The leadership mantle was passed from 37th to 38th Board of Directors at a colourful ceremony held on 30th June, 2015 at Laico Regency Hotel. The newly installed President, Mary Gaichiri had this to share with all those who attended this special occasion that was presided over by D9212 District Governor-Elect, Rotarian Richard Owela. It was also humbling to have D9212 District Rotaract Representative 2015/16, Richard Mwangi, witness the formal handover.
2015-16 President- Mary Gaichiri. Photo by Dennis Munene
Usually, when stories are told by people who have made an impact in the society, they tell of having experienced a hardship and therefore decide to serve in that particular area. So someone who used to go to school without meals as a child starts a school feeding program. Or a person who comes across an abandoned baby narrows to a rescue center.
Such stories are the norm. But stories at the Rotaract Club of Nairobi Central (RCNC) and Rotaract in general are far from the usual. We all know men do not get menses, and therefore cannot really relate with what girls go through. So it seems unusual when our very own masculine Dickson Njuguna (2012/13 Community Service Director) is seen somewhere along Thika Road with bales of sanitary towels waiting for nearly five hours for a free transport provider so that a girl somewhere in Kenya can stay in school for 4 more days each month. It should make us curious what drives such a person. Shouldn’t it?
Or take our very dignified Past President Irinah Wandera (now a Rotarian), who never held a sales job before her presidency, but who nonetheless hauled tens of calendars to every Rotary and Rotaract Club meeting in Nairobi, around the country and Uganda just to raise money for a very dear signature club project- A Girl A K A Year Sanitary (H-Pads for Girls) Towels. She did so very passionately that by the time she was done, the last ones probably had only a month left in their relevance. We should be curious where such drive comes from.
Dickson Njuguna the 2012-13 H-Pads for Girls Ambassador. Photo by Caroline Njoki
Our very own Huma Kaseu many times used to walk from Jericho to Laico Regency Hotel for the club meeting when he served as President. Many of those times, I have been told, he went for community service projects and it did not matter whether there was a quorum or not. Without much resources but with a big heart for service, he did not tolerate any excuse that would hinder him from doing what needed to be done to keep the club not just alive, but impacting on the lives of others as it should. For the uptown folks, Jericho is quite the distance if you opt to walk there to Nairobi City Centre. Eastlands also does not have too many trees. Not forgetting the dust and sun. So that WALK was not easy by any standard. We should be curious what drove Huma.
When Past President Michael Waiyaki, who is in this room today, served as the District Conference and Assembly (DCA) Chair in 2012, he faced a multitude of challenges organizing the conference that eventually necessitated a change of venue. With constrained resources but determined to give Rotaractors from the then District 9200 (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Eritrea) the conference they so deserved, he pressed on with great support from the club. To avert this would be disaster.
And that’s Michael and Huma and Irinah and Dickson for you. And each one of you, I have endless stories of selfless acts. I’m sure Charles Muthui and Caleb Ontieri can attest to this in the past year. There are many more amazing and crazy stories Rotarians Gideon Akwabi and Bernard Kiragu (all past presidents of RCNC) can give about exceptional service by Rotaractors of this club twenty years back.
So why don’t we consider our own actions curious? It is because we are Rotaractors. Rotaract is simply a platform where those young people inclined to service discover and express their unique abilities as they serve, without fear of criticism or of judgment. Wrapped in their own unique package, each Rotaractor is free to be a gift to the world the best way they know how. Whether it is Caroline Njoki’s meticulous ability to identify and fill in gaps in projects or Norman Kuria chasing a Mombasa-bound bus with a motorbike at night with a bale full of t-shirts so they make it in good time in for the DCA in Diani. Norman that was quite a stunt! You see, such senseless service is what it means to be a Rotaractor. All these people understand that “We make a living by what we earn but make a life by what we give”, in the words of Winston Churchill.
