Birthday reflections and the impact of Rotary

Leadership skills gained through Rotary

Another Birthday and a time to reflect on what has Rotary done for me. Rotary has and still is significant for me. Rotary gave me a beam of light when things were not going well at work. This was through Terry Kenyon when she was a District Governor and she put me in contact with Jim McWhirter and I spent a month working in the hospital at Kamuli. This was the start of looking at ways to share my professional skills as a midwife and nurse to health professionals in Uganda whilst being part of Rotary.
Each of the roles that I have done at District Level has developed me and improved my Curriculum Vitae. The one thing about Rotary is that it gives one an opportunity to try things, work with others to gain skills and learn about how to do it. The wealth of experience in different levels of management, gained through working in a variety of work places and the support from other Rotarians as one tries things out. The one thing I have always found is that the audience made up of Rotarians want you to succeed.

Committee member at District

As a member of a District Committee it is possible to share the subject that I am passionate about. The committee and its chair allow one to explore how to present your interest to a wider audience. It is an opportunity to develop presentation skills, but it also opens other avenues such as networking with like minded Rotarians with other Districts. Yes, other people do share your interests. If you have a thirst for knowledge like I do this is an excellent way of learning about other subjects and how Rotarians raise money, get involved and change outcomes but you must share it with someone else otherwise the skill is lost.

District International Service Chair (DISC)

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to receive guidance and training as part of Rotary in Great Britain and Ireland (RIBI) leadership training for District Chairs, Assistant Governors etc. This allowed networking, sharing of ideas and projects and what the expectations were of a chair. A DISC informs the District of what is required when an International Disaster occurs. This role teaches one about researching and asking other agencies and Rotarians on what is required so that one passes on relevant information. The Chair is a conduit for passing information on and answering questions.

Assistant Governor

This role informed me about the rules that Rotary abides by, but it also taught me about the importance of listening. There is no one true way to be a Rotarian or a Rotary Club. I also learnt about mediation, facilitating conversations but most important of all to ask another Assistant Governor, District Secretary or District Governor for advice before responding.

Conference Chair

I soon learnt that it is important to find people with skills that fulfil the requirements of the committee to get the job done. I am not an accountant, but I can read a bottom line and I learnt about adjusting what was possible with the income coming in. Yes, one represents the interests of the District Governor, but the conference is for the Rotarians in the District and it needs to meet their needs as well.

District Governor

The most important lesson I am learning is time management and saying No as there is not enough time to do everything that clubs would like you to do. This role is outward facing so one must learn about marketing yourself and more importantly selling to the public the work that the local Rotary Clubs do. Yes, I am learning about different styles of social media but I need to as Young Professionals use this to organise their lives. The District Governor also supports and develops the District Team with support from all the members of the District Executive.

So, what has Rotary taught me? I have learnt about presenting different subjects, improved my skills in negotiating, facilitating, enabling and empowering others. I have learnt about my limitations and the importance of asking others for support and advice. I have also learnt about time management, saying no and most important all this knowledge was gained through fun and fellowship. So yes, Rotary has given me skills which are essential for work, but it has also given me an area where my contributions to society and recognition of my skills are encouraged. So yes, when it is challenging at work, I also know that there is someone who can give advice but also, I am supported by others for what I do.

Thank you, Rotary you allowed the seedling, to grow.




Gillians’ Update

Community and Vocation

Community is one of the things that Rotary does best. Rotarians strongly support local projects, and this has been evident from the discussions the District Governor has had with club Rotarians. The variety and extent that clubs work with communities makes such a difference. So, I thought I would cover a few different areas.


I attended a Know your Blood Pressure day with a difference. Maidenhead Bridge organised their event as Fit for February, this was advertised through social media and in the shopping centre. The event covered cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure check with mental health and look after your physical body thrown in. This event covered a wide variety of health issues and 90 people attended, many said that this was their annual check-up.

Fit for FebruaryThis was done in an empty shop. As a nurse and midwife this is one of the few occasions that I can give the full health message about how to look after yourself and improve your blood pressure without time constraints of appointment times. There was some useful literature from Stroke Awareness that supports this discussion. Some people said that they had been treated for high blood pressure following the event last year.


