My dear First Class teammates,

We are half-way through our journey together. Much has been achieved but much remains to be done. Those who were at the Pan Borneo Meet in Kuching last month would have heard my mid-term report at the Governor’s Banquet. To benefit those who were not there, I would like to make a brief summary.

By the time you read this Governor’s Monthly Letter (GML) I would have completed my official visits to all the clubs in the district. I have mostly enjoyed my visits to the clubs. It would not be honest, however, for me to say that I have not been frustrated by some.

I note with concern that some clubs face leadership succession problems. And I do not mean only the top leadership. These clubs have great difficulty trying to convince their members to take on leadership roles in the various committees. It does not augur well when members are not interested enough to offer their skills as a service to their clubs. I keep repeating that we are primarily a service organization. We provide service through our vocations. This is how we serve the community.

Many clubs still do not have a strategic plan in place. It is very sad that the club leadership would allow their clubs to drift aimlessly along, just waiting for the year to end. This is a serious matter. Such catastrophic failures in leadership have led to the downfall of many clubs. All of us are successful leaders in our own professions. Surely you have strategic plans and goals set up for your own business or profession … indeed, even your own life. Why is it that you do not do so for your club?

There are some clubs that do not meet regularly. By RI’s definition these are termed “non-functioning clubs.” It is only a tiny step from being a “non-functioning” club to a “nonexistent” club. Yet the members of these clubs choose to exist in a state of denial, unwilling to acknowledge that they have a problem. They hope and think that somehow the next club president and committees will fix the problem. Unfortunately, the truth is simpler than that: once the rot sets in, the problem will never be fixed.

Many members lack Rotary information. Yet they choose not to attend the various seminars that are held regularly. We have, at great expense, brought the seminars to your own doorsteps. Happy to say, I note that attendances at these seminars have improved. That is very encouraging. I still see the same, familiar faces, however. We seem to be preaching to the converted. Not that we are complaining … we love to see you but may I suggest that the next time you bring along another club member. Better still, bring a new member.

Far too many club presidents do not take their appointments seriously. For the sake of our district, please do not force anyone to become a club president unless they are willing to do so. For the sake of your club and for the sake of Rotary, this is a serious commitment not to be taken lightly.

It would be wonderful if those delinquent club presidents would change after reading this message. I know this would be a pipe dream. If they don’t even read my emails I don’t expect they would bother to take the trouble to read my monthly letters.

The Pan Borneo Meet was a great success. Through the outstanding efforts of all members of Rotary Club of Kuching Central, there was a record attendance of nearly 190 participants, with many from Singapore and Johor clubs. This is one example of a club with members working together to achieve a common goal. When like-minded people get together for a cause, wonderful things can happen. The recent tragedy in the Philippines wreaked by Typhoon Haiyan brought out the best in us. At the welcome dinner of the Pan Borneo Meet, through PP Dr Ho Loon Shin’s leadership, we were able to raise a considerable sum of money. The true spirit of Rotary prevailed. Likewise, the rest of the district has spared no effort to come together to raise funds for the disaster victims. Well done PP Dr Ho and well done fellow Rotarians!

It is now time to focus on the Presidential Citation. All clubs should make an effort to achieve this.
The Presidential Citation is not something cooked up by RI to keep you busy. It is an effort by RI to ensure clubs are well-rounded in their activities. It encourages clubs to serve humanity through all five Avenues of Service. Use the proposed activities in the Presidential Citation as a guide to how you run your clubs.

I have often heard clubs declare that they would only do community service and nothing else. You do not need to join a Rotary club just to do community service. Many other organizations are doing that. And some are even doing it better than us.

The “Rotary Club Central” in the Member Access of the RI website was devised to help clubs monitor their own progress. Disappointingly, some club presidents have not even heard of it. Recently, I logged into the RI website and noticed that only a handful of clubs have even bothered to use the portal. No doubt this is something new but it allows clubs to chart and monitor their goals. I hope that in the years to come, more Rotary clubs will utilize this useful tool to check their progress.

December is Family Month. In December, let us involve all our family members in our club activities. Perhaps invite them to come to one of our weekly meetings so that they know what we do. Many clubs have Christmas celebrations involving family members. In addition, a Rotary Family Carnival will be held in Singapore on 28 December 2013. It will be a fun-packed event for everyone in the family. For more details, please look out for announcement in email and RTM. Indeed, many successful and vibrant clubs have regular programs that involve the family. The support and understanding of your spouse is a very important factor to how successfully you could run your club.

I urge you to include your families in your club activities. Involving the family is another of the unique features of our organization. Have you noticed how often the senior leaders of Rotary involve their spouses in their activities? The president and directors of Rotary International often travel with their spouses who play important supporting roles. During the governor’s training at the International Assembly their spouses also take part in the training exercises; similarly for the Governors’ Elect Training Seminar (GETS) at Rotary Institutes. The family that plays together stays together.

The recent call to clubs to suggest candidates for the position of District Governor Nominee 2016-17 yielded a tremendous response. No less than six candidates were suggested. This is a good sign. It shows that Rotarians in the district are willing to take on greater responsibilities at the district level. I know that competition is keen and everyone wants the best candidate to serve our district. We have a District Nominating Committee comprising past governors who are equally aware of the heavy responsibility bestowed on their shoulders. A number of factors are considered to select the right candidate.

At the time of writing, there are Rotarians in our district who are unable to accept the selected candidate of the District Nominating Committee. There will be a challenge against the candidate selected for the position of District Governor 2016-17. The RI Manual of Procedures has provisions for such a democratic challenge and there are precedents in our district. I urge all clubs to be objective: exercise care and choose the right candidate to run our district in 2016-17.

We should now take stock of our work over the past six months: Where have we fallen short? What else can we do to achieve our goals? We don’t have much time left. Very soon you will become an IPP. Your year would have passed you by. In future years would you proudly stand up and be counted as an outstanding past president of your club or would you rather quietly leave this out of your personal bio?

Until the next GML, keep the emails and comments coming.

Chew Ghim Bok
District Governor 2013-14