RI President 20/21 Holgar Knaack

Zoom is an opportunity to meet and fits perfectly with my theme for my Rotary Year which is “Rotary Opens Opportunities”. It certainly gave Rotarians in Southern Wales the opportunity to chat with Holgar when he joined us on 22nd April 2020.



In brief, Holgar told us that he was working from home in Germany, and staying safe; otherwise, he would have been alone in the offices in Evanston.  He was still able to participate in the Board meetings being held during that week by joining online but his visits to India and Africa had been cancelled as a result of Covid-19.  Although, before the pandemic lockdown, he and Past Pres. Ravi was able to meet with the President of Pakistan to discuss the ongoing Polio vaccination programme. The Pakistan Government had assured them that they had organised for 40 million children to be vaccinated in December 2019.  This was carried out by 250,000 polio workers and the Government had made sure 100,000 soldiers were available to protect them.

Everything we do in Rotary “Opens Opportunities” for those people who would like to become members and for us.  Holgar had been advised to take care of his theme because it would stay with him for life, but as a result of the worldwide pandemic, he felt the theme couldn’t be more apt.  Rotary is different everywhere, different countries have different cultures and even sometimes from county to county, yet even with this tremendous diversity, our core values are the same.

Covid-19 has changed everything – no shaking hands but we can still plan projects and share ideas, so even now we are opening-up opportunities for Rotarians to help others.

When things go wrong, Rotarians will not look away and our 4 way test and attitude will measure us. Being together, even if virtually, makes us a unique, wonderful organisation and our mission is to protect Rotary for generations to come.

We are committed to service above self, but this is the time to be revolutionary and prepare for the future. Holgar asked us to think about everything we do, how many meetings we hold/when/where/how and how we carry out our fundraising.

All clubs have a Club Assembly every year to create an action plan.  Do we ask ourselves “where will our club be in 5 years, how will our Club be more attractive and what is the added value we offer to new members?” Holgar said he was pretty sure this crisis will make us think differently about how we work.  Be more attractive to new younger members and the many projects they are interested in.  However, there is no particular age to become a Rotarian, whether they are newly retired or just starting their careers.  What is important is that we engage with them and show we care.

He asked us all to have a vision/goal because now is the time for change, take it and don’t waste this opportunity to rethink how you are doing Rotary.

Holgar also asked us to be aware of any members leaving Rotary in the first two years.  He emphasised that we really have to take care of them and lend a hand to make them feel special.  Treat your members like friends, offer enhancement and engagement.