The Reading Clubs joined together to support the British Liver Trust and 111 people were seen and some were referred for further health care. This was the first time that event was held in our District.

Life Education

This is a charity supported by CORAM and educators with the support of puppets give messages on health, relationships and cyber bullying to primary school children either in a mobile classroom or in school classrooms. It is very interactive and supports the school agenda for Personal, Social and Health Education or PSHE. The impact of this is significant as it increases children’s knowledge on what is safe and how to say ‘No’. Rotarians do help by fundraising as this is an area that schools find difficult to fund as budgets are cut.

Big Society

coracle 8.jpgThe different club projects that deal with isolation. This goes from doing paired reading, senior citizen events and reducing it through foodbanks and Memory Cafes. The paired reading encourages children to read in a supportive atmosphere and it has been noted that this has had an impact on the child who goes on to get qualifications but also the school as it improves their results and OFSTED grading. I supported Pangbourne’s Senior Citizen’s party, it was a real social occasion where people met old friends and new. The music encouraged camaraderie as they joined in with the singing and the party was very well organised. It was noted from the last survey done by the Community and Vocation committee that a lot of people wanted to do more with dementia. Some clubs have supported Memory cafes and others have supported an Admiral Nurse.

Vocational Service is one of Rotary’s Avenues of Service.

So, what does this mean?  Rotary Clubs and Rotarians hold a unique set of skills which means that we can: –

  • Serve others by using our unique skills to address community needs
  • Empower others through training and skill development
  • Inspire others to act with integrity by following Rotary’s guiding principles

This is done in a variety of ways within the District. One example is the Vocational Training Team which teaches birth emergency skills in Uganda at Ngora and Kamuli. The team has trained over 900 health professionals and it has saved lives. Another example is the ‘Mock Interviews’ in schools which gives young adults information about how to present themselves to an employer. However, where Rotarian’s skills come to the fore is when you do club projects and you mentor members within the club to carry on the projects over the subsequent years.

Rotarians can also join Fellowships and Rotarian Action Groups, the information is located on the My Rotary website or This is a great opportunity to share information, increase fellowship and have fun.

Polio – what has Rotary done?


October 24th is World Polio Day – Have we made a difference? Yes we have.

As the number of polio cases approaches zero, the challenges facing Rotary and its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative are changing. We still need to reach every child with the polio vaccine – and we’re using innovative strategies to do that, in spite of geopolitical uncertainties. That’s only one part of our job – we’re tackling vaccine-derived poliovirus, which can begin to spread in places where vaccine coverage is low. We’re becoming disease detectives, following up on any shred of evidence that wild poliovirus might still be circulating, and we’re fine-tuning our plan to keep the world free of polio forever.

Here’s what you need to know about where we are now.

  • Polio is an intestinal virus that is spread through contact with the faeces of an infected person, which can contaminate water or food.
  • The poliovirus is a single positive strand of RNA enclosed in a protective coating called a capsid.
  • There are three variations, or serotypes, of the poliovirus. They differ in their outer coatings.
  • The few cases of wild poliovirus that we see now are all of type 1. The last case of type 2 was in 1999, and the world was certified free of type 2 polio in 2015. The last case of type 3 was in 2012.
  • The virus infects only humans, mainly children under five because they are least likely to be fully vaccinated. There is no cure.

How we get infected

  1. The virus latches onto a receptor on the surface of a cell, multiplying in the lining of the intestines.
  2. It enters the cell and hijacks the cell’s own machinery to make copies of itself.
  3. The virus is released to infect neighbouring cells, spreading from the digestive tract to lymph nodes and the bloodstream.
  4. The virus replicates and is excreted through faeces, starting the cycle again.

Rotary and its partners worked to reach 430 million children in 39 countries during polio immunization campaigns in 2017.

What has Rotary done?

Rotarians have negotiated ceasefires
As Sri Lanka’s chair of Rotary’s polio eradication efforts, past president of Rotary International Ravindran led efforts to eradicate polio from Sri Lanka. His country became one of the first in Asia to become polio-free in Asia. The PolioPlus task force which he headed consisted of representatives from Rotary, UNICEF and the Sri Lankan government. The partnership successfully negotiated a ceasefire with the northern militants to allow polio immunizations to continue during scheduled National Immunization Days.

