Rotary: a bridge for society

The Journal continues with its series interviewing all four new presidents of the Rotary clubs of the Cayman Islands to hear about the direction in which they will be steering their clubs. This month Business Editor Lindsey Turnbull sits down with Rotary of Grand Cayman club President Lori McRae.

Lori McRae says her induction date (31 January 2002) holds very special memories for her because it was almost to the day that the club itself was initially chartered – on 28 January 1966, so it was at Charter night that her induction was held.

She says she became involved with Rotary via a business relationship with Past Assistant Governor Jeremy Hurst.

“One day I asked him to tell me more about Rotary and that was it. I started going to meetings and was ultimately accepted to membership via his sponsorship.”

McRae says she joined because she felt it was the right time in her life to give back to the community in which she lived.

“I was a single mother to an eight year old daughter and wanted to be a good role model,” she confirms.

“I wanted my daughter to learn that it was important to help those less fortunate and in doing so create a civic-minded individual. I knew that Rotary was an international organisation with an exemplary reputation however at the time I had no idea of the true impact they had not only on the local community but on the international community.”

Fast track

Within two months of becoming a member McRae was approached to become the assistant secretary.  It was a baptism of fire of sorts, as she confirms: “In May, a month before our annual board changeover our secretary informed me that she was leaving the island and that I would become the club secretary. I had been a member for five months and still had so much to learn about Rotary.”

Fortunately President Nick Freeland and Treasurer Richard Harris, both seasoned Rotarians, took McRae under their wing and taught her what she needed to know to do the job.

“It was fast track learning,” she concedes.

“The following year I was asked to stay on as secretary again which I did since I was just getting to the point that I understood what was required of the position. It was also a wonderful way to get to know all of the club members. I subsequently became secretary for a third time and the following year became a co-community service director. Ultimately being secretary three times has helped me in the role of club president.”

Rotary Club of Grand Cayman is the oldest of the three clubs on Grand Cayman and one on the Brac. The club’s 110 or so members meet weekly on a Thursday at 12.30 pm at the Westin Casuarina Resort.

”Our club has a rich history and we are extremely fortunate to still retain some of the original members of the club – Mr. James ‘Sonny Boy’ Bodden, Mr. Benson Ebanks and Mr. Vernon Jackson,” she says.   

McRae explains that Rotary has five Avenues of Service – Club Service, Vocational Service, Community Service, International Service and the newest Avenue adopted last year, New Generations which focuses on youth and in doing so, the next generation of Rotary. Explaining why she believes that the organisation is a force for good within the community, she explains:

“Due to its international reputation and the Rotary symbol which is very visible in our society, Rotary is an organisation that people recognise. As such, when we fundraise to assist the community people are very generous. I would have to say that all of the Rotary clubs on the island focus as much as possible on community service projects and doing what they can to support the local community.”

International reach gives Rotary global connectivity
The Rotary Club of Grand Cayman joins all other Rotary clubs in that, in conjunction with local community service, it has an international view of how communities can be helped. For example, the club has been a keen supporter of the PolioPlus initiative, a cause that has seen significant support from Rotary clubs worldwide, in a bid to eradicate the disease.

“Rotary International is partnering with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation whereby Rotary has been challenged to raise US$200 million to match US$355 million in grants from the foundation,” McRae explains. “We therefore each donate a dollar a week to the cause to help eradicate this terrible disease once and for all.”

The club also promotes a literacy programme in Guatemala and its programme funds new books and computers for the youngsters involved. Rotary members travel to Guatemala annually to report on progress made there.

“Local Rotarians have also taken part in immunisation programmes in India, with the 2008 India project being spearheaded by Rotarian Mr. Tim Adam,” McRae says. 

She continues: “In this way Rotary plays a huge part in bridging societies. Here in the Cayman Islands we have so many different nationalities all living together – Rotary can play a big part in both joining nationalities and reaching out to societies all around the world.” 

The focus for Rotary of Grand Cayman
“Community Service is always a major focus for our club,” McRae says. “We continue to support the Meals on Wheels programme which was introduced by our club approximately 10 years ago and we also organise the senior’s Boxing Day party every year. We continue to support the Bonaventure Boys Home and the Francis Bodden Girls Home, which were constructed with funds raised by our club.”

As a board this year she says the club would like to focus on youth and youth oriented projects, in line with the new Avenue of Service that was introduced by Rotary International called New Generations.

“With the obvious problems involving the youth on our island we feel it is our duty to nurture and develop programs to educate and assist the young people in our community in an effort to develop the leaders of tomorrow,” she says.

The first project initiated on changeover night was an art outreach programme called Art Unlimited with the National Gallery. The club donated CI$6,000.00 to become the lead sponsor of the art-based programme that reaches out to young girls living in the Francis Bodden Girls home.

“This is a particularly special project for me given the history we have with Francis Bodden and my own personal support of the National Gallery and the local art community. To show their support, several girls from the Francis Bodden Home attended our changeover and performed a hand signing to the song Because You Loved Me. It was a very moving tribute,” McRae confirms.

The club is also working closely with one of the local high schools in an effort to start an Interact Club and thereby nurture new Rotarians in the years to come. 

“Interact is Rotary International’s service club for young people ages 12 to 18. Interact clubs are sponsored by individual Rotary clubs, which provide support and guidance, but they are self-governing and self-supporting,” she explains.

“It’s a great way for young people to appreciate the values of Rotary and to also understand how a Rotary club operates. We are looking forward to our next generation of Rotarians coming through the ranks in the future, so that the good work that is already underway can be continued.”

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Sherry Robinson, Rotarian of the Year, Lori McRae and Catherine Guilbard, Immediate Past President.

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