Monday, 6 January 2020

In Memoriam: Frayne Mathijs

The death of Frayne Furniss Mathijs, Rotarian and friend to everybody in the Rotary Club of Johannesburg New Dawn and many other Rotarians in South Africa and beyond just after New Year, has come as a huge shock.
     She was a humanitarian at heart and was always looking for ways to help others. She lived a life of giving and caring.
Frayne accepting honorary membership from President Judy Sligcher in July last year
     As reported by News24, Frayne died in a car accident on the R24 to Rustenburg, near the town of Magaliesburg. She was driving when the car was involved in a fatal accident with a heavy vehicle on Saturday, 4 January. She was airlifted by helicopter to the Milpark Hospital, where she died.
Frayne helping Joan Donet and Sam Deverneuil at the golf day
Frayne with Judy Symons and Debbie de Vries at Winex two years ago
     Frayne, born on 9 February 1939, joined New Dawn in October 2015 and last year became an Honorary Member, only the second person to be so honoured in the clubs' existence.
     She often said how much New Dawn and her involvement with many of our causes as well as the larger Rotary world, had meant to her.
Frayne and the gang at the Golf Day at the end of last year
     Even at the age of 80 she was prepared to drive all the way from Modderfontein where she lived, to attend Wednesday morning meetings. She also regularly ventured onto the road to attend evening functions, although lately she often called on fellow members, most often Paul Kasango, for a lift!
     Who could know that the Christmas dinner in December would be the last time we would see her. As usual she arrived early to help set up and left late to help clean up before spending the night with Carol and Nick Stier at their Parkview home.
Frayne was a regular at club activities, this time at the induction of the Interact club at the Johannesburg School of the Arts late last year
     She was passionate about anything to do with nursing, her profession in her professional years, as well as anything to do with education.
     She adopted the Humanitarian Distribution Centre in Bedfordview as a personal pet project and spent many hours there sorting through books for specific needs.
Frayne with school visitors to the Jozi Book Fair in Museum Africa in September last year 
    As Peta Thomas says in a WhatsApp message: she was incredible at finding a book for each person individually.
     Her other pet project was the annual Jozi Book Fair, held over the past few years at various locations such as the Wits Campus, Mary Fitzgerald Square and last year inside Museum Africa in Newtown.
     She religiously manned a New Dawn stall and helped visitors with information about Rotary, about New Dawn and often about how they could get books from the Humanitarian Centre.
     She was also a regular attendee at recent District Conferences.
Frayne, Peta Thomas and Debbie Smith helped fill bookshelves at the Johannesburg Children's Home in Observatory
     Every member of the club will have his or her own memories of Rotary interaction with Frayne. She went out of her way to get to know new members and to encourage them to get involved in various projects and to mentor them.
Frayne volunteered to help the registration team at the first ever Rotary Zone meeting in South Africa, held at Mist Hills in 2017 for Zone 20A
     She was active in club affairs as well as her involvement in humanitarian projects and served as club secretary during PDG Jankees Sligcher's first presidential term.
Frayne was honoured by then president Jankees Sligcher for her efforts on behalf of the club
Frayne in her apartment in Modderfontein after a leg injury
Frayne in action at one of the RFHD events, always willing to help and advise
With Amina Frense at the Golf Day last year
The young and the old ... Frayne helps Paul Kasango look after Josefien Sligcher while Mom Abi looks on
Judy Symons, Frayne and Debbie Smith at a recent meeting     
     We will each remember Frayne in our own way, but her passing is a big loss to the club. She was a constant reminder of how much good there can be in the world and how tireless the struggle against inequality and poverty has to be.
     Rest in Peace, dear friend.
     A Thought for Frayne: We shall never know all the good that a single smile can do. - Mother Teresa (1910 - 1997)

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Happy Holidays to Everyone

The Rotary year ended in typical New Dawn style with a bang at the annual Christmas party at Marks Park on Wednesday.
     It was a fantastic occasion enjoyed by some 70 guests, all happy for the opportunity to share quality fellowship with fellow members and guests.
     This was by far the biggest end-of-year party yet with 25 members attending, outnumbered by the guests!
Audrey Gatawa and Zena Kimaro enjoying the party. Audrey is planning to join New Dawn
     As is almost always the case, it was a team effort where everybody could contribute in some way or another.
     Thanks must go to Carol Stier and Joan Donet for decorating the normally rather soulless hall and transforming it into a festive wonderland.

