanks at the end, you really feel part of their family. It is great for Rotary’s profile.

By PDG David Watt
Rotary Club of Karori, Wellington, NZ

Sunday, 20 September 2015

ENGAGEMENT … the new Buzz-word in Rotary!

Engagement means we get more service done and we have higher retention because Rotarians are more motivated and satisfied with their membership.  Sounds impressive but what is it?  Is it as simple as this?

To answer, as with most things in life the answer is a bit of yes and a bit of no.

The following is a simplified look at what might help engagement as gleaned from reading a number of articles on the topic:

1)      Communicate clear expectations and goals to members

·         What is the club trying to achieve this year and have these been added to Rotary Club Central on  with monthly updates so all members can see progress towards achieving these. 

·         What are the specific goals for each event or project during the year?

·         What are the expectations of members?  This may be illustrated by the response to someone not performing a task who the uses the excuse “But I am a volunteer” to which the reasonable response is “Agreed, but YOU made a commitment”. 

·         People do make commitments with the best of intentions but when circumstances make meeting these difficult, they need at least to say so and seek help … that is what team-work is all about.

2)      Make sure communication is open

·         Club leaders need to be open-minded and actively encourage members to express their ideas and perspectives on any and every aspect of the club without criticism.

·         This includes an encouragement of innovation. 

·         People do not work well in a vacuum which is why feedback is so important and even when things may be going wrong, constructive feedback phrased in the positive is invaluable.

·         The other angle of this is to keep members informed about what is happening in the club bearing in mind that not all members are at every meeting and may miss update announcements. 

·         This includes making announcements in a timely manner so members have the opportunity to include participation in their calendar and if wanted to respond with their feedback in time for it to be effective. 

·         There are a number of natural opportunities where this can happen such as Club Assemblies, project meetings etc. 

3)      There needs to be trust

·         There are many ways to express trust but one is where we know the other person will put their’ best foot forward’ and we are prepared to accept that even if we know we or someone else could do the task  better.

·         It is where if someone says they will do something then that is what they will do, and if they run into an issue doing this they will ask for help, and can expect to receive it.

4)      Strong team environment

·         This might be described as the willingness to work together where the focus is on achievement ‘for the greater good’ rather than individual advancement no matter what. 

·         It also includes looking after each other as we all have moments where we drop the ball and knowing someone will ‘have our back’ is where trust and friendships are built.

·         Team work is sharing the work load through good delegation and when things are not quite working out as expected, helping people solve their problem rather than solving this for them.

·         Teams also work best if members are knowledgeable which is why newer members need to be encouraged to attend learning opportunities such as Rotary Leadership Institute.

·         Also to look at taking on new roles in the club as a learning experience with the certainty they are supported by a mentor and / or can call on any club member to share their knowledge and wisdom.

5)      Ensure members fit the culture of the club

·         Culture is the collective norms and behaviours and will change over time as membership changes and the club does different activities. 

·         For this reason even long serving members may find their fit within the club culture may change over time. 

·         Every member needs to have a sense of belonging … being able to honestly say “this is ‘my’ club” and have the pride in that membership to tell others about it.

6)      Recognition of achievement

·         Say thank you … often. 

·         Success begets success, so celebrate and recognise achievement which can be as simple as a few drinks at the conclusion of a project.

·         Recognition for specific achievements by individuals or groups is vital but so is an occasional recognition for the ‘routine’ such as to the bulletin editor who grinds away producing their best effort at an interesting bulletin week after week in the hope that someone reads it!

·         More substantial recognition can take many forms from a surprise bottle of wine to a Paul Harris Fellow recognition. 

·         The highest recognition a club can award is Honorary Membership.

·         Often overlooked are the Rotary International recognition for which a club must initiate the application such as the Avenues of Service Citation … when did your club last recommend someone for this?

7)      Promote your club

·         Members want to feel good about their club – its effectiveness, reputation, values and ethics

·         Tell the stories of achievement internally within the club via the 2-minute chat or project reports etc and also within Rotary media.

·         Use every opportunity to promote the club to the external audience from putting up a club banner at the local supermarket / shopping mall or speaking to community groups, plus of course the wide publicity possible from well written articles with photos widely distributed … again, success begets success but people need to know about it first.

