‘One experience that resonates with me was visiting mud huts by the side of the track in South Korea- the people were so lovely they would have given us their last potato.’ I’m interviewing Kathy Ryan, Assistant Governor of Geelong’s Rotary District 9780 Group 9. ‘I was born in the US and in the 60s I studied Sociology. Soon after I found myself in South Korea working for the Peace Corps. We were living with the locals out in the countryside, looking for tuberculosis cases to help eradicate this horrific disease. We’d ask them if they got the night sweats or other symptoms and, if so, get them tested. It was a wonderfully life changing experience that set me on my way.
‘I’ve been back to South Korea a couple of times recently, including for the International Rotary Conference, and I’ve seen such big changes there. Now they are sending volunteers all over the world and taking in refugees from Myanmar.
‘Rotary’s mantra is ‘Peace through Service’ which fits in with my beliefs. Rotary is an opportunity to help make the good happen. I came to Australia in 1974 on an assisted passage and in the last 15 years before retirement I worked at Bethany in Gamblers Help. I love Geelong.
‘As an Assistant Governor in Rotary I assist eight of the 15 Clubs in our group. Ross Taylor looks after the other seven. I’m past President of my own Corio Bay Club. One of the important initiatives that we have taken on is working with refugees in starting up a futsal competition. Each club has so many great initiatives going on. A combined initiative is ‘Ride the Bellarine’ which raises money and awareness with the hope of eradicating polio.
‘In Rotary there is something for everyone. In the past it was the face of the male businessman but that has changed. Eight of our 15 clubs have female Presidents and many female members. Clubs choose how they structure their meetings, whether they are breakfast meetings or at another time. You don’t need to attend every week either. One of the benefits of Rotary membership, aside from giving service, is the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life and make new friends.
‘A feature I found very attractive was the opportunity for international travel. There is an International Convention every year, this year it will be in Atlanta. In 2007 we organised an exchange with Rotarians from Thailand so I had the opportunity to go there too.
‘For more than 100 years Rotarians from across the globe have joined forces to take action. Rotary’s focus is on: Peace and conflict prevention/resolution, disease prevention and treatment, water and sanitation, maternal and child health, basic education and literacy and finally, economic and community development.
‘One of the local causes our club supports is a great initiative called ‘Norlane Healing Hands’ which offers low cost natural health care for Health Care Card holders.’ Humans in Geelong featured that story recently.’