Joan Donet at the Christmas tree surrounded by gifts for the Pink Elephant raffle
     Graham Donet was, as usual, a masterful Master of Ceremonies and spent the day with me in the kitchen preparing 5 chickens, 7kg of roast potatoes, two large dishes of turkey stuffing, Yotam Ottolenghi's recipe for roasted carrots with a sweet-and-sour dressing (Google it if you're looking for the recipe, it's a fantastic dish for the Christmas table), gravy, cranberry sauce, two Tiramisu's (mine) and a gigantic trifle (Graham). It's exhausting work.
Paula Nagy, John Vink, Rudi and Peet Kruger and Rob and Sam Deverneuil enjoying the party
     Lucille Blumberg prepared three sides of salmon single handedly, also a labour of love. Ian Widdop provided two Weber-roasted chickens for those who are not crazy about turkey. Carol also provided festive Pavlovas and Dave Marshall (or more likely his partner Hannah Bartlett, but who knows!) two fridge tarts.
Guests at the food table with the roasted carrot salad in the foreground
The enormous bowl of delicious trifle
     Amina Frense arrived with two salads (beetroot & feta and watermelon) and roasted butternut and Judy Sligcher brought roasted vegetables and two pecan pies. Helene Bramwell contributed two 5 litre tubs of ice cream and brought along no fewer than 15 guests. Helene also provided many prizes for the pink elephant raffle. What a contribution!
Dave Marshall tackles his turkey with the other carvers in the background
Dave won a beautiful set of crystal whisky tumblers donated by Helene Bramwell. Here he's with Amina Frense, his partner Hannah Bartlett, Hillary Biller, who judged the contrition and Jankees Sligcher
     Carl Chemaly arranged two cases of premium wine from his mate Sean Robinson at Ultra Liquors in Parkview that Marks Park allowed us to place on the tables.
     Judy Symons provided Vichyssoise soup as a starter and there was plenty to go round despite one of her batches not coming out well. Everybody agreed that it was delicious.
President Judy Sligcher inducting Paul Channon as the latest member of New Dawn
     Paul Channon, who was inducted as the newest New Dawn member at the meeting last week, arrived with boxes full of copies of the recipe book Gem, which were distributed around the tables for members and guests to take home. The books were donated by the Alexandra Literary Trust which works with educating children (our kinda guy!) in the township bordering Sandton.
Mike and Frances MacDonald getting into the Christmas spirit with Mike's mom, Heather MacDonald
Nic Stier belting out a Sinatra song
Richard Jones added to the atmosphere against the odds
     Mike MacDonald arranged the musician, Richard Jones, a veritable one-man band who lit up the evening despite truly atrocious acoustics in the hall.
Carol and Nic Stier in festive mood
     Apart from the decorations and desserts Carol also provided the services of her husband, Nic, who gave a very well-received performance of Sinatra songs (and one Christmas carol).
     Once all the money is in, we should be looking at clearing just over R35 000 for the evening, money that has been raised for The Link Trust as part of our ongoing support for their laudable efforts in one-on-one extra literacy and numeracy teaching for young children.
Megan Maynard at the dinner
     Megan Maynard, the driving force behind The Link, told movingly about a pupil who scored a hopeless16% at the beginning of the year. The manager of the team of volunteers who runs the programme at the school, was asked to attend the end-of-year school assembly where the child was awarded with a prize for being top of the class, with a 97% mark.
     She also told the story of a child found soon after birth in a dustbin who was taken up in a children's home and sent to school. Her path crossed that of a volunteer from The Link and she is now also a star at school despite all the hardships.
     That's truly helping to change lives.
The five turkeys lined up for carving
Rob Deverneuil tackles his turkey with obvious glee
     Dave Marshall won the turkey carving competition against some stiff opposition from the four other carvers. He was judged the best by Hillary Biller, food editor of The Sunday Times and one of Helene Bramwell's guests, who remarked that it was obvious that he was born in the years after the Second World War, as his turkey was carved in such a way that he could feed 40 people with it, while the other competitors could probably only feed about 12 each.
     She also said one could see he's an engineer by how neatly his carved turkey was displayed on the plate.