Written by: Colin Robinson, District 9920 Publicity and Communications

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

A new generation for The Maunga Challenge

Rotarians Elizabeth Wright and Chris Kay present the bikes to the cycling club
After nine great years based in Te Awamutu, 2015 sees the Maunga Cycle Challenge operating from a new home and under new management for the 10th anniversary event on November 15.

Previously the event has been organised by the Rotary Club of Te Awamutu, NZ with the assistance of Te Awamutu Sports Cycling Club and Sport Waikato Energizers from 2006 to 2014, bringing hundreds of local, national and international riders to the district each year, with events off and on road, catering for all ages and abilities. 

Instigator of the event Rotarian Vic Richards says, “The event brought the community together, with great support from local businesses, volunteers, Rotarians from neighbouring clubs, schools, Waipa Council and Waikato businesses”. Over the years, the community profited in the form of scholarships, purchase of road bikes and $15,000 to the Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust’s education facility.
Increased event management demands and the retirement of several key members of the organising group have resulted in exciting changes for the event.
Relocating to the magnificent venue and facilities at Karapiro, a new chapter in the history of this iconic event will begin.
New management team Red Events operate many of their existing cycling and triathlon events from Mighty River Domain which has become one of the best event locations in NZ.
Vic added, “It’s clear that The Maunga Cycle Challenge has a great future and thanks to everyone for their past involvement”.
Rotary are thrilled to see the event continue evolve and grow and also look forward to continuing to support its future development.
New information about the event is easily accessed at or or email Errol Newlands for more information.
The 10th Maunga Cycle Challenge will be on November 15.  Online registrations will open on September 14 to save your slot. 

Friday, 11 September 2015

Matakana wine event a hit

Well Foundation team and the balloon arch created by Katrina Matich from Waitemata District Health Board.
(L-R): Andrew Young, Angela Vircavs, Carol Painter and Laura Stenberg.
Over 150 wine enthusiasts flocked to the stunning Ascension Wine Estate in Matakana, NZ on May 9 for the Rotary Club of Warkworth’s Raise A Glass Wine Tasting and Charity Auction.

The wine tasting gave attendees the opportunity to sample wines from more than 12 local wine growers before the exciting auction. 

Over 27 wine and non-wine action items went under the hammer on the night, giving bidders the chance to battle it out for “one of a kind” or “last ever” bottles of wine and special experiences. 

Top selling items on the night included a catered excursion on the Mahurangi River for up to 50 people which went for $2,650 and three bottles of 2010 Larose from Stonyridge Vineyard that sold for $1,050.
Warkworth Rotary Club then president Robin Dixon says the team was thrilled with the event which would not have been possible without the support of the local community. 

“From our generous sponsors, Withers & Co, Webster Malcolm Law and New World Warkworth, to all of the wineries and organisations that donated fantastic auction items or came to sample wine at the event, we are incredibly grateful,” says Robin. “We were so pleased to have so many people get behind the event and help make it a success with great money raised for our charity recipient.”

The event raised a much appreciated $10,000 for the Well Foundation, which is the official fundraising body of Waitemata District Health Board which operates North Shore and Waitakere hospitals and health services for Auckland’s North, West and Rodney communities
The foundation will put the money towards a new $195,000 mobile health clinic which will visit early childhood centres, schools, community events, and many other communal areas within the Waitemata district right out to Kaukapakapa and Helensville. 

The mobile clinic is focused on doing ear checks, general health check-ups, throat swabbing as part of the Rheumatic Fever Prevention Programme, and providing instant treatment where possible. Without this mobile service, many would miss out on getting the health care they need, often only ending up in hospital when their problem develops into something more serious.
Raise A Glass will return next year in May, and with the organising committee already focused on planning, it promises to be bigger and better in 2016.
To be the first to know when tickets go on sale and keep up with new announcements, like the Facebook page at

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Humanitarian trip to Cambodia

