Posted by Jerry Nelson

As I write this, my year as President of Chiang Mai International Rotary Club (CMIRC) is ending; a good time for reflection and review. In my opinion, shared with the clear majority of Rotarians I have met, the President is responsible for the shortcomings within the club and the members rightfully receive credit for the successes we enjoy! For 2017-2018 was CMIRC a success? Were there problems and challenges? Were we up to the task? Are the success stories worthy of telling? My answer: Absolutely!

Maintaining a core membership consisting of Rotarians who are willing and able to contribute has been our first success of note. It’s also our first challenge. We just don’t have enough members to do all that we want to do, and the result has been a huge load on a few people as opposed to a small load on more people. More about membership toward the end of this. At more than one business meeting the idea of reducing the number of projects has surfaced. The result is always the same, we add more, and we do so because of the great needs in our local, regional and world community. That my friend, is Rotary! We claim, and have well-earned, the Rotary tag “People of Action”.

We have recently published our Child Protection Policy. Many thanks to Rotarian Bruce Lasky and his legal team for its creation and to Charter President Roger Lindley for his steady guidance during the editing and revision process! The policy is available online and we are happy to share it with other Rotary Clubs and organizations. Our projects and partners, including the Mae Tao Clinic, Burma Children Medical Fund, BEAM and Safe Child Thailand, all appreciate our policy.

This very bulletin received an award for the best online bulletin in District 3360 for the years 2016-2017 and again for 2017-2018. Rotarian Nancy Lindley has stepped up as editor and the quality is even better than it was prior to January 2018. This is a critical tool for our ongoing public relations efforts. True story, just the other day (28 June 2018) I was on a Chiang Mai songthaew (red taxi) with two women and four children. We struck up a conversation and learned she knew nothing of Rotary. I gave her my card and invited her to check out and and to let me know if she would like to receive this monthly bulletin. Ms. Lemei Huang from San Jose California: Making your brief acquaintance was both an honor and a pleasure. I do hope this is the beginning of a Rotary journey of your own! Perhaps one or more of the girls will end up as Rotary Exchange students? Your note, copied here, is inspiring:

Hi Jerry,

Thanks for getting back to me and added my name on to your list.

We followed elephants all day today and got home a bit early.

I had chance to ask children to study and find a program they are interested in details. Of course they didn’t go very deep in the topics but they all noticed that Rotary International has a major goal in sickness: to end Polio.

They didn’t know what Polio was until I pointed out that polio was what paralyzed Yvette(No. 2) and Ysabel’s (No.4)father’s legs. Their father Elton has been on wheel chair ever since he was a child like their age due to Polio. Yvette was like: oh...I didn’t know...just thought that I shared the story with you.

Thank you for being kind.

Going about my daily business, I’m most often attired in something with a Rotary emblem and I always have Rotary cards with me. I was on my way to pick up an order of 200 when I met Lemei. Being a Rotarian shows one in a good light in the community. I can’t tell you how many times someone has approached me because of my Rotary attire. All connections have been positive and some of them quite amazing! Being a foreigner in Chiang Mai I have found Rotary unlocking opportunities I would never have known about. I receive the most courteous treatment just because people know I am a Rotarian. My wife and I are on the very prestigious United States Consulate General’s invitation list for functions like the recent Independence Day reception. Without Rotary I would just be another “farang” in Thailand. Because of Rotary I’m seen with respect and a welcome part of the community.

Throughout the year I maintained the role of Project Champion for the Mae Tao Clinic (MTC). There is so much going on and so much need that I've written an article, below, dedicated to MTC.

Our Children’s Sight Project was terminated in September of 2017. Challenge turned into opportunity. We immediately began the process of establishing the Children’s Vision Screening Program in conjunction with Chiang Mai University’s School of Pediatric Medicine. Now we will serve all 11 Tessaban schools in Chiang Mai, and are working to create a Rotary Community Corps to include those schools! As of now the community corps will likely include Children’s Water Safety, Vision Screening and English Language Conversation. My guess is within a few months more will be added. Sometimes the Thai people experience our assertiveness and aggressiveness and it causes challenges. However, this “odd group” of people continues to earn the love and respect of the local community and that my friend is Rotary! Leadership for this great effort is from Incoming President John Schorr. Congratulations and Thank you!

The BCMF B.K.Kee patient house had a very good year, first under the leadership of Rotarian Mike Lake and recently Gary Herman. The patients at the house all suffer from serious illness or injury. It was here I met a girl suffering from cancer who still today reminds me that real love and respect transcends culture and language. Nalagay (right) made her transition taking with her a big part of my heart. This is the kind of experience that keeps me in Rotary through the good times and the bad.

Unfortunately, we have been lacking in members with a real passion for club service, especially administration. Too few have been asked to do too much. I take full responsibility for the lapses that have occurred as a result. Apparently, I mentioned this to the incoming president one time too often; he asked me to be Secretary for 2018-2019. Of course, I said yes! We are already well into the creating and applying solutions for 2018-2019 and beyond.

When our incoming president presented the strategic plan for 2018-2019 he made a point using the RI Presidential theme “Be the Inspiration”. He mentioned all the previous presidents of CMIRC. His comment about me was something to the effect that I am the hardest working Rotarian he has ever met, an impossible act to follow. My retort: John, I believe you will work half as hard and three times smart, and I expect you to take CMIRC to the next level!

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to attend the Installation Dinner for the Rotary Club of Bangkok South, where I reconnected with old friends and made new ones. The event gave me cause to think about our own club CMIRC and what I realized was that Bangkok South might just be the right role model for our club. They are mature, polished, and have a very positive impact on the local, regional and global communities. I was a bit envious until somewhere in their program they reminded the audience that they are 50 years old! CMIRC won’t be five years old until February 21st. Yes, we have growing pains and yes we are exactly where we ought to be in our development, and we are still boxing above our weight and winning!

Throughout the year I have said that we need more good active members, in fact I’ll close this with almost the same words I used in my first president’s message: CMIRC is brimming with great community service activities. We are constantly looking for new members interested in our good work and are willing to help move the club forward, men and women who are “People of Action”. Membership is critical to our growth and even our survival. That said I’m reminded of a comment made by Albert S. Adams, Rotary Club of Atlanta Georgia, at the 1919 Rotary Convention; “Never take a man for whom you will later have to make excuses, and never take a man merely for his bigness in material success unless it be sure that he is a Rotarian at heart. It is better to have 15 good members than 75 members who are Rotations in name only.” CMIRC members do and will continue to epitomize “Service Above Self”. I am both humbled and proud to have been President for RY 2017-2018.