Click on an image to go to each Rotarian's personal story.
Norman President 2014 - 15 Joined Rotary: 2002
What do I get from Rotary?
Satisfaction out of contributing towards something worthwhile, particularly when it’s practical, hands on. We give support to young carers by providing well earned down time from their responsibilities as carers, play time you might say. This is done through Crossroads, the organisation for young carers and in all honesty I think their volunteers and we Rotarians get nearly as much pleasure as they do.
On this occasion there was one lad who wasn’t sure about this but by the end of the morning he was ready to jump in along with fellow carers.
We recently organised a male voice choir concert in All Saints Church Maidstone in aid of Demelza Children’s Hospice, Heart of Kent Hospice and other local good causes. It was a great evening with good club participation on the night, checking tickets, selling programmes and refreshments and generally meeting the public who had kindly supported us by buying tickets. The Mayor, Councillor Clive English came along as did the Chief Constable, Ian Learmonth, and our own Rotary District 1120 Governor Chris Barnett and their wives. It was a great evening enjoyed by all, perhaps especially our President Mike who appears here being serenaded by one of the soloists, Michelle Harris.
But it’s not all work and we certainly enjoy ourselves whether working or not.....
This is me at one of those times!
Press & Publicity
Joined Rotary: 1990
What Rotary Means to Me.
Why did I join a Rotary Club? Probably because I am inclined to be a little selfish. Strange answer? Let me explain.
I love doing things that are out of the ordinary, provide me with excitement and are rewarding. Belonging to a Rotary club, especially ours, The Rotary Club of Maidstone Riverside, does just that.
When I was in the fire service many years ago, one of the things I enjoyed the most was taking part in adventures when off duty. I enjoyed the company of my friends and colleagues and together we organised and took part in all sorts of wonderful events. Over the years I swam the Channel, ran from John O’Groats to Lands End and even played a volley ball match on the summit of Ben Nevis in a snow storm. I even organised a world record attempt on sliding down a pole during a Telethon. So I gained a lot of personal enjoyment, wide publicity and therefore, I suppose, it might seem very selfish on my part, but I wouldn’t have changed it for anything. However, the spin off was that with each event we raised tens of thousands of pounds for a wide range of charities both locally and abroad, that was also very satisfying.
When early retirement from that rewarding career arrived, I found myself at a bit of a loss wondering where the next adventure would come from. By chance I found myself arranging a lorry load of clothes to take to Romania for the street kids. However, it was a struggle on my own to get help with funding, customs clearance etc. A friend of mine belonged to the Maidstone Round Table Club and they kindly funded the project, which allowed me and my wife Sue and the Round Table President, to go and work for a short time in Romania with the youngsters on the streets.
At about that time I had been invited to become a founder member of the newly formed Rotary Club, to which I still belong some 24 years later. All of a sudden I realised that this great worldwide family of Rotary was a platform for all the fun and excitement that I could ever wish for. This has taken me to adventures abroad and seen places I would probably never have gone to on holiday. For example, our club had funded the building of a school high in the Nepalese Himalaya. Sue and I went to open the school as the club’s ambassadors and had the time of our lives meeting and living with these wonderful people. I even had the chance to go back to Romania to work with the disabled. This led to me becoming active with a Maidstone based charity which our Rotary club supports giving help to the very poor and disabled in Romania. Through these connections I now run a local swimming club for the disabled here in Maidstone, again supported by our club.
Most recently some of us from our club joined hundreds of other Rotarians from around the world in India. There we administered vaccine to children as part of the final drive to eliminate polio in that vast country. This is a major Rotary International project and we were proud to play a very small part in such a massive programme. Such international visits are of course, personally funded but with the assistance of Rotarians in those countries, holiday itineraries are often provided. Would I have ever gone white water rafting in the Himalayas, tiger spotting on an elephant trek or visited the Taj Mahal, if it wasn’t for Rotary? Probably not.
There are 32,000 Rotary Clubs in the world in almost every country. Our members’ holidays and visits abroad are often punctuated with visits to clubs in other countries and in return Rotarians from abroad visit us. Our club has for many years twinned with a club in Holland. Every year we meet up and many of us have formed long lasting friendships with these Rotarians and their families.
I have focussed on the international aspect of Rotary but of course, much of our work is based on our doorstep here in Maidstone. We are proud to be associated and able to help local charities and have a great time every year in charge of ticket sales and manning the gates at the County Show. The club is paid for our efforts but we all do the work voluntarily and the proceeds go to our charities chosen for the year.
So what has Rotary meant for me? It has enabled a lifestyle of fun, excitement and reward. I am a pensioner now, but with Rotary I will never be bored or at a loss for anything to do.
I’ve been tremendously fortunate throughout my working life in being able to travel widely around the world whilst someone else has been paying for my travel expenses! It has taken me to places far and wide and to experience and understand different cultures. I’ve also had the opportunity to live and work in both Zambia and Nigeria for some 6 years. It was that experience, seeing cases of real poverty unimaginable in developed countries like the UK, coupled with meeting some of the happiest, hard working and honest people you could ever wish to meet that made me realise a) how lucky I am and b) that I would do as much as I could to help those less fortunate than myself to improve their own situation.
My life in service organisations dates back to my time in Africa when I joined Round Table and then – when I became too old to continue in that organisation, I joined Rotary International in Maidstone – and I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed every minute of it!
What does Rotary mean to me?
What membership of any other organisation would enable you to walk into a coffee shop in Williams, Arizona, see the Rotary banner on the wall, and within 5 minutes having a chat with the President of the local Rotary club just like old friends!
