“Serving the children of the world.” This tagline attracted me to Kiwanis even before I was officially a Kiwanian. Not only is it a catchy phrase but it is extremely meaningful from a humanitarian and philanthropic perspective, simply from the use of the word “serving” which is from the word “service”.
The culmination of Kiwanis leaders from Asia Pacific and Kiwanis International at the 48th ASPAC Convention from 16 - 19 March 2023, was a surreal experience for me. Not only was it hosted by my home country Malaysia, but the location was also near and dear to me, Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan - my home state. I must admit, I questioned the hype amongst Kiwanians over ASPAC, leading up to it. I thought, since we are hosting it, of course, our Malaysian Board Members would say that it is something to look forward to.
Like with all new experiences, I embraced it with an open mind and heart because you never know where it will lead you! With much pleasure, I must say, it was even better than the hype leading up to ASPAC and I was not disappointed.
Here are three (3) things I appreciated most about ASPAC Convention.
- Seeing the Malaysian Kiwanis Leaders in a different light.
Sometimes we don’t appreciate things right in front of us. I felt a great sense of pride over my own country and its Kiwanis leaders and representatives. Our very own Lee Kuan Yong is well respected and revered as the Vice President of Kiwanis International. Also, Dato’ Stewart LaBrooy double-hats as the Secretary and Treasurer for Kiwanis ASPAC. I was also pleasantly surprised to know that the Kiwanis 4.0 Website was initiated by my fellow countrymen. It was fellow Malaysians who conducted the talks on fully utilizing the 4.0 platform and venturing into social media with the likes of TikTok. So, here I learned that some of the best-kept secrets of Kiwanis are in my backyard and I must not take it for granted.
- Humility in Leadership.
I am quite new to Kiwanis, less than two (2) years old. So, a lot of the faces beyond Malaysia, are extremely foreign to me. On the first night, as I dropped some Kiwanians from the Philippines back at the hotel, I was met by a friendly chap from Nepal who joked and asked if he could take my car to Kuala Lumpur. Of course, I politely declined and he took it well and we shared some laughs. Little did I know that he is ASPAC Chair Designate Sujan Shrestha.
The top leaders of Kiwanis are true to their call to service in that humility has gotten them their top posts. The likes of Kiwanis International Bert West and Jeff Oatess are friendly and approachable. ASPAC Chair Belle Garcia was most humble and gracious in her address as she took the time to acknowledge all the women for International Women’s Day and also the long-standing members of Kiwanis.
- The balance between business and fun.
I think one of the best things I love about Kiwanis is our ability to take the service we do as seriously as we have fun. The business events and programs were enlightening. I thoroughly enjoyed observing the voting and nominating process although I was not a voting delegate. It was my first time witnessing the due diligence of an international NGO, first hand.
The dinners on the last two days were extremely fun. Kiwanians are truly sporting people, as ready to have fun as they are to serve the children of the world. Although I attended both fellowship nights on my own, there was no moment when I was truly alone. There was always someone to talk to, a new person to meet, another selfie to take and let’s not forget the dance performances.
All in all, I must say, it was truly an experience to remember. Friendships were formed that I am confident will be lifelong. As Kiwanians, we are all joined by our hearts' intentions to serve the children of the world. This is one of the strongest bonds I feel, as a mother, a woman, and as a human being.
Our Malaysian Governor, Rosemary Tan has aptly coined the term “Force for Good” to describe all that we do as Kiwanians. We truly are a force for good, because not only are we serving the children of the world but we also come together, and learn from each other so that together, more children can benefit from what we do.