Polio programme has had an impact on other childhood diseases

However eradicating polio has meant that vaccines for other diseases have reached children too. 2.6 million children die from measles but as a result of the immunisation programme that accompanies polio, deaths have been reduced to 89, 780 deaths which is an 85% decrease.

Rotary funds 12-19% of the Communicable Diseases’ Centres in Africa.

When the Ebola outbreak occurred in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. It was a Communicable Disease Centre in West Africa identified it. Health workers switched from polio vaccinations to controlling Ebola.
Donating to polio improves the health of children and ensures their future.


Join Rotary International on October 24th by marking World Polio Day and raise awareness of this incredibly journey and effort by one of the worlds leading service organisations

Visit for more information


Leading the way into the future

As Thames Valley District Governor I am fortunate to see #rotaryinaction via the range of youth programs Rotary provides. In July I had the pleasure of joining the Rotary Youth Leadership Award participants from the Thames Valley at their week away.


The Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) is a course that takes the theory of leadership and implements it in practice. Rotary in the Thames Valley (District 1090) offers this course to people aged between 18-25 and it takes place in July.

Rotary pays for the course which includes food and accommodation and all we ask from the participant is to give up a week’s annual leave, and come back to their sponsoring clubs to tell us all about it.

The eager participants arrive on a Saturday and start on Sunday. They are split up into groups which are named after animals. Then the team building begins. There are various exercises done. This includes “Getting the Paper Coated Barrel with 3 eggs inside up a Gorge”. This is quite a challenge in that the aim is to go up a gorge with running water and not lose all the paper on the barrel and break all the eggs.

Throughout the different exercises the teams are supported by an instructor who not only provide practical experience but they also make the teams think about what they are doing, how this is used in team building, what they did well and also what they could improve on. How a team supports each member to achieve their potential. The instructors also get the team members to state how it went. This really teaches them how to give constructive criticism and I saw this in action in that the participants did state how it went but they also stated what was good.

I arrived on the day that the teams started to work together to problem solve whilst blindfold and constructing a coracle out of canes and black plastic with finite resources. The theory session covered the different types of leadership styles and characteristics and how they can be implemented. It also covered the advantages and disadvantages of each of the leadership styles. This was reinforced during the different exercises.

I had the chance to join in too! There was an element of democracy in that the first team to get all the team members in the coracle in batches around a buoy could then get an instructor or Rotarian into the coracle. So there was an element of pace setting in that teams were eager to get as many points in the time set and having a Rotarian meant bonus points. It was lots of fun.

The course continues with individual team members being taught skills which they then have to teach to other members of the group on the 30 hour challenge.

I observed participants grow in self confidence, the more reserved members of the team having confidence to make their point, yes there were natural leaders but it was noted that everyone took something away with them. RYLA changes lives and gives young people an opportunity to learn about leadership through interaction and allowing them to discuss how the different leadership styles worked, it took them out of their comfort zones but they learnt the valuable lesson that through teamwork it is possible to overcome challenges and succeed.

Follow me on Twitter & Facebook for more Rotary updates across Thames Valley.

Rotary in the Thames Valley – a New Dimension

Thames Valley e-Rotary is a new venture, introducing a different set of opportunities for those wishing to support their local community but unable to participate regularly though pressures of work, family or travel. This new group operates online with regular discussions, interesting speakers and support for local communities..

Does your day consist of a regular commute, long hours working to earn a living and enhance your career, and the remaining time spent with the family? Or are you a mother with young children, finding that keeping them occupied and out of mischief is a full time occupation? Or maybe your coming up to retirement and looking for new interests and a new circle of friends? Whatever the reason, is one day very much like the next?

Yet, deep down, you’d also like an opportunity to make a positive contribution to local life?

Your main barrier is lack of time!

Thames Valley e-Rotary could offer a solution. No matter your background, age, experience or skills, Rotary can bring a new dimension into your life. Why not try us and find out for yourself? .  Our aim is to offer Rotary 24/7 so you can keep informed of the latest developments and projects and offer what time you can to participate in activities undertaken by ordinary people just like yourself.

Contact Secretary Anne Cooper at Thames Valley e-Rotary and we’ll get back to you.

Thames Valley e-Rotary – a new online group

‘Working for a better World’.