Guest blog post by Richard Blackman

How long were you a member of Rotaract?

10 years from 1978 until 1988.

My Father was a member of the sponsoring Rotary club and when I started in Rotaract, I introduced myself to Rotarians (particularly in the preparations for Interota ’87) as the son of Rotarian Bill Blackman. By the time I left Rotaract he was introducing himself as the Father of Rotaractor Richard Blackman.

Which club(s) were you a member of?

I was a founder member of Dover Rotaract and remained a member until I left at the old age of 29 (the age group for Rotaract was then for 18-28)

Which 5 words would you use to describe Rotaract?

Life changing

Philanthropic

Educational

Fun

What did you enjoy about being a member of Rotaract?

I have many happy memories of my time in Rotaract during which:

  1. I was able to help those less fortunate than myself
  2. I made many new friends and met many people from different parts of the world that I wouldn’t otherwise have met
  3. Participated in activities that I wouldn’t have been able to do on my own
  4. I was able to develop my leadership and organisational skills and life skills generally which has helped me in my business and professional life and in other organisations to which I have, and still, belong.
Speaking at Interota in 1987

Speaking at Interota in 1987

What type of activities did your club get involved in?

We did many of the usual activities such as gardening, painting and decorating, visiting the elderly, running a stall at the hospital fete, helping local groups, and helping our sponsoring Rotary club.

Due to our geographical location we were able to assist moving handicapped travellers en route to Lourdes from the train station at Dover Western docks on board cross channel ships prior to sailing.

We also assisted with the organisation for a group of Dutch Rotaractors to cycle.. (yes cycle!) across the English channel

Cycling across the channel in 1987!

Cycling across the Channel in 1987!

We were very active is supporting local Rotaract clubs, there were 32 clubs in District 112 (as it was then) covering Kent, East Sussex and South East London and there was always plenty going on around the District with music quizzes (we had a couple of DJ’s in our club), camping rallies, silly sports days (welly throwing, pram racing and many other strange things!). Part of the enjoyment of Rotaract is just meeting new people and making new friends.

Most club activities started or ended at a local hostelry, when we weren’t going out we would often congregate in the hostelry which became, for many of us, our refuge. The current Rotaract club now meets there.

In the bar :)

In the bar 🙂

What were your highlights as a Rotaractor?

  •  Being elected to various positions of responsibility such as Club President & District Chairman
  • Participating in a National publicity event by pulling Concord at RAF Duxford with over 1,000 other Rotaractors from around the country. That generated quite a lot of media coverage and interest.
Pulling Concord!

Pulling Concord!

  • Attending the RI Convention in 1984 at Birmingham NEC as part of Fellowship ’84 which was a pre runner for the annual Rotaract Pre Convention meeting
  • Attending 7 Multi District Conferences, and joining the wide awake club 3 times. (that’s attending the Sunday morning Conference session in formal attire without having gone to bed following the previous evenings Dinner)
  • Being involved in multi District meetings which resulted in the establishment of RGBI
  • Being Vice Chairman of Interota ‘87
  • Being responsible for arranging the attendance of RI President Chuck Keller (the first RI President to attend an Interota conference) at Interota ’87
  • Being one of 3 Rotaractors worldwide, on the inaugural RI Rotaract committee. I met up with one of the others in May this year and we will meet again at the RI Convention in Sydney.
  • Meeting so many wonderful people and making lifelong friendships and particularly meeting my wife, who was, at the time that we met, a member of Sevenoaks Rotaract.
Fellowship '84

Fellowship ’84

When I left Rotaract in 1988 there were 36 Rotaract clubs in my District. When I joined Rotary in 2008, there was just 1 club. Since then I have been appointed District Rotaract Chairman (the Rotarian responsible for Rotaract in my District) we currently have 3 chartered Rotaract clubs and anticipate chartering another one in the next couple of months, and I am currently serving a second year on the RIBI Rotaract committee.

There are many Rotarians throughout Rotary International in Great Britain & Ireland (RIBI) who, like me, were Rotaractors and who:

  • benefited greatly from our time in Rotaract
  • hold an enthusiasm and belief in Rotaract
  • are convinced that Rotaract has a massive potential benefit to the Rotary family and for the local, national and international communities

My vision is for there to be a Rotaract club in every town, city and University throughout RIBI to enable young people to experience the fulfillment of service and the fellowship that I and others have enjoyed through Rotaract.

Wow. 6 months into the Rotaract year and I can honestly say that I’ve been thoroughly exhausted by the demands of the position as Chairman. Some incredible highs have been followed by some steep “learning curves”. As far as a leadership journey, I’ve learnt far more than I could’ve ever imagined, and I know exactly what I would do differently if I have a similar chance again. Luckily within these last 6-12 months some significant forward strides have been taken but being ambitious, we’ve still got a lot to do with the remaining 6 months and beyond too!

From the point I first got actively involved with Rotaract in Great Britain & Ireland (RGBI), I said to myself (and a few close friends) that I’ll treat it as a 3 year project, and if I didn’t see us turning around the corner, growing, and supported by Rotary, then I’d walk away. That was August 2011 and the scale of the challenge was daunting. We decided to be honest when looking at the challenges knowing otherwise we’d never overcome them. We are certainly now moving in the right direction and that was highlighted with our recent national conference. I’d still like to see a more pragmatic approach, but I think that is a mind-set that is being overcome with time. Importantly the desire is there and I see it happening now throughout Rotary from all of its members.

