By Tony Thomas, Secretary, RC Central Melbourne-Sunrise*
|Origin & History
|About the Club
|ROC Youth Leadership
|Major awards to young leaders
* This report is written in author’s private capacity.
- Rotary in the Anglosphere including Australia is shrinking and ageing in membership. Membership growth plans and targets almost invariably are failures. This is documented in the March 2015 report by author and D9800 Membership Coordinator Chris Egger. Available at http://tinyurl.com/mypj4hm
- However, Rotary of Crawley (ROC) stands out as a club with a winning formula in all dimensions, becoming the largest club in WA within a year or two of its recent foundation. It demonstrates
- Membership strength and growth since inception
- High female membership
- Ethnic membership
- Youthful membership
- Fund-raising (enormous success)
- Fostering future community leaders
- Networking with business elites
- Community recognition
- This report is an effort to understand the club and its success, in terms of both structure and the individuals driving it.
- Various aspects of ROC are not very replicable.
4a. For example, ROC started life on a clean page in 2010, unencumbered by long-standing club culture, Rotary “barnacles” and the “Can’t Be Done!” syndrome.
4b. Additionally, it had the full backing of wealthy business sponsors – which could be partly an effect rather than cause of its success. (Astute business people do not tend to back unimaginative or lost causes).
4c. The club’s ambience of business-member success in turn attracts young recruits who, apart from idealism, enjoy the networking opportunities.
4d. The club also benefits from its close association with WA University, along with use of the prestigious UWA Club premises. Again, this is both a cause and effect of its successful model.
- In which respects could ROC be a template for existing clubs, with potential to arrest their membership decline and effect a rejuvenation?
5a. Various Rotary ceremonials, in ROC’s view, are a barrier to recruitment, being relics of early 20th Century sociology and culture. It is not uncommon, for example, for clubs to start meetings by singing (rather, droning) the national anthem. ROC has made a clean sweep-out of off-putting ceremonial. Its meetings are run like a business breakfast and any up-and-coming business/professional person would find nothing odd or jarring about the meeting structure. I was particularly struck by the absence even of a “head table”, with president, speaker and guests sitting with rather than apart from members. See “MEETINGS” p10
5b. ROC’s success is due to the drive and strategic thinking of its founding group of individuals. While all clubs (sadly) are not endowed with comparable talent, they are also handicapped by the short-term thinking which is encouraged by the annual cycle and change of office-bearers. These leaders tend to act as place-holders and longer-term planning is hard to implement. Because
ROC minimizes leadership and board formalities, the annual changes are less significant. (See ORIGIN & HISTORY p3 , ABOUT THE CLUB p 5 and PROFILES p13.
5c. The club has invested heavily in subsidizing membership of youngsters by paying their dues and at least their first-year meeting costs. That’s an investment of about $1500 per youngster. Because these recruits are not random but targeted and screened, the club gains very high-calibre young members well worth their cost. To have five of them recognized at State and National level (civic awards, not Rotary awards), attests to the success of the selections. (Again, there is a chicken-and-egg syndrome: top young talent will not want to join a mediocre club).
I have gone to some lengths to sample the views of the club’s young members, rather than speculate about them. See ROTARY YOUTH LEADERSHIP p6 and Young Members p14
5d. The club’s level of fund-raising is spectacular. It’s a function of both know-how and networking. Re networking, the moral is that whatever the difficulties, clubs that connect with movers-and-shakers in their community have the best chance of successful fund-raising. See FUNDRAISING p8
5e. Idealism: One Rotary tradition is strong in ROC, namely “Service Above Self”. The young members are highly-motivated to look after the disadvantaged. But note that those targeted for support are those whom young people encounter in their daily lives, especially sick children, the drug and mentally-afflicted and the homeless. I did not get the impression that overseas causes are high-priority, possibly because young people can’t manage long breaks from early-career work.
ORIGIN & HISTORY
ROC began in February 2010 as a breakaway from RC Matilda Bay (chartered 1979, currently about 50 members). Half a dozen veteran members – most past-presidents – led by David Goldstone, and Jaap Poll, wanted the club to take a more youthful and vigorous path. Others involved were Annie Wearne, Geoff Trowbridge, Conrad Chrissafouli, Katherine and her father Richard Hazlewood, and Peter Lawrance.
