I joined Rotary nearly 23 years ago (in 1990) a relatively young man approaching 30, courtesy of my then Immediate boss Rotarian David White who is still an active member of the RC of Karen. Like the many new members inducted in Rotary, I knew little about it but I quickly made my mark by serving diligently in many committees, I became treasurer in my third year and chaired many committees as time went by. 11 years later I was nominated Club President.
While the weekly Rotary meeting provided me with the opportunity to learn and network, it was perhaps my participation in committees and project visits that gave me the true Rotary perspective. A Rotary club without functional committees and without projects is hollow. A Rotarian who does not experience Rotary at committee level, no matter how regular they are at weekly meetings will never understand and appreciate rotary. I know many Rotarians who have been members of Rotary clubs for decades but they are not Rotarians as such. There is a difference between a Rotarian and a member of a Rotary club and to know this difference is enlightenment. Indeed I know many Rotarians who have been in rotary two years and know more rotary than those who have been in it much longer. You can choose to be a RHINO (Rotarian in name only) or a RIA (Rotarian in Action).
Why then am I a Rotarian
Rotary has taught me love- through rotary I have served the needy practically. Love for humanity became more real to me. Attending project visit like I did last Sunday with Kampala north in Busoga District to me is the high water mark of rotary. It soothes my heart and grows my love for humanity when I see us touching lives.
Rotary taught me to give- of myself- my time and my resources with great benefit. Some of you know the work we do with my wife in enabling bright, needy and deserving Kenyan youth access quality education. The inspiration was provided by Rotary. I doubt we would have ever started the Palmhouse Foundation were it not for the experiences in Rotary.
Rotary has taught me discipline- Rotary is the one place I learnt to respect time. Those of you who may have read the DGs maiden Newsletter issue this month or my groundbreaking talk on Personal Branding talk in 2007 will know how much I preach the gospel of respecting time. The discipline of keeping time at the International conferences and our club meetings has permeated my life with great gain. The number of things I juggle in my life would otherwise not be possible.
Rotary has helped distill my conscience even more. I try to live the universal religion contained in our four-way test. Seeking to live in truth, fairness, justice, and mutual benefit. Through my endeavor to live the four way-tests and pursue the objects of Rotary, I continue to enhance my moral and ethical compass.
Rotary has enabled me to see and live in the abundance paradigm. Many people ask how and why I would spend so much time and resources pro bono doing things that do not benefit me directly while I could very well spend time earning more or purely enjoying myself. Having met great Rotarians, some with much more wealth than all of us combined and yet men and women of great humility in serving mankind has clarified in my mind the abundance of life.
Rotary has opened the world to me- I have traveled much of the world courtesy of Rotary. In the last decade have attended 8 RI conferences in Barcelona Spain, Brisbane Australia, Birmingham England, Montreal Canada, LA, Salt Lake City, Chicago and lately New Orleans in the USA! I have even diarized to attend Bangkok Thailand, Lisbon Portugal and Brazil for the next three years! The amount of Rotary knowledge gathered and the level of Rotary inspiration received in District and RI conventions are second to none! The networks of friendship I have created through Rotary all over the world would never have been otherwise possible. Just last month we were hosted by a Rotary couple reciprocating our hospitality in Bahamas for week!
Rotary has given me a doctorate (PHD) in world affairs- I have no hesitation to say to anyone that in my last decade in what I call the “University of Life”, Rotary has given me a PHD quality education in world affairs. I have come across many speakers at club and international level who have influenced my life greatly for the good. One of my most admired writers Stephen Covey; himself a Rotarian from Salt Lake spoke at a conference that changed my mind set. I have had opportunity to sit and listen to the likes of Bill Gates and other people who shape the world courtesy of Rotary!
Rotary has helped to entrench the value of family in my life- Rotary is family centered organization. Indeed it is at the very core of President Kalyan’s this year’s theme of Reach within to Embrace Humanity. My family loves Rotary because it has given them opportunity to see, learn and know the world.
I could tell you stories of my children and the way Rotary has changed their destinies for the better.
Rotary has brought my way great business, career and social opportunities- Those who join Rotary with the sole motive of gaining the networks for these reasons only fail miserably in this pursuit and do not last in Rotary. However, those who join Rotary for the sake of being good Rotarians will without doubt meet networking, business and career opportunities in the cause of Rotary. I can tell stories of huge contracts landed in my hands just because I was a good Rotarian.
Rotary brought diversity in my life- before I joined Rotary; I spent much of my time with my peers who unfortunately were more likely than not people from my tribe, my social setting, my age group and most likely who think at the same level as me! At my tender youthful age, I share a table and debate in my Rotary club with 91 year old Rotarian RL Sharma a Hindu disciple, a slightly younger Moslem Sultan Lalji and 28 year old Christian Josephine Kamanthe! These Rotarians profess different religious beliefs, and are from diverse backgrounds. This to me is diversity that spices the lives of Rotarians. Where else can I sit with the Minister of State or the Governor of Central Bank in Uganda and refer to them simply as my fellow Rotarians?
As I conclude one may ask and what have I given Rotary in return?
I have given rotary my time and I commit to give it much more time into the future because I have chosen this rewarding way of life. We have committed our whole year this year to serve as your District Governor at great personal financial cost and many “seemingly” lost opportunities. When I grow up in Rotary, I want to be like PDG Sam Awori and Tusu- serving beyond my governorship. I know no better way to retire from active work than to become an even better Rotarian!
I have given Rotary my financial resources. I began as a Paul Harris Fellow at US 1000 ten years ago. I later on my wife with an additional contribution of $ 1000 and followed thereafter with honoring my 3 children with 1000 $ each. Not long ago we gave $ 5000 and are now recognized as major donors at 10,000/=. I know for a fact that soon we will give another 10,000/=!
Many people may wonder why a reasonable man like me and many of us Rotarians would spend our valuable time and resources at no pay at all and at huge personal and financial cost to serve rotary.
I think the answer lies in the search for life’s meaning that has eluded man for many years. I read Victor Frankl’s book “The Search for Meaning” and I gathered that life’s meaning lies in serving others.
Allow me to conclude with a popular quotation:
I sought my God and God I could not find
I sought my Soul and my Soul eluded me
I sought my brother to serve him in his need, and I found all three- my God myself
For He profits most, he that serves.