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What Rotarians can teach others on community work

JOE OTIN. ILLUSTRATION | STANSLAUS MANTHI
JOE OTIN. ILLUSTRATION | STANSLAUS MANTHI 

Advertising and communications expert Joe Otin has been elected to be the District Governor for all Rotary clubs in Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea and South Sudan for the year 2019/2010.

The District Governor Nominee spoke to the Business Daily about his election and plans.

What does it mean to become the District Governor Nominee?

Being District Governor Nominee is the culmination of 18 years of service to the community and it gives me the opportunity to have the greatest impact I have ever had to improve lives in our society. Together with 2,000 inspired individuals who are members of Rotary Clubs in Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea and South Sudan we will continue to raise money for ending polio and getting medicine to those mothers in rural areas who otherwise may not get medical attention for their children.

We shall also be providing, water, books and classrooms to improve education in needy areas, and continue raising funds to eliminate polio.

Speaking of polio, that was an ambitious project by Rotarians?

Rotarians have guts and set audacious goals. In 1984 we set an objective to eradicate polio globally and today we are at the brink of success because of the progress that Rotary and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) partners have made towards it.

Through the years we’ve raised over $1 billion for polio and contributed to reducing the disease by 99 per cent.

After all those years of Rotary in Kenya, why is it so hard for the public to understand what Rotary is and does? How would you remedy that?

Those who know Rotary well have a close connection with the organisation but only two out of 10 people know the brand intimately.

These numbers have forced us to develop a brand strengthening initiative that would help people know who we are and the good work that we do in society.

The local clubs have adopted these local branding and public relations tools to build the image of Rotary within the public, our beneficiaries, government and the donor community.

However, PR goes well beyond the packaging and into the working partnerships and the tangible results that we create. We will therefore spend more time developing relationships with government, major corporations and community-based organisations to increase the impact and thus the knowledge of our work in Kenya.

What was your reaction upon hearing the news of your nomination – and what was running in your mind?

The announcement of my election was made at the end of the two-day district conference in Kisumu and when my name was called my blood began to stir. The popular quote goes ‘Make no small plans because small plans have no magic to stir men’s blood’.

You have occupied various positions in Rotary. Which jobs have you enjoyed the most and why?

Mike Eldon, my mentor, once said to me that being a president of a Rotary club is CEO training for free.

He was right and the role that I enjoyed the most was being the president of my mother club, Rotary Club of Nairobi-East.

It pushed me beyond what I thought I could personally achieve and made me realise that we have to take risks if we are going to change the script and substantially address the ills in our society.

Let’s imagine that District Governor can accomplish anything he wants during his year. What are the top three things you want to accomplish during your year?

Our accomplishments are determined by the need in society and the aspirations of every Rotarian. My plans are to raise the highest amount that this district has ever raised for polio eradication as we make the final push to end the crippling disease.

We will do this by using mobile money technology to generate a high quantity of donations in small denominations.

Secondly, we will establish permanent programmes with half a dozen major corporations and government agencies for fund raising and project implementation on a large scale.

Thirdly, we will build a generation of young and upcoming leaders, through world-class training and mentorship, who hold high ethical values and can transform society in incredible ways.

If you could change one thing about the Rotary District immediately, what would it be?

Change for the sake of change is wasteful but the transformation of our district into a high performing region has been brought about by the priorities of the past District Governors and the impeccable leadership handover process that Rotary has developed over the last 113 years.

Three generations of District Governors work together in harmony to deliver on the overall strategic plan, which stands as the contract between the leaders and the members.

There is a question that aspiring members ask: Do Rotarians get value for their money?

Rotary’s overriding motto is ‘service above self’ and our return-on-investment is measured by the progress we make towards uplifting of less fortunate members of society.

I joined Rotary because I was sceptical about the allocation of donations by charity organisations that may prioritise administration costs.

In Rotary we are the stewards of the resources that are invested in the community and for that purpose we have established a global standard for 91 per cent or more of funds spent directly on programmes.

We have been honoured for our high standard with a four-star rating from Charity Navigator, which is the highest rating level that they provide.

If you were asked to describe five important, though not necessarily apparent, characteristics about yourself, what would you say?

Life is for the living and I enjoy the simple things in life. I am a risk taker and like to do things that scare the hell out of me, which leaves me asking the question “Am I chasing the sun or am I fleeing from the falcon?” I interacted with Father Daniel in Korogocho, the kindest person I’ve ever known, who has made me believe that humanity is inherently good, and the dream of world peace is not far-fetched.

If you could have a personal conversation with every Rotarian, what would you say to each of them?

Keep doing what you’re doing, your doing great and your best is enough. Kenya needs you now more than ever.

How will you entice more people to become Rotarians – and what will you be telling them?

We can double our numbers if every Rotarian told their family and friends what we do and helped them to understand that if every one of us carries out a small act of kindness regularly, our aspirations of becoming a developed nation will be realised sooner, and through those actions we can truly develop future security for all our people.

Another personal quality, which I should have mentioned in the previous question, is that I am an optimist — the glass is always half full.

What have you learned from working with other Rotarians from other countries?

I have learned that an act of kindness can be translated into every language we have around the globe and it means the same thing everywhere.

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