For the greater good

Jessie Lim, president of Rotary Club of Kuching, shares her excitement about the upcoming Rotary International District 3310 Conference 2024, and how the association embodies its mission to create lasting, positive change worldwide

In what way does the three-day Rotary International District 3310 Conference, scheduled for May 17, contribute to the broader goals and mission of Rotary International?
The vision of Rotary International is to provide service to others, promote integrity, and advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace through our fellowship of business, professional, and community leaders.

The District Conference is the perfect avenue to reaffirm this vision. Our conference content was curated to remind our fellow Rotarians and conference delegates of the values that they need to constantly uphold, both in their professional and personal lives, to be good role models in their circle of influence.

Additionally, as with most of our Rotary events, fellowship is a key element, as we understand how crucial it is for successful community work that a strong relationship between members must first be forged. It is similar to how professional networking encourages better collaborations for business, research or projects.

Towards the end of the three-day conference, old friendships are renewed, new connections made, past projects reviewed and new project ideas borne – living up to our motto of ‘Service Above Self’.

What makes this year’s conference special?
The Rotary International District 3310 Conference (DISCON) is a yearly congregation of Rotarians from District 3310, which covers Singapore, Brunei, Johor, Melaka, Sarawak and Sabah. DISCON 2024 will be extra special because the Rotary International Convention – which attracts close to 30,000 Rotarians worldwide – will be happening in Singapore in 2024 and quite a number of the Rotary International Convention delegates will be extending their stay to visit Sarawak and attend DISCON 2024 in Kuching.

This year, we will also attempt to enter the Malaysia Book of Records for the largest gathering of people in ethnic wear performing a choreographed dance, held in conjunction with DISCON 2024. This side event will be held at Pangkalan Sapi – a spruced-up event space across the Sarawak River managed by the Kuching North City Council – accessible via the iconic Darul Hana Bridge in downtown Kuching.

This Malaysia Book of Records attempt aims to gather 5,000 people at Pangkalan Sapi. A group of sape (an ethnic musical instrument) players will provide the music, while a group of ethnic dance choreographers will guide the crowd – all decked up in multi-ethnic wear from all over the world – through the moves of a multicultural dance.

This giant cohort will be part of Rotary’s campaign to increase awareness of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion through this record-setting attempt. This side event is free and open to all, and we extend a warm invitation to everyone to join us in celebrating our diverse cultures and backgrounds.‌

What is the potential legacy impact that this conference will bring to Kuching as the host destination?
DISCON 2024 may be geared towards Rotarians, but the community will feel the conference takeaways. That is the reason why we ensure our speakers are among the best, to spur Rotarians into doing more for society. The combination of great speakers and a unique destination will inspire Rotarians to develop more projects to serve Sarawak’s community either socially, economically or environmentally.

Additionally, the Malaysia Book of Records attempt will spotlight the multi-cultural diversity of Sarawak which contributes to its progress, instead of becoming a barrier to it. This is a great reminder not just for those outside of Sarawak, but also fellow Sarawakians, about the need to cherish our differences and live harmoniously in a society that practices diversity, equity and inclusion.

Will the conference leave a positive environmental footprint in Sarawak and align with sustainable practices?
Environmental sustainability is one of Rotary’s seven focus areas and therefore, all Rotary events are organised with sustainability in mind. This year’s DISCON will consider its conference kits (lanyards and badges) to be produced from recycled materials or foregone totally, to minimise waste.

Meals served during the conference will be sourced locally to minimise carbon footprint and support local produce. Working with the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching, the conference venue, we can ensure that ingredients are sourced locally and food waste is minimised or given to organisations that compost them, such as WormingUp – a Kuching-based organisation that upcycles food waste into food.

We will also be working with local authorities for delegate transfers to be via energy-efficient transportation modes such as hydrogen buses and Autonomous Rapid Transit system.

Aside from the conference, what other activities does the Rotary Club of Kuching have up its sleeve?
One initiative of ours is the establishment of two hemodialysis centres in Kuching, where we partner with the Kidney Association Sarawak and the National Kidney Foundation. This is an ongoing project that we run with the help of contributions from our donors, and funds raised from our other activities.

Apart from the centres, we organise various other environmental and educational projects such as planting trees, delivering food baskets, and operating mini-libraries in and around Kuching.

You spoke about funding. How does the Rotary Club of Kuching raise funds to support its activities?
One of the main ways we raise funds is by working with organisations which are keen to give back to society. OCBC Bank Sarawak, for example, has endorsed our Rotary Run, tree-planting initiatives, food basket programmes, and various other projects.

Affiliations often stem from the ownership or employment within these organisations by our club members. The significance of fellowship within Rotary cannot be overstated, as it holds a prominent position on our list of priorities alongside other community service endeavours.

By engaging in fellowship activities, we cultivate stronger connections with both fellow Rotarians and individuals from non-Rotarian backgrounds within these partner organisations. This interaction allows us to communicate and share the impactful initiatives we undertake effectively.

What are your members’ main concerns and what do they want the association to do for them?
As with all associations, membership growth and members’ engagement are key concerns. Without diversity in our membership base, or having lukewarm engagement among members, projects are not as robust as it can be. This can range from project types, reach and depth of service, funding opportunities or diversity of participants.

As such, events such as DISCON aim to keep members engaged and updated, not just on Rotary news but other important information and skills to benefit them personally and professionally, while encouraging them to continually service their community.