Why did you join Kiwanis? Why do you love being a Kiwanian? Most Kiwanians answer with the following: service to others, community improvement or developing Kiwanis friendships. These three responses are the result of a having a Kiwanis Heart. What is a Kiwanis Heart? It is the desire to serve children and “give back” to the community by a member of the Kiwanis family. The Kiwanis heart recognizes the needs of children, creates solutions, and mobilizes community resources to serve the children or other community necessities. Needed resources may vary greatly from country to country, but the goal is the same. Kiwanians aim to create an environment of security, advocate for the education of children, especially early childhood, and promote the health and nutrition of children throughout the world. Finding the Kiwanis Heart has been my greatest joy as I have encountered Kiwanians around the world.
The challenge for members of the Kiwanis Family is to find more citizens who have the Kiwanis heart and don’t realize they do. Today, the needs of children in Kiwanis districts around the world are growing while membership is decreasing. This growing need creates a potential for service that Kiwanis has not experienced in its first one hundred years. To address this potential, more hands are needed. The good news is that Kiwanis has implemented flexible options to attract community leaders with the Kiwanis Heart. I am proposing, “The Right Prescription for Kiwanis.” The right prescription includes attracting more youth to membership, increasing the flexibility of districts to create club formats that address district needs, population and culture, and focus recruitment on diverse members of the community. Additionally, international and districts must increase the rate of partnership development, and enhance non-dues revenue. These steps will make it easier for local clubs to attract members that are eager to address problems within the community. Kiwanis International must assist by establishing a resource bank for projects, increase member benefits and be responsive to club, member and district needs.
The challenges that children face are growing as governmental resources are shrinking. We as Kiwanians have pledged to serve the children of the world. This pledge is non-selective and requires that the needs of children be recognized wherever they are born. It is my dream that we, through Kiwanis, can fulfill our first pledge of serving the children of the world by making a second pledge, to work together, both in our home communities and understanding the needs of Kiwanis communities around the world.
Arthur N. “Art” Riley, 2018