Looking Forward

2016/17: Rotary Serving Humanity

Rotaractors, Rotarians, and Guests.

Our immediate past president has accomplished great things in her time with rotary and outside of rotary because she is driven to help others, who have experienced what she has and to help carry them through. She has not only raised money and spread awareness, she has given a voice to so many young people who have to live with the effects of the abuse they suffered. She didn’t just set a moral standard for this club, she lived it and pushed others to live it as well. There is a reason so many Rotarians and Rotaractors admire her and want to see her do well. It takes courage to stand up to the people we disagree with but even more, courage to stand up to our friends. Ashlee does both exceedingly well. When we are challenged for saying or doing something that we don’t realise is wrong we have two options. We could either feel guilt or empathy. Guilt and anger are merely defensive mechanisms used by our ego, Empathy is the stronger emotion because it asks us to remove ourselves and stop asking what we meant, and ask instead how we make others feel. It is a hard lesson to learn and an even harder one to teach, but it’s what makes Ashlee unique as a leader because she challenges us to move beyond our ego and serve others before ourselves. Before I can begin to talk about the year ahead of us, I would like Thank Ashlee Evans for leading us this year.

I would like to present Ashlee with a few gifts on behalf of the club this year. In keeping with the model citizen standards you inspire in us we would like to offer you a case of refined West End Draught, a West End Draught lunchbox and these two books. One is Virginia Wolfes “Mrs Dalloway” which I remember being our first study in modernism in university and help me through, particularly tough times. This other book is called the history of Smuggling and also helped me through some tough times. We would like to thank you for your time and service this year.

I remember on our first charter night we were downstairs and there was this young man, couldn’t have been older than 7 and he saw one of the Rotarians, I’m not sure if it was Roger and he said ‘are you here for the important thing?’ and Roger answered ‘yes I believe so’ and the young boy then ushered him to the door. I have no idea who that kid was, but he saw you all dressed as you were back then and as you are now and he had a sense that something important was happening and so suddenly he took on a role. That I believe is the power of Rotarians is that they inspire and bring out the best in us.

When I was volunteering over in Cambodia with World Youth International we learned that only 6% of the population is over 60. This is because the Khmere Rouge targeted elders, mentors and teachers as they tried to establish control. Even though they were defeated in 1999 the country is still feeling the effects because they don’t have what we have in this room. Something that is often taken for granted in our society. It has been a great privilege watching the young people in our club grow as a result of your support and I encourage you to talk to them and get to know them.

There is a sign in our neighbourhood place which has a slight mistake, Playford council error not Salisbury’s, yet no matter how often it is vandalised it is never fixed. There are many theories as to why the sign has not been fixed: the houses are all trust housing and therefore there are a lot of minors without supervision, maybe there was supposed to be a school but it didn’t happen or perhaps it is simply a warning that the seniors in the nursing home are known for stealing children.. For me, the sign is a reminder that this is a time and place where young people are forced to grow up very quickly.

For me watching our family have to sell the house after being diagnosed with cancer and moving into a trust house in Davoren park was an experience that forced me to grow up very quickly. When I was in Brookman ward, it was not the physical scars on the young children there that haunted me; it was that they had had their childhood ripped out of them. Over these few years, I have learned more about the people in our club and heard of their stories. I have seen our members overcome abuse, illness, disabilities, the loss of family and depression and when you hear their stories or when you watch how earnestly they support each other you realise the true calibre of their character. Their motivations are not driven by politics or religion or finance their strength comes from carrying a weight many people would not even know is there.

As young people, we are trained to believe we are invincible. That as long as we have the right design, and we throw ourselves into these designs we will be successful. But then our plans hit that resistance…and suddenly we find ourselves thrown off on a tangent, heading somewhere else. This is because we are raised to believe the only way we can be successful is by ‘dropping all dead weight’ as a result we live in a society that looks upon volunteering and charity as a risk or burden. But just like the paper plans we all made in science class, when you actually take on the extra weight you find it actually gives the design momentum. The weight gives gravity and helps push through that resistance. It gives us the confidence to pursue our goals and help others achieve theirs.

We also have had the opportunity through RYLA to hear from Illyasi Simba and Dilli Ram Dhakal about the many challenges that displaced people face when immigrating from one country to the next and how far people are willing to travel to seek a better life and education for themselves and their family. As Rotarians and Rotaractors, we are part of an international community that is in a position to help make sure that everyone gets the recognition and assistance they deserve.

When I visited the Adelaide University Rotaract club they had a guest speaker who was a young Australian of the year, Arman Abrahimzadeh. Arman’s mother Zahara was murdered by her husband at the Adelaide convention centre in 2010. Both Arman and his sisters Atena and Anita Abrahimzadeh have since established a foundation to help women break free from these abusive relationships. One of the key aspects of doing this is by offering training to help women become independent and find employment, accommodation, and schooling for themselves and their family. Poverty and lack of education are used to create dependency by abusive individuals and groups. It is for this reason that supporting free quality adult literacy courses and early intervention is essential.

As a teacher, who works at Northern Adelaide Senior College with FLO students between the ages of 14 to 22 and as a resident who has grown up in the northern suburbs I have seen the effects of illiteracy first hand. It is for that reason that I would like to liaise with Adelaide City Rotaract, Thebarton Senior College Rotaract to help create free adult literacy course for local and international students. It is my hope that Rotaract/Rotary will become active in supporting and providing literacy courses for people all around the world and offer recognition to everyone no matter where they are from, for the skills they have… to serve humanity.

Young people in our community often face challenging circumstances. When they leave school they also leave a strong social network and can feel very isolated and alone. This comes at a time when they need to make difficult decisions about who they are and where they want to go. For those who do not complete school, this time in their lives is even more isolating, with few support programs aimed at their age bracket. I see this gap as a need in our community and want to work this year in establishing foundation Literacy courses for young adults to help them reconnect with the other people their age.

In my own time in Rotaract, I have seen members who have identified with dyslexia and learning difficulties become leaders in our community and inspire others to do the same. I believe that everyone, no matter what challenges they face with speaking or writing, should feel they have a voice and place in our community.

When I reflect back on the years in Rotaract, I still remember the year leading up to when I met Rick Henke at Twelve25 Salisbury Youth Enterprise Centre. That was the year my doctor told me there was a mass at the site of my old cancer that would most certainly kill me (but thankfully didn’t). It was the year I had major surgery on my bowels and bladder over Christmas. It was the year I was told I would never bear children and would have a permeant catheter. It was the year I had to quit my job. It was the year my car was written off. It was the year I lost my savings. And damn it if it wasn’t the best year of my life. Because I realise now looking back on it that if anyone of those things hadn’t happened I might not have ended up in one of the best jobs I ever had. I may never have met you all, or have the opportunity to work with the people I am about to introduce.

We have achieved great things as a club and I look forward to leading and supporting our members in 2016.

I would now like to introduce you to the members of the board that have been elected this year, please stand and come forward to collect your badge office;

  • Joshua Lay, Vice President
  • Damien Walker, Secretary andWebmaster
  • Andrew Bruce Chapman, Treasurer
  • Ashlee Evans, Immediate Past President and Club Representative for The District Committee
  • Dilli Ram Dhakal, Group 4 Representative
  • Bianca Kerry, Professional Development Coordinator
  • Kaz Bahmanzadah, International and Community Service Project Coordinator
  • Currently Vacant, Member Coordinator

Thank you!

Written by President Benjamin Ryder 2016-17

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