Judy and Jankees Sligcher enjoying the dinner
     The auction raised R11000. Many thanks to Adele Dabbs for donating a week in her holiday home in St. Francis Bay on the East Cape Coast, for which  I paid the bargain basement price of R6500.
Ronnie Kasrils signing the book that Nic Stier bought at the auction
     Ronnie Kasrils donated two signed copies of his latest volume of memoirs, Catching Tadpoles. Nic Stier and Carl Chemaly each paid R1000 for a copy. Hillary Biller bid R800 for the magnificent special edition of Roberts' Birds of Southern Africa. This, along with numerous other books such as Zapiro cartoons, were donated by Jacana Media, Helene paid R1000 for three books on Nelson Mandela donated by Lucille Blumberg and Adele successfully bid on a magnum of Webersberg Cabernet Sauvignon and a coffee table book on the wines of Burgundy in France. These were donated by Julian Nagy.
Lucille Blumberg got good news
     The evening was crowned with the news that Prof. Lucille Blumberg, our resident virologist and deputy director of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, has been awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of the Witwatersrand, her alma mater.
Jacana Media's Desmond with Peta Thomas and Amina Frense and Bridget Impey, joint owner of the publishing house
Peta Thomas with the bakkie full of books donated by Jacana Media to the
 Humanitarian Centre
     While the New Dawn Rotary year has come to an end, the work continues. Special mention must be made of Amina Frense and Peta Thomas' efforts in distributing books donated by the publisher Jacana Media as part of the Rotary Books of the World project.
Breaking bread with Ronnie Kasrils
Ronnie Kasrils with Jankees Sligcher at his book launch at Love Books on Tuesday evening
    Jacana are also the publisher for Ronnie Kasrils, who has recently completed the third volume of his memoirs, this time dedicated to his formative years as a budding revolutionary.
     Amina and Peta took a huge consignment of donated books to the Rotary Humanitarian Distribution Centre in Bedfordview, from where they will be distributed to schools and many other institutions. It is a massive contribution.
Carin Holmes and Karlien Kruger celebrate Christmas. My thanks to Jenine Coetzer for taking most of the lovely photos
     Back to the meeting last week: The Soweto Community Corps, a group allied to the now defunct Rotary Club of Soweto, finally surfaced and five members paid a visit to the club for the Wednesday morning New Dawn meeting. None of them could attend the Christmas dinner, but it was an opportunity for us to forge closer ties with them.
     They are all keen to contribute and could very easily form the beginning of either a new Soweto club, or a satellite club to New Dawn until they can get a club going.
Rick and Caryll Ackroyd were guests at the dinner and asked if we would
 publicise their club (Northcliff) Wine Tasting and Dinner Fundraiser 
     And that's it for the New Dawn year. The first meeting is on 22 January next year, but keep an eye on the WhatsApp group for further notices.
     A Thought for the Weeks Ahead: It is impossible to live pleasurably without living prudently, honourably and justly; or to live prudently, honourably and justly without living pleasurably. - Epicurus (c. 341-270BCE)

Monday, 25 November 2019

The Rotary Foundation is Rotary's Foundation

You can tell how successful a club is by adding up all the little and many not so little things that members do away from the spotlight and away from meetings so that the rest of us don't always hear about it.
     These past weeks have provided numerous examples such as Karlien Kruger's help with Dr. Nobs Motjuwadi and Copessa, Paul Kasango's involvement with the Woodside Sanctuary, Judy Symons' help at 5Cees, Lucille Blumberg's efforts at Hluvekani in Bushbuckridge and the work by Frayne Mathijs, Amina Frense and others at the Humanitarian Centre.

    Another example is that Peta Thomas has been asked to serve as vice chairperson to the District Foundation Subcommittee for Rotary Peace Fellowships, where she'll be instrumental in vetting applicants for Peace and Ambassadorial Scholarships.  

