By District Governor Grant Hocking, Australia
There is no doubt that we are, and will be feeling the impact of the COVID-19 virus for many months to come. Health authorities, Governments and Rotary International are providing advice about what to do to ensure the spread of the virus is limited and our health systems are not overwhelmed.
It is vitally important during these challenging times to maintain communication. Between Rotary members, Rotary clubs and the district, between other districts and all over the Rotary world.
As Rotarians in Australia, we are approaching a long and proud 100-year history of stepping up as People of Action. We know how to bring the community together, particularly in times of crisis. If there is one thing that is clear it is that our community needs our leadership now more than ever.
Rotary clubs have already suspended events and some have suspended meetings. Many events across Australia have been cancelled including district conferences, Youth Exchange travel, district assemblies, and fundraising events. This will severely impact club’s financial status and ability to support projects.
This is not a time to stop what we are doing within our clubs, but rather a time to pivot. Whilst your club may not be able to physically meet for the time being, there are still plenty of ways your club can continue to make a difference. Most notably, our communication channels – newsletter, email, website, social media, phone trees, text or virtual meeting – are vitally important in staying connected to our members, project partners, sponsors and communities.
District 9800 has arranged twice weekly Zoom meetings for all members to stay connected, share ideas and hear from each other and special guest presenters. This was also done to provide a safe avenue for Rotarians to try the new technology and become familiar with it before using it themselves.
I recently appeared on the ABC radio station which is the leading radio station in Melbourne and Victoria to talk about volunteering opportunities and directed people to a volunteer page on our website. This has led to dozens of new people linking with local clubs offering to work with us on projects to support the community. It will hopefully lead to membership growth too. Wouldn’t that be wonderful in these challenging times!
More information on what we are doing in District 9800 can be found on our new webpage called Staying Connected. There are several subpages with lots of information suitable for Rotary members and clubs. We have just set up a link to the Rotary Club of Mt Lawley in Western Australia who have produced a list of clubs around the world willing to share details of their meetings and how they have adapted during this time. We are doing the same for our district clubs and encouraging them to put their details on both sites.
The majority of clubs are adapting quickly to new technology. Most are finding it an excellent means of communication and a great way to stay connected. I am also attending dozens of club meetings via Zoom to support their endeavours. Our goal is to support all clubs to ensure they stay connected. The E-club of Melbourne is supporting these efforts; the e-clubs are probably wondering why it has taken so long for the rest of us to discover the benefits of on-line meetings.
It is also important to look after our members during these challenging times. Clubs are being encouraged to proactively engage with members to support them getting more tech savvy and online to reduce social isolation and supporting any impact that financial markets may be having on their income.
Remember, we’re all part of a large Rotary family and support is available at every level of Rotary through these unprecedented times. Let’s all do our bit to stay connected, positive and active so we come out the other side of these events even stronger!
Stay healthy and stay well.