MY ROTARY MOMENT
By PDG Edward Burongoh
My first ‘contact’ with Rotary was when I was a schoolboy in Form 4. I was shopping for Christmas cards at a well known supermarket in Kota Kinabalu when I heard singing - terrible singing- from some ‘old people’(I was very young then), singing some Christmas songs, at a coffee shop adjacent to the supermarket.
“Are they not ashamed of their singing?” I thought, “this is a public place and everybody can hear how terrible their voices are.” I looked at the group and remembered the Rotary logo very well as it was prominently displayed.
I had no idea what Rotary was all about. I thought that it was probably a club for old people to learn how to sing and they were definitely not good at it. Anyway, Rotary was out of my mind until I started work. After a year of working, my usual doctor, PP Dr. Richard Barrow, introduced me to Rotary by inviting me to his club meeting. My mind immediately went back to that day when I heard the “old people” sing! ”Oh no”, I thought, “I am going to a club for old people to learn how to sing!”
Well, as it happened, the Rotary Club of Kota Kinabalu does have a tradition of ‘breaking the ice’ with singing before the formal proceedings take place. Two or three Rotarians are asked to ‘lead the singing’ and the Club has its own song book too! But after the singing, the formal part of Rotary begins with reports from the President and other Rotarians who have reports to make.
After attending several meetings, I was formally invited to join the club which I accepted. On my first day as a Rotarian, I was asked by a senior Rotarian to go round and collect the ‘sunshine fund’ and the fines. For a moment, I thought, ‘Gee they also bully new recruits!’ but I dismissed it as a form of ‘orientation’
I stayed away from the Club for quite a while and perhaps did not even make the ‘passing grade’, partly because I did not have much time for Rotary then, partly because of work. I understand why young professionals find it hard to join Rotary- there is the enormous pressure of office work and family commitments.
At the next Rotary year, I found myself being ‘promoted’ to Director of Vocational Services. My attendance was still poor but at least with (occasional) ‘make-ups’ attending the BOD meet, it wasn’t too bad. My only contribution as a director was coming up with car stickers and even then, I did not attend the actual ceremony of the ‘handing over’ of the stickers to the authorities concerned, as a contribution from Rotary, for ‘safe driving’.
I will now jump to the year when it was my turn to become the President of the club(eight years later), so as not to bore you with my haphazard attendance in my Club. Well, in the interim, I did hold several other posts in the club, albeitreluctantly…except perhaps when I was made ‘Editor’, which I kind of enjoyed as it was part of my profession then.
Anyway, when I was asked to become President, I turned it down – three times!. And I only accepted it grudgingly. But after the experience, this became my Rotary Moment – the acceptance of the post of President of the Club. I strongly believe that by taking on this yoke of responsibility, I learned to truly appreciate and accept Rotary and all that is stands for. It turned my preconceptions and biases against Rotary around so completely that I was privileged to become one of the Governors in the district.
Being a President of the Club, you learn to accept responsibilities. But more than that, you are in the midst ofsenior professionals, top business people and community leaders or what I call, the ‘elites’ of society – all dedicated to the ideals of Rotary?
Now, why would they listen to you or waste time and effort to support you on whatever projects you have in mind for the good of society? Who are you to ask them for funds, time and energy to do community projects? What is your standing in the community that they should listen to you and let you lead them? Amazingly, only in Rotary can you lead and work with these magnificent group of people.
So my advice is, grab the mantle, ride the bull, take it by the horns, eagerly accept the role of the President of your Club. You will learn that only in Rotary, you will have the power to lead…and with power comes greater responsibilities (with apologies to Spider Man)
Edward Sung Burongoh