What other organisation would enable you to fly 5000 miles to visit a school for orphan children whose parents had died of AIDS/HIV in Zambia to present a plaque – and to be greeted by the same children singing and dancing in delight at the gift we had brought them – I defy anyone not to moved by that sight!
Where else could you participate in fundraising projects as part of a worldwide group of like-minded men and women all committed to eradicating the curse of Polio and feel the sense of togetherness in striving to achieve that goal!
Rotary to me is simply a case of giving others less fortunate than myself a chance not only to improve their own personal circumstances but to enable them to reach their own personal goals and perhaps experience just one or two of the amazing sights I have had the opportunity to see and experience in my lifetime. Not only that but to have fun doing it at the same time!
I wouldn’t have missed that opportunity for anything – thank you Rotary International!
Joined Maidstone Riverside 2012
Previous Club Chatham
What Rotary Means to Me
I first became involved with the 'family of Rotary' in 1978 when I became founder President of Chatham Rotaract club. This shaped my life from that point on as it is where I first met my wife-to-be, Sonia, and the rest (as they say) is history. Rotaract is (as you will have seen if you clicked on the link above) a young person's version of Rotary for the 18 - 30 age group. Rotaract helped me to continue Community Service projects similar to those I had progressed at University, as well as giving me a new and very active social circle.
After a break when Sonia and I raised a family I was invited to join Chatham Rotary club in 2000. At a club meeting we had a talk about a project to raise funds for and build an extension at a clinic in Sierra Leone. To cut a long story short Sonia and I made two trips to Sierra Leone in 2006. The later visit coincided with the opening of the new extension. The scale of the poverty and need in Sierra Leone (and other West African countries) is almost impossible to comprehend. At that time Sierra Leone having recently been torn apart by a lengthy civil war. The visits firmly cemented Sierra Leone in our hearts and we personally supported several other projects, mainly in education, with additions to existing schools and building new schools. We also vowed to return for a longer visit.
Skip forward 4 years and the circumstances were right for us to volunteer our services at the clinic in Sierra Leone for 6 months. Not, I hasten to add, in medical fields, but in finance, IT amd administration. During this time we got to know many of the locals. Despite them having so little the locals are remarkably optimistic about the future and incredibly grateful for any and all support given to help improve their country. The children are amazing and love having their picture taken. The 6 months made such an impression on us that a few months after returning home we went out again, for another 3 months.
And that is still not the end of the story. Riverside Rotary, together with individual donations from ourselves and other club members, has recently supported a project to build a sanitary block at a school 36 miles inland from Freetown. Sonia and I plan to visit Sierra Leone again in 2018 and hope to bring back pictures and personal feedback on the completion of this project.
Ok, so this has turned into a bit of a mission about Sierra Leone. However I make no apologies for this. Without Rotary we would never have got involved, and not had the opportunity to make a difference and have incredible first-hand experiences. In addition to the fellowship of Riverside and Chatham members I have also visited other Rotary Clubs abroad, including Canada, Denmark, France, Sierra Leone (there are just 3 clubs in the whole country), Sweden, Switzerland and USA. As a Rotarian you are welcome to visit any club in the world and make new friends.
Riverside Rotarians are a friendly bunch. You can read in the News and Archive pages what we do. If you would like lile to find out more, or visit us at one of our meetings, check out the links at the top of ths page.
(Click thumbnails for a larger view).
President 2016 - 17
What Rotary means to me
I was first approached nearly 20 years ago to join Rotary. Before jumping in feet first I decided to look into this Global organisation. The first thing that excited me was the message of “Service Above Self”, which all Rotarians should work by, and I thought; here is an organisation that is interested in others less fortunate than themselves and not just interested in their own life. Secondly; the Rotary objectives/four way test also made very good sense to me:
Is it the truth?
Is it fair to all concerned?
Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
Both the above have proved to work well for me and why wouldn’t everyone work by the same standards.
So I took the plunge some 20 years ago and joined the Rotary Club of Burnham Beeches in Buckinghamshire, and before I knew it was involved with the organisation of large charity events – raising monies to support local and national charities. During this time I made friends with Rotarians and their families and built relationships with other local people. Without joining Rotary I am not sure this would have happened, having moved from another area in the UK.
I then moved back to Kent, and one of the first things on the move list was to find a local Rotary Club. Whilst attending a Rotary Youth Speaks competition (I was representing Rotary in Buckinghamshire) I meet with Rotarians from the Rotary Club of Maidstone Riverside – again I took the plunge.
Whilst a member of both clubs I soon realised how lucky I was that having worked in a global organisation, making use of my competencies gained across the world working for an oil company has proved to be invaluable when supporting charitable organisations with the development of their business process. This global aspect of Rotary seemed to make sense and in practice this has proved to be the case when supporting people in need not only locally and nationally, but globally as well.
Rotary has given me access to other organisations/charities where I can share my life experiences to help them become more effective with what they have to offer. It also gave me the opportunity, both in Buckinghamshire and more recently in Kent, to meet great people and better understand what drives the local community. Without being part of an organisation like Rotary this would not happen.
My family and I (Rotary is a family organisation) agreed it was time to give back something to the wider community, especially the young and education, and whilst our support has been in many areas that require help, the focus has been on youth development.
It has never been a drudge working within the Global Rotary organisation, and on a personal basis I have received just as much as I have put into it. Just as importantly it keeps me out of mischief!!
As you start to see the bigger picture you become more aware how you, your family, supported by Rotary can help local activities. For Margaret and me this has manifested itself with the organisation and support of Rotary Competitions, and over the last 4 or 5 years we have concentrated on Mature and Young Carers, aligned to Crossroads. It has been great fun for us, and hopefully the people and organisations we have helped.
I have met so many fantastic people, both in Rotary and outside Rotary, which would not have happened. It has made me a better person.