At Grace House Dental Clinic in Cambodia.
Five Rotarians from the Rotary Club of Balclutha, NZ flew to Cambodia to work in the slums of Phnom Penh in September 2014. They worked with the One-2-One Charitable Trust that provides medical, dental care and schooling to the vulnerable and destitute families in slum areas.         
Money for the club’s first international aid mission was raised via a $2000 District Grant from 9980, their Rotary Club of Balclutha’s $10,000 donation, other local donations and the group’s personal givings.         
The humanitarian travellers included dental surgeon David Tait, paramedic Stuart Holgate, intensive care nurse Ngaire Pannett, plus Peter Buxton and Joan Hasler teaching English in the save our students (SOS) drop-in centre schools.             
The group lived with sponsored students in Grace House which is owned by the One-2-One Charitable Trust. The dental clinic is part of Grace House, so this is where David worked alongside dental students. Orphanages and schools from around the city would bring the child patients, including those with HIV, for dental work.            
Each day Stuart and Ngaire would venture into the slums with Cambodian nurse and interpreter Linda Bahn who originated from a slum and had then been sponsored through schooling and nursing school. She knew all of the people living in the slums, including those needing medical attention, water or food. Each day they visited the slums where they gave out shoes and clothing they had brought at the markets.        
The story that stole their hearts was a little boy called Diamond. He had HIV, as did his mother who was being treated. His little brother is thankfully free of the disease. His father was in jail. Diamond had been put into the HIV Clinic but he had run home. That little boy clung onto Stuart not wanting him to leave and his mother hugged Ngaire in desperation for her little boy. Finally the family were taken into the clinic where Diamond is now doing fine and going to school.               
Peter and Joan spent time teaching English and interacting at the SOS schools. There is a sponsored teacher who encourages the children to come to their little schools to get into the learning habit, so they can go to the public schools. Books and other school needs were given out.              
A day was spent out in the country with the One-2-One medical team. They were based in a sponsored Australian compound where they work with the country people, teaching them to stay and work the land, to stop them going to the cities for work, not getting it and ending up living in the slums. The medical team checked the people who came from far and wide for medical help. What surprised the group was the cleanliness of the people and their tiny shacks in amongst all the rubbish, filth and plastic bags that lay around. Some earned a little money for food and water from recycling cans, plastic bottles and cardboard. These people have nothing, but always give a smile and love a hug, and they are grateful for anything they receive.     
The group of Rotarians from Balclutha will cherish their Cambodian adventure forever. They could change very little, but every little bit helps, and it shows that we do care about these impoverished people.
The last three days the group bussed to Siem Reap to visit Ankor Wat. They flew home a very different group of five Rotarians who experienced “one smile at a time and one life at a time” does make a difference.  

Sunday, 6 September 2015

A Rotarian in all but name? Becoming a Rotarian did make a difference.

When I am ask how I joined Rotary I answer: ”unwillingly!”. I was told by a friend to assist him in doing a slide show presentation on the project of the Beautification of Luganville (Espiritu Santo). I came to assist my friend by passing the slides in his old slide projector, he was doing his talk presentation to Santo Rotary Club. 

I was amazed when I realised that all the members of what I took for a semi-clandestine society were good friends of mine or people I knew for years and who never mentioned to me they were Rotarians. At the end of the presentation I was proposed to stay and assist to the meeting, few weeks later I was inducted.

Nothing was new to me as I had been doing Rotary work unknowingly when I was assisting communities in setting up rain catchments or repairing Aid posts or classrooms using funding from French Embassy. 

My connection with Aid Donors and Volunteers networks became an asset when few years later I was told at 11.30am to prepare a project worth Euros 40,000 by 1.30pm. I used my lunch time giving some phone calls and getting quotes to prepare a draft project of providing rainwater catchment to remote communities. I started with a list of 80 tanks mainly needed for communities in the Shefa Province. 

The project was approved and while I turned the draft into a formal application I recalled David Hutchinson, Director of Communities Services, telling me through RAM (Rotary Against malaria) I can get you 50cents to one dollar. By Magic the €40,000 where joined by NZ$40,000 as at that time the rate was 1€ to 2NZ$. 

Finally the 80 tanks became 131 tanks and the Islands of Malekula, Epi, Malo, Santo, Ambae were added to the Shefa Islands. In five months, with help of Volunteers based is all these islands we gave more water tanks than in the ten previous Rotary years. 

All it took, few hours of my time and few dedicated friends to make a better world for hundreds of people.