Goldstone, a consummate networker, has raised $11m for charity over two decades. In 2009, after 16 years with Matilda Bay RC (and now 46 years in total with Rotary), he was undecided whether to maintain his charity work within or outside Rotary. He favored a new Rotary milieu designed for 20-40 year olds who could be mentored and coached as community leaders. This would involve shedding what he calls Rotary barnacles and formalities.
The group was unsuccessful in creating significant change from within their existing Rotary club and their polling of members about the issue created dissension with the board. The group left, realising it would be easier to launch a new club than effect the changes internally that they wanted.
An immediate issue was that there were already several clubs within a kilometer of the planned Crawley HQ (eg Matilda Bay, Dalkeith, West Perth, Nedlands…). Some of these clubs, concerned about cannibalization of their membership, used formal channels up to Evanston Ill. RI HQ to resist the new club’s formation. Eventually District 9455 then-DG Geoff Simpson ruled that the club could go ahead, given its aim of recruiting younger people new to Rotary, an age group not already represented in the existing clubs.
Other issues created dissension at District, Zone and RI level but were eventually overcome:
# The name “Rotary of Crawley” omits the usual inclusion of “Club”
# The club’s logo and branding by-passes the Rotary Wheel, instead using the image, in a blue circle, of the female statue called “Eliza” placed 100m in the river near the club HQ. (Getting permission from the sculptor and City of Perth was another coup).
The sought-after venue for the new club was the upmarket University Club for UWA alumni on the river foreshore. UWA Club has been reluctant to host external groups, but support from the Vice-Chancellor Alan Robson and the club’s ambitions to recruit and nurture young students tipped the scales. UWA Club is now a club supporter/sponsor, providing subsidized high-quality breakfasts at $30. The ROC has several university staff and alumni members.
Charter membership was kept for financial reasons to 32 (RI charges for each charter member, at a time of limited finances to start a new club) but within half a year had swelled to 100+, making it WA’s largest club. Almost all members were new to Rotary, although a handful were past members returning to the fold. Females were well represented (currently 46% vs 24.2% nationally and 20% globally) and the members’ average age was/is? under 40 (nationally about 66).
A highlight of the club’s charter breakfast launch for 240 guests was a 3-minute video speech by John Kenny, 2009-10 Rotary International President, congratulating the venture. Inaugural club president (for the first 18 months) Jaap Poll had been told that Kenny was far too busy to contribute but he persuaded Kenny’s personal secretary that the club fitted Kenny’s goal of attracting young members. In a second coup, 2010-11 RI President Ray Klinginsmith and PP D.K. Lee (2008-09) when they were in Perth , attended a ROC breakfast in November 2010 to celebrate the 100th recruit. This again was the result of direct invitations. “Everyone told us they’d be too busy,” Jaap says. “We also inducted 13 new members that day.”
President-elect Nick Poll says, “We continue to put in a tremendous amount of work to make our club different, and challenge the assumptions about how a club can be run and perhaps demonstrate new possibilities for Rotary. A lot of learning has come out of that.”
2010-11 Jaap Poll
2011-12 Lindsay McLeod
2012-13: Holly Ransom
2013-14: James McLeod
2014-15: Chris Eales
2015-16: Nick Poll.
ABOUT THE CLUB
The club’s motto is “Giving has never been this much fun”.
Unusually, four of the six presidents to 2016 are fathers-and-sons: Lindsay McLeod (2011-12) and James McLeod (2013-14), and Jaap Poll (2010-11) and Nick Poll (for 2015-16).
Membership has fluctuated between 90-120. The upper end is about the maximum for the UWA House dining room.
Current members include at least seven with Asian/African origin, and at least two who have disabilities (physical or developmental). One member is blind and has lost a leg, but gets to meetings by taxi and walks up the stairs using crutches. She does inductions, using a Braille crib-sheet. Also a world-class blind sailor, she’s currently travelling solo in Europe.
