It has been a very busy week. We started the week off in a crowded room of about 300 to publicly recognise an exemplary Rotarian, Stan Perron, for his contribution to the community. That same evening, our club was represented by several members supporting our student from Mercedes College, Ellen van Beek, in the 4-Way Speaking Competition. On Thursday evening, we were privileged to hear an update from Katie Liew on The Image may contain: 1 person, indoorUnderground Collaborative and join with Rotary of Crawley to present her the $10,000 grant to continue in her project to help break the cycle of homelessness. On Friday evening, several Rotarians celebrated with our corporate member HHG at their fund-raiser which handed over $23,000 for Fresh Start to continue in their efforts to help people break free from their addictions. Ironically, this is the first event I’ve attended that addresses the issue of addition (including alcohol abuse) that did not provide free alcohol! I believe everyone responsible for that evening at HHG should get a pat on their backs for showing congruence in their intentions and actions.
Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people standingAt lunch on Friday, Chris Hermann (Rotary Club of Mill Point) gave a fascinating insight into what some of us might consider doing in “My Senior Gap Year”. The message I took from the presentation was that if we have our eyes and ears open, and our heart in the right place, the opportunity to make a difference will present itself. Who would have thought that a chance encounter with some “rubbish” would save over a hundred pallets of bed linen from becoming landfill and instead be redistributed to families in need across Australia. Perhaps we are often trying too hard to look for projects when all we need to do is just look around us daily.

I took that thought with me into the weekend and by this morning (Monday), I can’t help but keep thinking about the 52 children still living in detention at Nauru with no definite end in sight. Psychiatrists working on the ground with Médecins Sans Frontières have reported that many of these children are “suffering from traumatic withdrawal syndrome... deteriorated to the extent they were unable to eat, drink, or even walk to the toilet”. It’s often been said that hope keeps us alive. Take away hope and you take away the will to live.

On the other hand, I’m hearing that Australia needs to work out the details of the solution before taking action. I liken this to saying that we should leave a victim in a burning building until we know there’s a hospital bed available. Perhaps we have been “inoculated” against the plight of refugees after decades of reports on their arrival by boats on our shores and the politicising of the issue. Perhaps, “we’ve boundless plains to share” has just become like the words in a pop song instead of an ideal expressed in our national anthem. If my heart is in the right place, I will need to do something.

Rotarians travel all over the world trying to improve lives. While we stretch our efforts across the oceans to Cambodia and India, let’s not forget the vulnerable closer home. Last week the Department of Home Affairs told the Senate that of 652 people on Nauru, 541 were declared refugees. Let’s speed up the process of getting these refugees settled. Write to your local MP, to anyone who can influence. Let’s improve the lives of these families who are already here and prevent further trauma for the young minds who like many before them, can grow up to become good citizens of Australia. I know because I just caught up with Philip Lakos who was our guest speaker earlier this year, a refugee from South Sudan, a child soldier, to find out what he’s currently up to and to request his help in another project. Philip is a model citizen, grateful for a second chance in life, ready to help where he can. There are many more like him in process.
Don’t just turn the page. Take Action.

Yours in Rotary,
Wesley Sim- President - Rotary of Perth 2018/2019