There is a saying in my mother tongue Agikuyu, loosely translated, which says: “For a bird to fly, it has to leave its nest or perch”.
Well, the meaning I derive from this old saying is that the world is our oyster, more so if you view and see the world through the eyes of Rotary.
The genesis of Rotary in my life would be much better told if I started from the beginning, how and when I came to see the world through the eyes of Rotary.
My road to joining Rotary was a natural progression, progression from what was familiar.
As human beings we tend to gravitate and accept the things and ideals that are familiar to us, ideals that are inculcated in us by our parents, society and community at large.
From an early age, there was a golden rule in our home that my parents dictated; well it was more of an incentive than anything but none the less it worked like a charm.
The rule was, “The more you gave the more you received” and so naturally my siblings and I would compete to outshine each other at giving and sharing, we had a chart tabulating the results and the winner always got rewarded handsomely at Christmas.
With time we outgrew the competition, but the value and willingness of giving was innate.
You would ask, how did I join Rotary then?
We experience our lives in phases, and there comes a time when you wake up one morning and all you want to do is leave a footprint in the sand; you start to question what it is you want to become.
I had just graduated from university in December 2015 and I was already working for one of the big four accounting firms as an assurance graduate trainee; life was good, but I was restless despite the long hours I worked.
Let’s blame my restlessness on the millennial bug, shall we? It bites!
Accounting and auditing on one hand were teaching me to fragment and compartmentalise.
My work allowed me the luxury to think systematically and for my mind to be fortified; and well don’t forget the most important part pay my bills. But I still needed more!
My restlessness emerged from the need to do more with my life and so naturally I gravitated towards what was familiar.
We experience our lives in phases, and there comes a time when you wake up one morning and all you want to do is leave a footprint in the sand; you start to question what it is you want to become.”
Rotary was familiar to me not only because of the giving competition I had with my siblings early on in life but also because of the many stories I had heard from my god-father, Rotarian Edward Wahome around the dinner table.
He always made Rotary sound like a larger than life organisation. He made Rotary sound “cool” and it is cool, but I only knew how cooler it was when I joined.
Rotarians are givers, Rotary is a group of diverse individuals from all walks of life whose main mission is service above self; it’s a group of individuals looking to a leave a footprint in the sand. To Rotarians, the music we hear and respond to is the one that makes a difference in our community.
Rotarians are givers, Rotary is a group of diverse individuals from all walks of life whose main mission is service above self.”
Armed with the perfect 2016 new year resolution, I joined the Rotaract club of Nairobi Central which is sponsored by the Rotary club of Nairobi as my age barred me from joining Rotary at the time.
Note to self; this is the only new year resolution that you have achieved all the others are work in progress.
Talk about a whole new world! That’s the only way I can express my Rotaract days, which I will call my Rotaract story.
On one hand, with the help of my Rotaract family, we conceptualised a group mentorship program whose aim was to enhance member skills and their value of membership.
Unlike Rotary whose main goal is to address the needs of the community, Rotaract’s goal is professional and leadership development of its members.
I got involved in the club organisation and affairs having served as the mentorship director, professional development and leadership director and finally as the club president before I crossed the Mediterranean Sea and sailed off to the Irish Sea.
My most memorable moments encompass being a panellist addressing the role of youth in Rotary at the District 9212; District Conference in 2017 and once again being a panellist at the Rotary Day at the United Nations in 2018 speaking on Innovation in Learning-Education Fast Forward.
On the other hand, my most humbling experiences came from being part of the conceptualisation, project execution and audience outreach of a literacy program our club initiated to eradicate illiteracy levels in borstal institutions in Kenya.
Heart-breaking stories of young children who had chosen the wrong path due to dire situations and circumstances in their lives opened my eyes to the realities of the needs in my community.
My most humbling experiences came from being part of the conceptualisation, project execution and audience outreach of a literacy program our club initiated to eradicate illiteracy levels in borstal institutions in Kenya.”
To me it became the realisation of the multiplier effect that Rotary has; on my own it would be an uphill battle, but with Rotary the uphill battle became a possibility, a reality – my reality of leaving a small footprint in the world with likeminded individuals whose motto was and is Service above self.
The more I got involved, the more I got hooked to Rotary, so I stuck with it.
A thousand miles away from home, where it all began…
“How do you feel breaking the glass ceiling at your club?”
I laughed heartily when one of my good friends so lovingly asked when I told them I was joining the Rotary club of Rushen & Western Mann.
The more I got involved, the more I got hooked to Rotary, so I stuck with it.”
Her question is valid as I am the only lady in my club currently. Don’t get me wrong though, women have been members of Rotary clubs around the globe for over three decades now since 1986 when the first woman was admitted to Rotary membership.
So, to answer my friends’ question I did not break any glass ceiling, the only thing I have done so far is change the demographic of my club and hopefully paved the way for many others to join.
Every year membership growth remains a key focus area for any club not just to an end in ensuring club continuity but also as a tool of change.
With new members comes new ideas and a fresh perspective for fellowship and how best we can address the needs of our community.
For decades Rotary relied on word of mouth to publicise its efforts and pique the interest of new members but times have changed and Rotarians are embracing social media to tell their stories.”
For decades Rotary relied on word of mouth to publicise its efforts and pique the interest of new members but times have changed and Rotarians are embracing social media to tell their stories, stories that change the community, stories that make a difference, stories of Rotarians being a gift to the world, stories of them leaving a footprint in the world.
Through the tireless efforts of Rotarians around the globe, we are so close to waking up to a polio-free world. In a world, where the word pandemic has become a harsh reality, waking up to a world that is less one virus is a step in the right direction and Rotarians are the very change agent ensuring we live to see a polio-free world.
The official motto of Rotary is service above self, but sometimes I think the unofficial motto in Rotary is friendship, fellowship and more to life because that’s what the family of Rotary brings to each one of us; the perspective on what’s really important and it shows us that individually and collectively we are the heart and soul of Rotary.
It the beauty of that preserve that draws people to Rotary and it is what keeps them here too.
It is in doing so, that we share with our communities and the world at large the very heart of who we are, Rotary!
And so, in not so many words, that’s my story on the corridors of service, “A bird that left its nest”.