Current president Chris Eales says the club minimizes rules and procedures, relying on mature sensible people to give guidance. Most decisions are by email, and the board meets only each 6-8 weeks. The meetings take an hour with key people giving ten minute updates. The informality can have disadvantages– the finances have sometimes got messy. Firmer structure may be needed as veteran members retire and the club loses their expertise. He concedes the club could be seen as ’a bit cheeky and ra-ra!’.
Eales says, “We’re far from perfect and we need to get the best from the Rotary ethos and structure. Otherwise we’d be little different from a non-Rotary networking club.”
President-elect Nick Poll says that in the past, he frequently heard Rotarians pronounce themselves open to all people, from all walks of life – but often, it was only older white men making that statement: “ROC removes the boys’ club atmosphere and inside jokes. I can’t imagine Paul Harris intended Rotary to be that way.”
The club is attracting national and international media, including a cover story in Rotary Down Under in 2012, and in The Rotarian (international circ 1.2m) in April 2015. Access it at:
ROC YOUTH LEADERSHIP
In February 2015 the club’s David Goldstone was selected by an RI Chicago research company as one of four Rotarians worldwide to be interviewed focus-group style on membership and youth involvement.
Rotary of Crawley’s youthful tone has been set by meetings starting with the MGM lion’s roar, and the club‘s theme song is “ We will ROC you!”
More than 30% of members are under the age of 30 — compared with 2% in Rotary in Australasia and internationally.
Founding president Jaap Poll 75, says the club’s ethos is to spot, recruit and nurture future community leaders now aged 20-25. “We don’t give much weight to academic performance, although good youngsters usually excel at many areas of life,” he says.
The club attracts idealistic youngsters through paying the annual dues and, for at least one year, the $30-per-meeting-cost. The youngsters also want to network with older highly-successful members. Currently 16 of the 90 members are on scholarships.
The success of the program is demonstrated by three ROC youngsters winning the annual WA Young Australian of the Year Award and one winning the national youth award. (Appendix 1)
Bright youngsters are targeted as recruits. Tim Lefroy, winner of the WA Youth Award 2014, was noticed because he was coordinating the annual swim to Rottnest, a major Perth event.
The sponsored scholarships are financed from donations to a fund by five small-medium companies and individuals averaging about $5000 each.
Sponsors have included Finbar property developers, Credo project management and facilities, nearmap.com photo-mapping, McRae Investments, Harold Clough and club member Torsten Ketelsen. The sponsorships will be renewed or new sponsors attracted.
The sponsoring companies keep in contact but are not recruiting the awardees.
The club also has a $160,000 endowment from Perth business philanthropist Jack Bendat’s Bendat Family Foundation, with the interest funding an $8000 academic scholarship on socially beneficial issues. The first awardee was Scott Nodwell, doing Anglicare work with homeless. the current awardee is Taryn Chipchase (now with a resources company) and applications are open for the next award.
Jaap says that the youngsters typically move out of Perth on their academic and professional careers and wind up in interstate or overseas Rotary.
The under-40 demographic creates a high churn factor but happily the club finds it easy to recruit new members. The current problem is that the veteran members who founded the club five years ago are now moving on, and their networking and organizing skills are less easy to replace.
President Chris Eales says: “All these young people make the club different, they give us a vibrancy and good conversation.
“We aim to give young people the experience of charitable work and fund-raising. They get to organize minor and major projects and see how committee-work operates. network
“We look for people who can lead, communicate and inspire, rather than know how District and the youth committee work, for example.”
Scholarship holders and younger members have mentors who set them challenges . Eales is mentoring two members. One is Joshua Cunniffe 24, who is studying journalism and doing the club newsletter. He wants to try out in creative writing for ten years. The other is Kath Mogridge who now has a good IT job.
Taryn Chipchase 27, coordinates the scholarship program at board level. She says the quality of members is the key attractor of young people to the club, and the seniors’ good connections and success in their fields: “Like attracts like.” Her own mentor is David Goldstone, who has done wonders for her personal development, she says. “Members are constantly following up with us, showing a genuine interest in our well-being and careers.”
