Training the next generation of Rotary leaders

Training leader Mary Helman carries a flag across stage during the 2018 International Assembly.

By Marty Helman, past governor of District 7780 and a member of the Rotary Club of Boothbay Harbor, Maine, USA

I was fortunate enough to serve as a training leader at this year’s International Assembly, an annual training exercise for incoming Rotary leaders. It is a rarified atmosphere. All of us training leaders were well aware of both the privilege and responsibility wrapped up in the invitation to train the next generation of Rotary leaders. 

There were 40 of us selected to serve, one from each Rotary zone and then a few extras for language needs. About a third were there for their second (and usually final) time. Valarie Wafer and her husband, Mark, from Canada were there for a second year. I also knew other Rotarian friends in the group, Rodolfo Bianchi from Guatemala and Stephen Mwanje from Uganda who I’d met through service activities in those countries; Peter Kyle from Washington, D.C. who I’d worked with on Rotary Peace Center matters, and Brian Hall from Louisiana who I’d met during a Friendship Exchange back in 2012-13.

Each of us first-years was paired with a second-year mentor, whose job it was to demystify the process. My mentor Nicki Scott from Chicago answered questions that ranged from how best to master the material to what to wear to avoid strangling oneself with the interpreter equipment.

We received the curriculum and training leader’s guide just after Thanksgiving, and were strongly advised to be familiar and comfortable with all the material well before arriving in San Diego. So now you know how I spent my holidays — and why the Helman Christmas cards never got mailed this year.

I flew to San Diego two days early, so that I would be well over jet lag before our training began. This proved to be a wise decision. From the time we registered and picked up name badges through to the end of the assembly 10 days later, our days were a blur of prepping, setting up, facilitating, and prepping again.

Every day started with a session designed to make good facilitators better, and continued with practice sessions where we were able to use the techniques we were learning, followed by constructive criticism. Every day ended with fellowship in the hospitality suite and (at least for me) a bedtime that recognized the early start we would be making the next day.

Our training was conducted with simultaneous interpretation from Rotary’s phenomenal global communications staff. Sometimes this required double translation: For example, if Japanese, Spanish, and English speakers were all together in a breakout room, the job required translation from Japanese to English and then from English to Spanish (or vice versa).  While the interpreters’ capabilities are impressive, this meant that there was always a slight delay before the question would be “heard” around the room.

This delay required some getting used to, but was well worth it. This year, for the first time, some of the breakout rooms during the assembly itself were bilingual. Preliminary results suggest that the Portuguese, Korean, and Japanese incoming governors were very pleased to be able to interact with classmates from beyond their home countries.

Being a training leader is one of those Rotary opportunities that has to be experienced to be truly understood. But as I think back over the past few weeks, one parallel comes to mind. In the for-profit world, training of this caliber would easily cost thousands of dollars. It comes with both a commitment and a promise. A commitment that Rotary values me as a member, and a promise that I can help create a renewed, invigorated – and inspired – Rotary. May it be so.

Read more about the 2018 International Assembly

4 thoughts on “Training the next generation of Rotary leaders

  1. Your comments are spot on! Being a Rotary Trainer was one of the most exhausting, exhilarating Rotary assignments I’ve ever experienced! You will never forget it – and eventually, you may even catch up on some sleep!


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