Fly on the wall – Guest Blogger

Ron Duxbury was named as a Paul Harris Fellow at his club’s charter in 2007 and went on to become a District Governor in the Rotary year 2011-12

Ron is retired having spent a lifetime in financial services with NatWest, Britannic Assurance, Abbey National and Standard Life.

He joined the Rotary Club of Barrow-in-Furness in 1992 and took part in a variety of club activities and eventually became club secretary, a post he really enjoyed.

Ron became District Governor of D1190 (Cumbria and Lancashire) in 2011-12, a roll he threw himself into with enthusiasm. “Even though I was DG I was no different to any other Rotarian” says Ron “we all do great work in our own way to help others.”Asked what he gets out of Rotary he says it’s the fun, fellowship and banter at his club. “Unfortunately there are fewer of us now, and it’s a situation we have to acknowledge and resolve if we can, but it’s not going to be easy.”

Take a look at Ron’s hypothetical ‘water-cooler’ chat following a modern-day businessman’s visit to give a presentation to his local Rotary Club. Or, as he asks…is it hypothetical?

It’s life Jim, but not as we know it

Picture the scene: – it’s 2.30 in the afternoon and Jim has just returned to his office. He bumps into Alan.

“Hey Jim – what’s with the tie?  Bit overdressed aren’t you?”

“Hi Alan – just got back from making a presentation to the Rotary club and they all wear collars and ties.”

“That’s a bit much in these days ​isn’t it Jim? Even our MD doesn’t wear a tie any more unless he’s meeting the big wigs of course.”

“Well Alan it seems to be a bit of a tradition in some of the clubs according to the president. He was telling me that some of the members had tried to change the dress code to something a little bit more relaxed but still smart but it was voted down.”

“So how did the presentation go?”

“Pretty well I think  Alan – only two of them fell asleep.”

“That’s pretty good for you Jim, It’s normally more than that.”

“Hey​ watch it you​.”

“So did you manage to get any of the younger ones fired up to join our company?”

“There weren’t any Alan – according to the president the average age is 74.”

​”Thought they’d have some younger ones – Rotary clubs always used to be a good mix of ages.”

“They do have younger people along from time to time as guests and some as speakers but none of them seem to want to join. They did have a possible member along recently and before he came he seemed keen but afterwards he said he was too busy.” ​

“Perhaps one of the problems is that they meet at lunchtime – it would be difficult for us to get along if we were asked to join.”

“Yeah – that’s something they discuss from time to time as well, but according to the president if they switch to an evening some of the older ones would leave as they don’t go out at night and they don’t want to lose any more members because of the contribution they make.

“I know they do a great job locally and further afield – I’ve seen some of the publicity they get, although I haven’t seen much in the local paper lately.”

“Yeah that’s another problem they have as they say they send stuff in all the time but there’s not much of it gets published. It’s not just them but the other two clubs in town are finding it the same since the new editor took over.”

“Oh there’s a couple of other clubs in town then is there?”

“Yeah and they meet in the evening but even they are having trouble attracting new members.”

“Could be an image thing perhaps. I think some people think Rotary clubs are a bit dull and stuffy.”

“It’s a shame really as the guys who were there were certainly were very friendly and there seemed to be a great craic at the tables as well.

Could this really be how conversations go when a speaker at a Rotary Club returns to the office and chats with colleagues?

One of them was telling me about something they did recently where they brought together a load of local school kids and some teachers to take part in something they call a Technology Tournament, where the kids have to make a working model from materials they are given.” Apparently there was a great atmosphere amongst the kids and teachers, and there were a good number from the club there. One said it’s one of the highlights of the year.”

“You said ‘guys’ Jim – are there no women in the club? Doesn’t quite sound quite right that but you know what I mean.”

“I asked the president about that Alan and he said they had no objections to women joining but they haven’t found one who wants to yet. They have quite a few women along to give presentations and they always ask them if they’re interested but most of them say they’re too busy.”

“Seems like they’re between a rock and a hard place Jim, and the club may die out in the course of time.”

“Yeah apparently a lot of clubs up and down the country are having similar problems Alan, although the president said there might be a bit of light at the end of the tunnel if they establish a satellite club.”

“What’s that Jim?”

“They’re aimed at everyone, but particularly younger people who can’t get to the club meetings now, or find them a bit stuffy and formal. The people who join them are members of Rotary, but they have the freedom to meet wherever they want, and perhaps only twice a month instead of each week. Some meet in coffee shops and others in pubs – it’s really up to the members themselves.”

“Sounds interesting that Jim – perhaps we could look into it a bit further. You only have to read the papers or watch T.V. to see that a lot of people still need help from groups like Rotary.”

“That’s right Alan – I thought the same myself when I was told about all the great work they’re doing now, so I told the president we might get back to him to see how we could help.”

“Sounds like a plan that, and you said they could meet in a pub?”

“Thought you’d like that Alan, especially with that new boozer in town.”

“Well you must be one of the oldest boozers in town now Jim – well into your thirties now!”

“Watch it pal. Anyway are you up for it?”

“Yeah – let’s have a chat with that president feller you keep talking about. You up for a pint or two tonight and we can talk about it a bit more?”

“I’ll drink to that Alan!”

Please note any similarity to a Rotary Club is purely coincidental.

Or is it?


Images in order of appearance by Dukas Ju by CC

Guest Blogger – Luke Addison

This week’s guest blogger is Rotaractor Luke Addison who whilst at University in Winchester was so inspired by the genuine nature of Winchester Rotary Club that he along with some friends, set up a branch of Rotaract.