The club also has teams of “Connectors” to ensure no-one gets ‘lost’ socially, and also to jog members into pre-booking their attendance (a UWA House requirement for catering).
An unusual event in 2014 was sky-diving, with about five people giving it a try and surviving. They were each required to find about $500 sponsorings for The Hunger Project.
Jaap says the young people are better in the club than in Rotoract. “They’re interested in community work like drug rehab rather than Rotary per se. We can better inculcate the Rotary ethos, and importantly, we older members can learn a lot from bright youngsters while they network with us.”
ROC (like universities) have consciously set out to create an alumni of ex-members who talk up Rotary and ROC. Goldstone says, “We have over 300 alumni like that, including one of our ‘scholars’ Michael Sheldrick, who’s 26. He now leads a staff of six in advocacy worldwide in The Global Poverty Program in New York.
“Michael never stops praising what ROC and Rotary have done for him. For example he’s invited me as a keynote speaker in Melbourne on April 10 at the Burnet Health Institute to talk about Polio Eradication. The main speaker is from the World Health Organisation.”
The club has had outstanding success with fundraising events, raising $1.1m through two annual dinners alone. Its 2013 “Night to Remember” dinner and auction directly and indirectly raised $730,000 for Teen Challenge’s Esperance drug rehab centre, thanks largely to club co-founder David Goldstone.
“How did we do that? Because we think outside the square, and because we involved many of our ‘scholars’ who wanted to be involved,” Goldstone says. “They wanted to learn how to run such an event. Today one of those members, Taryn Chipchase, has a job with American resources giant Conoco Phillips organising major events here in Perth.”
To raise multi-million sums, Goldstone (left) says it requires being dedicated and a good event manager. “You have to have the charisma and entrepreneurship and the network to draw in important people. A few primary people will make or break a fund-raiser. I said to one of them, ‘Hey, you’ve got a penthouse on Hamilton Island you seldom use, how about I package airfares for six and you add the penthouse to the auction?’ ‘OK, but I’ll pay the airfares as well!’”
“Another key is having glossy color auction booklets touting the prizes – never mind the footy jumpers and cricket bats, we made $23,000 just on the auction of two berths for a Kimberley cruise in the True North small luxury boat. And $30,000 auctioning a string of pearls from Broome. Young Rotary people need to learn these arts of networking.”
The Night to Remember drew 300 people at $250 per ticket – unfortunately pitched so high that only a few club members could afford it. Goldstone says, “We ran it for outsiders, not members. We ran it like a Telethon with raisings displayed progressively on-screen. I saw someone – the same man who owned the penthouse – waving to me and went over, and he asked what the target was. I said, ‘$330,000 net, we’re $30,000 short.’ He said, ‘Go back on stage and announce an anonymous donation of $30,000.’
“Next day he rang me and told me to buy two airline tickets to Esperance for the day, for us to see the premises there. There were 40 kids and the success rate averages 80%. They put on a good lunch for us and told us kids still in the queue for rehab were dying. On the same-day return flight my friend said he was scheduled to London that week for a family foundation trust meeting, and he wanted – within 24 hours – drawings and costings for an upmarket annexe at Esperance. I got that done and he rang from London agreeing to the $400,000 needed.”
“The same guy next year helped me crystalise another great idea. Perth Arena was just finished, owned by the city council and to be managed by AEG Ogdens. It had a dozen or two VIP suites. We found a philanthropist to pay $152,000 for a 12-seat suite for ROC for 85 events a year for 2 two years, both sporting events like the Hopman Cup and entertainments like rock concerts.
“We staff it with two ROC young people for each event, who pay their own tickets, and they host a group of kids with severe health or disability issues, plus the carer or family. The suite is equipped with all medical gear on stand-by. We got the city council to agree to it all. Some of the kids have since passed on, others have recovered, but they all had a great day at the event. This has involved working with Ronald McDonald House, Variety, Starlight Foundation…”
Current President Chris Eales says that the five-year-old club is still building up finances. “I’m jealous of older clubs that have well-established annual fund-raisers like art shows that raise $60,000 regularly. We’ve been too ad hoc; you can’t base solid finances on one-offs plus sausage sizzles and chook raffles.
