One question that I am being asked is “what next for the Immediate Past President of Rotary in Great Britain and Ireland?”
Well on March 2nd I spent the morning at a Club President training day with Rotary in Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire, sharing my passion for getting polio eradicated.
From July 1st I will be the District Polio champion. So yes, there is life after being President and its coloured purple!
On March 4th I was at the House of Commons for the launch of the Indus Peace Park Project.
Some might say an outrageous statement of intent, but a greatly needed one as the Peace Park seeks to heal the divisions that came about during and after partition in India.
Led in the UK by Rotarian Tony Sharma (Governor Elect for Rotary in London – a Hindu) and Rotarian Mo Ayyaz (Newham Rotary Club – a Muslim).
It was encouraging to hear about other peace parks and to share Rotary’s vision of a more peace-filled world built on our work that brings peace to communities through our many projects.
The next day I ‘crossed the house’ to the Lords and attended a reception held by PTSD Resolution; a group of people who use a unique method of talking therapy to help those living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, many of them former servicemen and women.
It was interesting to hear form a former soldier and hear also from his wife as they faced the challenges together.
I learnt about how Rotary members can be taught to help their each other with hearing problems through the Hearing Ambassadors project at the a Rotary in the East Midlands council meeting.
Led by a Rotarian who suffered sudden hearing loss, it was both a humours and poignant story that made sure every speaker used the microphone correctly!
It was then off to Plymouth for the Rotary in the South West Conference, led by Graham Carey.
A fascinating array of speakers and some excellent Rotary projects on show. Great to hear from a ShelterBox volunteer about her deployment and the impact ShelterBox had on the community and her!
Then there was the speaker from Cornwall, Emily Stevenson who heads up Beach Guardian, which is fighting to get rid of plastic in our oceans.
Emily has not long completed her studies and is seeking a career in the field of ecology and conservation.
The team had looked at needs in their community and support not just one or two initiatives but eight!”
It was also the place of another connection. “You won’t remember me but I remember you” said a lady at the drinks reception on the Saturday evening.
She went to tell me that her name was Angela and that we meet in Cardiff eight years ago when I taught her on the Chaplaincy Course.
She is a chaplain at Torbay Hospital and married to the President of Paignton Rotary Club, so on 14th March we went to their lunchtime meeting.
We stayed down in the south west in Torquay, because the next weekend saw us at Rotary Midlands and South West. Once again a fascinating array of speakers and some excellent entertainment with some memorable table decorations too.
A speaker that stood out for me was Professor Owen Greene talking about the Rotary Peace Scholar Programme at Bradford University.
He is passionate about what Rotary does in the world through its scholarship programmes.
On our quick visit home we were able to join Rotarians and friends from Beds, Bucks and Herts for the presentation of a fibroscan, which will be used to assess patients with liver disease without painful invasive procedures.
A brave Rotarian allow the equipment to be demonstrated – a risk I thought, as we had just been told of some of the risk factors for liver disease – alcohol and fatty foods like chips and roast potatoes, but all was well and the Rotarian and his liver were pronounced to have very good health!
The next day we were in Swanage for the Rotary Club of Swanage and Purbeck’s 60th Charter.
Great to meet up former colleague Mary Pike, who I spent a year alongside as District Governor in 2012/13. Here’s to the next 60 years of service.
From there up to Darlington (via home for a couple of nights!) to meet with the Interact Team of Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College and their teacher Nancy Wall.
The team had looked at needs in their community and support not just one or two initiatives but eight!
The Interact club supported the charity Postal Pals, which send cards to children with life limiting illnesses.
Having obtained a sponsor Flamingo Paperie, the students coordinated the sending of 1124 Christmas cards.
Then they worked with two food banks, sang carols in a care home, served Christmas lunch and had a ‘sleep out’ to raise funds and awareness of issues surrounding homelessness.
The College and the Rotary Club of Darlington are proud of the Interactors achievements and the difference they made in so many lives over Christmas, and to try and keep them engaged in the Rotary family with President Elect Sue is hoping to enrol them in an e-Rotaract club!
It was a short drive then to Grange over Sands for Rotary Cumbria and Lancashire Conference.
While in Rotary we do so much we could achieve so much more if we too had the strategic approach to our project work.”
And what a party it was from Eddie the Eagle as guest speaker on Friday evening to dinner and dancing on Saturday night with the room bedecked with ShelterBoxes inflatable lights.
Again an excellent array of speakers that motivated and inspired and reminded me that it doesn’t matter where you start off in life it’s where you get to that matters as exemplified by Rachel Holliday.
Rachel is the Chief Executive of Calderwood House in Egremont which supports homeless Ex-service personnel often with mental health issues.
Her personal journey is as inspiring as the work she leads and demonstrated that with determination you can ‘reach the impossible dream’.
On March 27th I was in Manchester to meet Hope for Justice, an organisation that exists to bring an end to modern slavery by preventing exploitation, rescuing victims, restoring lives and reforming society.
It was with real interest I heard of their work from Tim Nelson.
Their approach to dealing with issues of modern slavery from a strategic view point staggered me and made me realise that while in Rotary we do so much we could achieve so much more if we too had the strategic approach to our project work.
I was also reminded that every element of our work is linked to theirs as we both seek to build communities were individuals are free to make lasting change in their own lives and those around them, be that by clean water projects, education, disease prevention, community development and peace initiatives.
All these create an environment where exploitation is less likely to happen.
Hope for Justice gets to the heart of the supply chain, be that bonded child labour in brick kilns or sexual exploitation, and seeks to release individuals through a series of safe houses and schools, eventually reuniting exploited individuals with their families.
From there it was on to the Rotary North West of England council meeting to share in success from the last Rotary year with the presentation of the Rotary Citation to three clubs, along with hearing about innovation in Public image from Phil Dyer and Irene Russell.
And so to the last day of the month and I am in Evanston, USA home of Rotary One Centre, the home of Rotary International, to see where it all emanates from, to meet some of the key staff and to learn more about our amazing organisation.
More of what I learnt next month!