I remember the 28th April 2012 very clearly for a number of reasons as it was at a Rotary district assembly where I first heard (now Rotary International in Great Britain & Ireland (RIBI) President Nominee) Peter Davey talk about the need to put the right foundations in place today for the growth of future years. A proactive approach. We’ve recently seen massive growth in our youth programmes and competitions so much so we now know we have to get it right in RGBI to benefit from when these individuals become young adults at 18. We’ve learnt that many don’t want to leave us, but jumping to Rotary membership can be impractical. We might then keep some for the next 12 years, some might only need 6, but the second part of the challenge is to make sure they join Rotary when they feel ready for it, partially by lowering some of the barriers that make it hard to do so currently.

So now we’re working on getting RGBI right. We’ve had our first national conference in 4 years and we’ve got support from Rotary in a way that I’ve never seen it before. A positive way! The challenge is always firstly to balance the commitments against the day job, but secondly to make it easier to create the clubs where they don’t currently exist. To do this, we need to take down some of our own barriers. We need to work together and we need to understand the end game. Those will be part of our foundations and 2014 offers us a fresh start to do this.

Join me and our team in making this happen. Be a part of the change, and maybe consider throwing some of the old ways of doing things out the window. My one key goal for the next 6 months is to create a long term strategy for Rotaract, linking us with others throughout Rotary. It’s not my strategy though, and that’s where I need you! In the next 3 weeks a clear timetable will be set out and I’ll be asking again for you to get involved through webinars, online discussions or any means suitable. In the meantime I’m always contactable through james@rotaract.org.uk.

The ultimate goal? Let’s increase awareness and make the public understand that Rotaract (and Rotary) is a fantastic organisation, with a modern outlook, which creates so much positive community change that the question is “why aren’t you a part of it?”

2014. A fresh start. Happy New Year!

James Lovatt
2013/14 RGBI Chairman

If you are one proud Rotaractor and the growth of Rotaract is important to you, please read further!

The RGBI Chairman is looking for the following team members to join the Executive team to coordinate Rotaract in Great Britain and Ireland in 2014/15:

Chair Nominee. We are looking for a Rotaractor who could inspire and lead the RGBI Executive team in 2015/16. If you are confident and could be professional and responsive to move the program further, be willing to travel and represent Rotaractors across the Isles, please get in touch.

Treasurer. If you have a background in accountancy including budgeting/forecasting and have attention to detail, please apply for the Treasurer’s position.

Administrator. This is a great role if you are still new to Rotaract and want to learn more about the RGBI and how it operates. Key responsibility is to take minutes in RGBI Council meetings and circulate information across the teams.

Publicity Officer. Since PR and media is key to Rotaract, this role is for someone who is keen in writing articles, can approach the press and promote Rotaract online, including blogs and social media.

Internet Officer. Key role is to maintain RGBI website.

International Officer. Candidate will be expected to travel overseas and attend ERIC (European Rotaract Information Centre) meetings; have an interest in networking and building professional relationships across the borders and bringing international projects to Great Britain & Ireland. Preferably native English speaker as a regular contribution towards the ERIC Newsletter and proof-reading will be needed.

Community Officer. Candidate would be expected to organise World Rotaract Week, encourage clubs to organise Community service projects and share their activities with other clubs. Also promote entries to the Annual RGBI awards.

Membership (and New Generations) Officer. Candidate will be expected to promote membership into Rotaract clubs, help Rotary form new clubs and provide support to the clubs on how to attract and maintain membership levels. It also includes liaising with RYLA, RotaKids, Interact and the RIBI (Rotary International in Great Britain & Ireland) Youth Services committee.

If you would like to apply for any of the above roles, please send a short profile about yourself (including your mobile number) to grazina@rotaract.org.uk by the 15th of January 2014.

If you would like to get involved in RGBI but without specifying a position, please email Grazina ASAP and depending on your skills we might find a role suitable for you!

About RGBI:
Rotaract in Great Britain and Ireland is a Multi-District Information Organisation that acts as a driving force in enhancing communication and promoting Rotaract awareness and growth across Great Britain, Ireland, the Channel Islands and Isle of Man.

The key RGBI role is to disseminate Information around all 29-member Rotary districts (from 1010 to 1290).

The RGBI Executive committee is headed by a Chairman and comprised of Treasurer, Administrator, Community Officer, Membership Officer, Publicity, and International officer (also ERIC representative), Chairman elect & Past Chairman.

Being elected to the Executive board is a challenging and highly rewarding role, allowing you to meet other Rotaractors & Rotarians across the country and globally, realising the ideas you have and helping the growth of Rotaract in Great Britain and Ireland. The RGBI Executive & Council meet at least 4 times a year in different parts of the country.

We would like to thank everyone who has supported Rotaract this year, we really appreciate it!

Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year.  See you in 2014!

Rotary Voices

By Bruce Templeton, a member of the Rotary Club of St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada (Editor’s note: this post first published 10 May, 2013.)

While I know that RI President Ron Burton’s theme is “Engage Rotary: Change Lives,” I would like to add the thought that we can multiply the dollars we raise engaging Rotary before we turn them over to those who change lives.

I live in St. John’s Newfoundland, Canada. I am a Rotarian but also a good friend of Santa Claus and he and I have travelled together for 34 years.

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