“We’ve been lucky in having members like David Goldstone with vast contacts and ability to raise funds at $100,000 a time. But these people are moving on or now lack the time.”
Members arrive from 7am to network before the 7.30am start.
Meetings are run as if for a business group. There are no toasts, grace, regalia, banners, sergeant, fines, or head table. An alternating Master of Ceremonies runs the meetings, tasked with creating energy and inspiration for the day. President Chris Eales says, “I’ve been to other clubs and noticed the vibrancy and energy are just not there. Meetings need a good ‘buzz’ given there is no compulsion to attend (nor any ‘Make-ups’ system).”
Re absence of head table:
# “Our guests and speaker sit with members, why should the president hog their attention?”
# “The hierarchy idea dates from when men were proud to be ‘company men’ in a highly-structured workforce. In today’s knowledge-based workforce, structures are flat and good people can even work from home. I’ve had incidents of blokes from other clubs demanding to be sat with visiting VIPs because the blokes had some past position in Rotary International. A mate commented to me, ‘If that’s what Rotary is about, I quit!’”
Absence of sergeant: — “The club has never had one. Such sessions tend to ridicule members, raise money from members rather than the public, vary in quality depending on who gets the sergeant job, and burn up meeting time that can be put to better use.”
An early-2015 meeting is described here.
The club uses a digital clock image on-screen counting down the seconds to the start of the meeting, which has to finish at 8.30am sharp. Up to half those present stay for coffee afterwards.
The meeting had about 32 present, down on the usual 45 because of vacation absences. People under 40 dominated and grey heads were the exception.
The absence of head table gave a more informal tone to the meeting compared with other clubs.
The Mistress of Ceremonies, Danielle Beck, described how she took two teenage girls to the city to distribute $5 vouchers and club hampers to homeless people. The vouchers for a croissant shop were pre-Xmas leftovers and about to expire.
One ‘client’ in Murray Street was well-known as ‘Black Elvis’ and gave them all a bear hug – he was so delighted to get a present without needing to beg for it.
Then they met ‘Steve’ selling The Big Issue magazine in Hay Street. While Danielle was chatting to Steve about how they shared the same birthday, a woman walked past and said, “Don’t talk to him! He’s a druggie!” and further unrepeatable insults. Steve maintained eye contact with Danielle until the woman moved on. Danielle congratulated him on his composure and integrity, and he began to cry. He said he suffered from anxiety and it was an ordeal for him not to react.
They talked for half an hour and Steve explained that he had recently won back his Big Issue selling job after getting sacked two years ago. He asked his new friends to take a group picture and send it to his mum is Tasmania, who was suffering cancer, to show her that his life was looking up.
“I don’t know what decisions these people might have made to end up where they are, but next time you meet someone homeless, get involved a bit more, after all we are only a few decisions away from trading places with someone” she told the meeting.
A 3-minute video followed from the “vInspired” British charity for young people. (“We look for inspirational videos,” President Eales says. “It puts members in a thinking mode, it stops them talking about the footie. We don’t run the meeting on a standard running sheet, we vary things.”)
A member then spent a couple of minutes talking about how to prioritise development goals, in benefit per dollar spent. His top scorer was the free trade deal with South Korea ($3400 benefit per dollar) and contraception aid ($120 per dollar).
The main speaker was about average. #
Appendix 1 – awards to ROC young members.
Reece Harley, Perth City Councillor and 2011 City of Perth International Youth Ambassador. He was a charter member of ROC. Reece is the WA Program Director for The Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience. He manages a team of 8 staff who run a structured Mentoring and Tutoring Program for more than 350 Indigenous High School Students from across WA.
Holly Ransom, Young West Australian of the Year 2012. In the same year, became president of ROC and at age 20, the world’s youngest Rotary president. Named as one of Australia’s 100 Most Influential Women by the Australian Financial Review in 2012. In 2014, Holly was appointed by the Australian Prime Minister to represent the voice of the G20’s 1.5 billion young people in leading the G20 Youth Summit. Networked there with Barack Obama.
