Members who attend the Monday luncheons will recognise Marion Cowden as the smiling woman talking about and explaining Polio Eradication and the importance of it.
The most striking quality she possesses is her passion for helping people in need and her wider community; clearly living Rotary’s motto ‘Service above self’.
This quality is evident through her continuous effort to inform and engage more people in the Polio Eradication Initiative, as well as her work through the RCW Speakers and Community Service committees. Marion has been a member of the RCW since her return from London to New Zealand in 2009.
Although only joining a New Zealand Rotary Club in 2009, she was no stranger to Rotary as she was the President of the Rotary Club of London from 2008-2009.
What she enjoyed about the Rotary Club in London was how the club was drawn into the wider international goals of the Rotary. This was brought on by the theme chosen for London: Polio Eradication. Marion found that it was the importance placed on this issue that drew the club to a wider international focus.
Although, she explains that “Wellington is positively dynamic in comparison to London”. Marion found that the London Club was “very disconnected with the surrounding Districts… and had cycles of [members] involvement”. When asked to be Club President she felt very strongly about “keeping the involvement connection” between Rotary members of the wider community.
In keeping with her community focus Marion has been the Chair of Community Service committee for RCW. Projects she has been involved with include tree planting, charity collections.
She has also been heavily involved with ‘Wesley Community Action’ where she has been “working with the Wellington committee to engage with the wider Wellington community”. This has involved “working with hard to reach areas in Wellington” to improve the community understanding and engagement“ - which is a very slow process”.
Marion is also Chair of the Speakers Committee which involves “organising the speaker programme”. Although it can be a hard task convincing certain business people to public speak she explained she relies on the relationship to convince them.
She uses “communication to do the convincing, by using contacts through the RCW to build the relationship.” By building that positive and friendly relationship she finds that they eventually they see that they aren’t talking to scary important business people, but a room filled with interested business people ready to learn and listen.
During her time with Rotary she recalled a specific day to be one of the many highlights. While attending the annual Rotary Peace Conference she was encouraged to sit at the presidents table, with the Rotary International president and his wife. She walked hesitantly over in disbelief as “other Rotarians channelled to this table”. That day she sat with President D K Leigh and shared stories, laughter and talked about international concerns.
The following day she was hosted by a fellow Rotarian from Wales. During the days conversation she mentioned she “hadn’t been to Wales yet” and explained her following plans. While asking for suggestions of things to do and see while there, the conversation took an unexpected turn when the man suggested she stay in his holiday home.
Marion arrived at the local train station in Wales, was handed the keys and the directions and made her way to her recently offered accommodation.
Rotary is a continually growing international community. It has been within that community that Marion has been shown the kindness and respect which created the very foundation of the club