These things we do define us as individuals, and ultimately as a club, and aren’t we having fun being ourselves? So when we are on the balcony of my cottage at Neptune Beach Resort after a very successful DCA spearheaded by one of our own (Albashir Ahmed) and Immediate Past President Lucy Mwangi and Catherine Muema are rapping at the top of their lungs to an imaginary crowd in the middle of the night, I understand that they’re not crazy, they’re just expressing their joy on the success of one of us because we are family! So let’s go ahead and have fun as we serve, because serving can be tough at times, and can sometimes make us wonder why we are in Rotaract at all.
I have wondered many times when things have been tough. But I’ve always been reminded why, through words, deeds or both, by some of the greats of this club that have come before me. And also through the words of Gandhi when he said, “The best way to find yourself is when you lose yourself in service to others”.
Why even join RCNC? It was Rotarian Irinah who gave me no option but to join, when other Rotaract Clubs were also angling for my membership as I was transitioning from an Institution-based one. Irinah was the first to declare that I’d be President some day. Your prophecy is fulfilled on this day. Thank you for seeing in me what I could not see in myself. So many times when I ran low on energy it was Norman who was there, as he always is for all his friends, as the last man standing to give support, even when he himself could have used some support. Well, I think Norman deserves a standing ovation. I appreciate your support.
President Lucy, I’ve learnt so much from you on what to do and when to do it. Very valuable practical lessons you have passed on how to run this great club. If I succeed, it will be because you preceded me. I will do my best to uphold and progress your legacy. In absentia, I thank Past President Huma, for teaching me that it pays to stand by what you believe in, and to pursue your goals even when you have nothing in your hands but confidence. I will try and show my gratitude by being bold in my pursuits. And each of you knows the role you have played in bringing RCNC to where it is, and enabling me to stand on this podium today.
Acknowledgements to our mother club, the Rotary Club of Nairobi for the support through the years. Indeed I look forward to work with President Elizabeth Kimkung in the coming year. Thanks to all the club directors, members and guests who continue giving selflessly in various ways whenever you are called upon. There would be no club for me to lead without you. My family, who are here tonight, for understanding when I am not always available to spend as much as much time with them. Ultimately, and most importantly, I would like to thank God for being Himself in my life and to this club. He deserves all the glory.
I fear that I might let you down, having such big shoes to fill. There is immense pressure on every subsequent President to attain or beat the high benchmarks that are continually set over the years. I feel that pressure, and unfortunately I cannot live up to such high expectations by myself. In fact, I would not have taken up this position if I was not assured of the backing of the team that is going to deliver upon those lofty expectations: Catherine Muema, Sylvia Karanja, Kelvin Wanyiri, Dennis Munene, Charles Muthui, Caleb Ontieri, Japtheth Agwanda, Nicodemus Chege, Lucy Kimani, Albashir Ahmed, Olivia Ngugi, Michael Mutuma, David Kigunda, Ruth Kihoro, Nkatha Obungu and Evalyne Muragami. And of course Lucy Mwangi, Irinah Wandera, Evelyn Ochiel and Norman Kuria who will serve as Advisors to the Board.
Thank you team for agreeing to work with me. I feel so relieved, and so sorry for you! …Okay that was a joke…. But we do have a lot of work ahead of us and I have no doubt you are more than up to the task. To the rest of the club and alumni, we need your support because this journey is not easy. For to be a Rotaractor, is to serve senselessly. This is RCNC- you are free to serve the best way you know how. So be senseless in your giving, and weird in your living for others. After all, in the final analysis, Mother Teresa noted, ‘it is between you and your God. It was never between you and them anyway’.
This year I am requesting us to be Rotaractors by these definitions of the term. It is the best way to be A GIFT TO THE WORLD!
D9212 District Governor-Elect with RCNC’s Newly Installed and Past Presidents. Photo by Dennis Munene
Maria as she is fondly known will also serve as the D9212 District Secretary.