Akram Azimi, 2013 Young Australian of the Year. Akram, a child refugee from Afghanistan 13 years ago, became head boy of his school and topped its tertiary entrance results. He has become a dedicated mentor to young Indigenous people.
Joshua Cunniffe was State Finalist, Young Australian of the Year, 2012. He is an advocate for help for depression and mental illness sufferers, and has written a book about his own recovery from depression.
Michael Sheldrick – currently global policy and advocacy manager with the Global Poverty Project, which helps coordinate the polio eradication efforts. He was a finalist for the Young Australian of the Year, 2013.
Michael, a recipient of a ROC special scholarship, lobbied then PM Julia Gillard about polio, which led to her arranging a meeting with him and then polio eradication being put on the agenda for the 2011 Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting. The outcome was a $50m contribution from Australia and $70m from other leaders.
Tim Lefroy, Young West Australian of the Year, 2014 and past treasurer and scholarship holder, ROC. He is a state champion athlete and advocate for family farm enterprises.
David Goldstone 80, has been in Rotary 46 years. He has four Paul Harris awards and one Service Above Self Award, and was awarded OAM this year.
He retired 20 years ago after a career in computers, retail tourism and government grants consultancy.
He never finished school, and spent 10 years in sales with IBM. He was posted to Perth with his wife Hannah, and chose to stay. Looking for another Perth job, he agreed in 1973 to run the lobby tourist shop in the newly built Perth Sheraton Hotel, a 12-hour seven-day operation selling items like opals and stuffed koalas. For the next two decades the hotel had a contract to house top US navy personnel, and he got to know them so well that he even got a global trip in an aircraft carrier. He enjoyed getting export development grants for selling opals to New York, and his final job was consulting to other businesses on Export Market Development Grants. After 14 years he had 380 clients nationally, from ship builders to architects.
In 1995 he had a quadruple heart by-pass and retired. He also still suffers the aftermaths of paralytic polio contracted when he was 20, and has problems losing strength in his legs.
His 1999 ‘Pennies for Polio Campaign’ raised $84,000 towards Rotary’s world-wide Polio Eradication Program. For five years he chaired the Subiaco Craft and Community Fair. Under his guidance it became the largest fair of its kind in the state, raising $100,000 in four years towards CanTeen and other charities. In 2003, Rotary WA began a campaign to establish the first public cord blood bank facility in Perth. David’s organising of a fundraising dinner at Government House in November 2006 raised nearly $170,000 net in that one night alone.
His wife Hannah came to Australia at age 5 in 1950, with her Polish parents who had suffered in the Holocaust. She now wants to return with David to her long-term friends in Melbourne and the Goldstones will settle in Toorak/Armadale next month (April).
Jaap and Nick Poll
Founding President Jaap, who speaks Dutch, English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, is a geologist still active as a small-company oil executive.
His son Nick is President-elect. Nick’s lifestyle is colorful. He once windsurfed with a friend the 430km from Perth to Geraldton in three days. He speaks fluent French and Portuguese. A geologist, he lived in the Amazon jungle for three years in French Guinea exploring for gold, and today at 50 is non-executive director of listed small-stock Erin Resources.
Libby Matthews, who turned 20 this year, is typical of the young crowd at Perth’s Rotary of Crawley (ROC). Inducted at 19, she’s not the club’s youngest, who’s an 18-year-old.
Libby successfully applied for a club scholarship that pays her dues and breakfast meeting costs. President Chris Eales and President-elect Nick Poll see her as another of the club’s future ‘super stars’.
“I wanted to get involved with giving back to the community and particularly to meet other young people
who are leaders in their area. ROC has that reputation,” she says.
Libby is studying business law and accounting. One of her club jobs is organizing quarterly meetings for new members. “It’s a fun night but in welcoming them, we also tell these young people what is expected of them and how we can help them,” she says.