Their new Rotaract Club arranged various charity collections as well as a direct-action approach to homelessness.

Luke also attended a PeaceJam Conference in Monaco at which he facilitated a drama workshop for teenagers on Conflict Resolution and also met and engaged in discussion with Nobel Peace leader Archbishop Desmond Tutu and subsequently establishing a PeaceJam institute at the University; organising the first conference in March 2015 attended by around 80 young people from around the world as well as the Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams.

Luke says he joined Rotaract because he believes passionately in connecting with other young people who think the same as me, but also learning so much from the ones who don’t. There’s no other youth organisation which brings such diverse groups of active young people together, and with the support of Rotary it’s inevitable that we’ll change the world!

He thinks that Rotary has the potential to be [and in his opinion IS] the most influential and inspiring organisation for young people, Luke says everyone needs Rotary to support, encourage and facilitate opportunities for for young people. He is so pleased that he became involved, and part of the Rotary family.

Luke Addison – Rotaract Global Model United Nations

Luke Addison represented Cuba at the

Luke Addison represented Cuba at the Rotaract Model United Nations Conference

From the 26th to the 30th of August I was lucky enough to be able to participate in the third Rotaract Global Model United Nations, held in Belgrade, Serbia, and attended by some of the most inspiring, and influential young people I have ever met.

The Model United Nations is a concept that walks in the shadow of the actual UN, and provides young people the opportunity to see how the UN works and experience it for themselves, what this means is that once accepted as a delegate, you will be assigned a country and a council; Human Rights, Legal, Security etc, and then the debate subjects.

It is with this new information that you have to read about that country’s policies, brush up on your knowledge of flags and the globe (it can be incredibly embarrassing when asked to point to your country on a map… so I’m told.) and prepare yourself to represent that country for the next four days inside the conference.

I was assigned to represent Cuba, to be in the Human Rights Council and to learn Cuba’s policies towards the refugee crisis and then about Privacy on the internet… Yes, it was an ‘eyebrow-raising’ moment for myself too.

So I had two weeks to learn everything I possibly could about Cuba, their history, their government, the international relationships and their people. My research was vast, I contacted a Cuban magazine (in Spanish!), watched documentaries, read books, spoke at a Winchester Rotary meeting and asked for any advice from any Rotarians who had been and of course, emailed the British Ambassador to Cuba, Tim Cole, who gave me excellent advice and has been very helpful.

The preparation stage had ended, and I prepared to board the flight to Serbia, arriving at our hotel and meeting other delegates.

Everyone opened with the same questions ‘Who are you? Where are you from? and who are you representing?’ In the first hour, I met a Brit who had China, a Serbian representing France, a Mexican looking out for the USA and Venezuela getting spoken for by Lebanese! It’s fair to say the mixture of the group was amazing, not just in terms of countries representing inside the debates but from where people were really from.

The organisers counted over 35 different nationalities in one room at one time, and these are all young people from all walks of life coming together to actually discuss some of the most important current issues in the world. Of course, these were also young people who know (and need!) to have a good time too, but the responsibility of the participation was felt by everyone, not only because the UN would be actually reading our Solution papers, but also because what we were discussing in our groups were real issues, some of them costing hundreds and thousands of real lives, and for the first time, at least in my view, a group of young people have actually been invited to sit down and asked for solutions to these problems.

Young people who have great ideas were given a voice, and a powerful voice, and I think that was felt by everyone in just the first session, and it certainly carried on far beyond the end of the conference.

The conference itself was essentially a conference for young people, held by young people, and it worked perfectly. Each council was well represented, and all discussions and debates were enriching and genuinely impacting. When discussing the Refugee crisis, our group was actually taken to one of the camps in central Serbia, and to see the people there, these people who we had just been discussing earlier that day, became so real.

Only a few times in my whole life have I been as silent as I was there, in absolute disbelief as to the nature of what I was seeing.

In our second session, a young lady from Columbia, currently working in the Lebanese Embassy spoke to us, and explained the refugee crisis from a point most of us couldn’t even comprehend, 2.7 million refugees at their borders, who can’t come in because their country thrives from tourist economy, if they lose that they lose their country.

And in the UK, we were upset because, I quote‘…British summer holiday plans in ruin’. It really puts a new perspective on a situation.

The great thing was, we weren’t just pulling out facts and figures, our direction was towards solutions and every single person in our room spoke about how to help these people (Okay, admittedly, there were a few who very much ‘in character’ of certain countries, may not have expressed such constructive solutions, but once they stepped out of their roles in the coffee break, the real discussions were had!)

We spoke of ways countries could work together; how collaboration was key and what we can do in our own home countries when we got back.

Overall, it was the most influential and inspirational experiences I have had, I made lasting friendships with people from other sides of the globe, I learnt a lot about myself and I realised the potential this can have on changing the way young people view the world, and on the way they are views by it.

Towards the end of the conference, the man who was behind just about everything, Adrian, spoke to our group and showed his passion towards getting young people together to address important issues, his enthusiasm and genuine belief that we can make a difference was clear, and he told us of his plan to use the MUNs to develop an organisation of young diplomats, who will come together on issues and get the voice of young people actually heard.

This is what we hope to do now, to continue working with each other, travelling to visit projects and conferences and making sure we have a platform to discuss, debate and solve the problems we are affected by. Thank you so much for the experience MUN Team, Rotaract, Winchester Rotary and many others.

And well done to everyone that took part.

Next week’s blog: RotaryGBI – What’s in a name…?