Recently she hosted autistic children and the parents at the club’s donor-financed corporate box at Perth Arena, to see a top basketball game. The club has fortnightly access to the box to host carers and children with disabilities. “It was my first big experience at the club and it was great,” she says.
Asked about the 90-strong club’s healthy 44% female membership, she says it probably arose because the club started from scratch a few years without a legacy of male overweighting. “But I hardly notice,” she adds.
She loves the relaxed meeting format, which has a fresh style every week. “If a club’s not changing things and moving forward, it must be going backwards,” she says. Because it’s a tight schedule from 7.30-8.30am, she arrives at 7am to meet and chat with members.
A long way from Somalia
Photo: Abdullahi takes a selfie near the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood Boulevard.
Abdullahi Alim, 22, a member of Perth’s Rotary of Crawley (ROC), arrived from Somalia when he was 5, with zero English. He’s come a long way since – last year he was in Los Angeles helping to run an international youth leadership program.
“My job was to coach seven college-aged kids through a series of workshops on goal-setting, time-management and standard leadership topics. There were great speakers – top celebrities, motivators and the pop stars the kids idealized.
“I was with two other coaches of my age from Rotary of Crawley. UWA sent us there and a club sponsor paid the flights.”
Alim’s been with the club since he was 19, and is inspired by projects includings ROC’s partnership with Lockridge High School. “Many kids there are from backgrounds where important aspects of family life are missing,” he says. “I also like introducing speakers at club meetings.”
Alim, who completed a finance degree last year, says Rotary of Crawley is designed for the 21st century. Most clubs are failing to tap the potential of young people like himself, who don’t fit the traditional power group of older Anglo-Saxon males. The Crawley club is diverse in age, gender and ethnicity. He was spotted by Holly Ransom, who at 22 was the club’s president and the world’s youngest Rotary president. “She did a really good pitch” he jokes.
Everyone knows him as Alim rather than Abdullahi, his given name. “At the Islamic school I went to, if you asked for Abdullahi, 100 kids would put their hand up,” he explains.
Is Tim O’Donnell, of Perth, Western Australia, the world’s youngest Rotarian?
Tim had his 18th birthday last September.
He went to his first meeting of Rotary of Crawley on the 7th August, 2014, and passed a probationary period designed to test his commitment. He was inducted as a member on 13th November and has been mentored by club founder David Goldstone and Tim Lefroy, another young member who won the State Government’s Youth Award last year.
He was targeted as a potential member by club elders, partly because of his precocious track record in community service. At Scotch College he was captain of community service (and Vice-Captain of School) and learned the ropes about charity work and liaison with organizations. “I was involved with the Disabled Surfing Association, assisting disabled children and adults to get a taste of freedom in the shallows and surf. It’s a rewarding experience for all of us involved,” he says.
The club pays him a two-year scholarship, which covers his Rotary dues and breakfast-meeting costs. Tim will look to pep up the club’s involvement with Indigenous advancement and youth causes, and hopes to help generate events to raise the funding. “The club’s people are inspirational,” he says. “They’ve had after-works drinks with me and introduced me to their business colleagues in areas like oil and gas, law and education. I can see how important networking is to get results, and I’m discovering the structures involved in a fund-raising exercise.”
Tim is now starting second-year Commerce at the University of Western Australia. During studies he’s working in sales for a jewellery and watch retailer.
Photo. Tim (above) helping youngsters with disability enjoy the surf
Danielle Beck 40, typifies the energy in the club with her lively role as Master of Ceremonies at meetings.
“We only meet here an hour a week and my job’s to quickly set the pace. If the MC doesn’t engage the audience early on you are at risk of having a flat meeting,” she says.
Danielle, a self-employed executive coach, says she came from Melbourne two years ago and was looking for something more in her friendships and heard the club was great for networking. Since joining 15 months ago she’s found members to be inspiring and keen to give more than take from their lives – “It’s all about the human connection for me,” she says. Her main roles are coordinating the mentoring among club members and running the social program and is the President Nominee for 2016.
Because of the high proportion of females, the club dynamics are certainly different – “I love the mix of male to female ratio in the club but not having another Rotary Club to compare to I haven’t noticed it” . #