     The club is also measured on major efforts like the Global Grant for The Link Trust and our continued contributions to The Rotary Foundation.
      In this regard news is just in that the Rotary Club of Johannesburg New Dawn was the biggest club contributor to the Rotary Foundation in District 9400 for the Rotary year 2018.
     This is a significant achievement and apart from the clubs' own contributions, is fuelled by three club members: Jankees and Judy Sligcher and David Marshall.
President Judy Sligcher at the meeting last week
     Dave has asked to speak to the club on how he contributes because he sees it as a way in which other members can also give a little back.
     PDG Jankees and President Judy have recently attained Major Donor status, significant because it means they have donated $10000 to the Foundation.
     The club contributed fully to the $100 per member pay year (EREY) last year, as well as $1000 to the Polio Fund.
     This means that out of some 35000 clubs worldwide, we are one of 1550 clubs to be the highest donor on their district. The minimum contribution to come into consideration is $50 per member.
Paul Kasango and Carol Stier getting into the Christmas mood
    New Dawn is also one of only 3400 clubs worldwide to be an Every Rotarian Every Year club, by giving $100 per member.
     We are also one of only 4000 clubs where every dues-paying member has contributed at least $25 per annum to any of the Foundation funds.
     These figures are remarkable not just for how we have maintained that level of giving, but also unfortunately how little the average club worldwide gives back to the Foundation. In D9400 only 5 clubs made any meaningful contributions.
     It also means that we gain extra leverage when applying for global grants.
     We get a special banner and to celebrate the event, DG Maurice Stander is planning to visit New Dawn in the new year for an official handover as well as officially recognising the Sligcher contributions.
New Dawn meets Interact. The National School of the Arts Interact club was inducted on Thursday
     Another significant milestone was the induction o the Interact club at theNational School of the Arts in Braamfontein.
     Seven New Dawn members attended and a wonderful time was had by all.
     The club has thrived due mainly to the mentoring of Graham and Joan Donet and the tireless efforts of Louise Simpson to get the group together and keep them focused on doing good deeds.
     Louise, who has spoken at the club before, is in Matric and therefore not able to become the first president.
President Judy Sligcher accepts a basket of flowers from Makaziwe Makade, the founding president and Louise Simpson
     This honour goes to Makaziwe Makade, who will have the task of looking after about 20 Interacters next year.
     Judging by the enthusiasm last Thursday and the quality of the performances on the night (they are arts students after all) the club will be both vibrant and creative at the same time.
     It's that Christmas festive time of the year again and our thoughts turn to the annual Festive Dinner. There have been 54 acceptances so far so it promises to be a good turnout. Please do RSVP if you've not yet done so.
Audrey Gatawa at the meeting last week
     Amongst the guests will be Paul Channon, who by Wednesday should be our latest member, and Audrey Gatawa, a visitor last week who decided the Festive Dinner sounded too good to be true.
     Audrey originally hails from Zimbabwe and works for Standard Bank. She told the club that she'd met a Rotarian from the Ivory Coast while on a work assignment in Mauritius, who recommended New Dawn to her.
     Remember to bring small gifts for the Pink Elephant raffle at the dinner and to let me know if you plan any contributions for the festive table. Carol Stier is managing the decorations and decor, so speak to her if you can help.
The family recipe book Gem
     There will also be an auction with some wonderful items such as s six-day holiday in St Francis on the Eastern Cape coast and signed copies of Ronnie Kasrils' latest memoirs.  
     Paul Channon is also bringing an armful of copies of the recipe book Gem to give to guests.
Tony Reddy, the president nominee
     It was announced at the meeting last week that, following a board meeting on Tuesday, Tony Reddy's nomination as president to follow Ian Widdop, has been recommended by the board.
     If there are any other nominations, it will be put to the vote. Remember however that you cannot nominate anyone without first asking them if they're prepared to stand.
     The plan is that Tony will be secretary to Ian, where he can learn more about Rotary.
     A Thought for the Week: For of all sad words of tongue and pen/ The saddest are these 'it might have been". - John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892)



Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Things Are On the Up in SA

President Cyril Ramaphosa's New Dawn is breaking and there is much to be optimistic about.
     That was the view of the economist Matthew Matthee of PSG Wealth Rosebank in a presentation to the Rotary Club of Johannesburg New Dawn at the regular meeting at the Parkview Golf Club last Wednesday.
     Matthee conceded that President Ramaphosa had come in for a lot of impatient criticism recently, culminating in the recent downgrade by ratings agency Moody's. But behind the scenes much is happening, he said.
Matt Matthee giving his presentation
     It's too soon to tell if the efforts of the new regime will bear fruit. After GDP growth averaging 4.5% during the Mandela and Mbeki years, first the economic crisis of 2008/2009 and then 10 years of Jacob Zuma's presidency saw growth flatlining, then recovering to about 2,5% and finally settling at the current 0,9% level, which is catastrophic for the country and unsustainable.
     Zuma started off his presidency with a promise of R800 billion in investment, but that all went into a bloated civil service and state salaries.
President Cyril Ramaphosa celebrating with the Springboks after they won the World Cup
     Ramaphosa inherited a sluggish economy with unemployment at 29%, the highest ever.
     The solution would be to fix education, Matthee said.
     Of the 1.24 million children starting school each year, only 687 000 end up with Matric. Only 17% of children going to university get a degree. That is why the unemployment rate amongst young people from 18 - 24 years old is almost 70%.
     The second part of the solution would be to unlock business confidence and get companies, which have fared quite well in trying times, to start investing money in South Africa. This would also attract more foreign investment.
Listening intently ... against the backdrop of the new club posters Julian Nagy, Paul Kasango and Paul Channon concentrate on the briefing. Paul Channon will be joining New Dawn shortly
     The first steps towards this have already been taken by efforts to reclaim the state from those who plundered it.
     Examples are the Zondo commission into state capture; the Makgoro enquiry into the NPA as well as the appointment of Shamila Batoyi as Director of Public Prosecutions; the Nugent commission into the SA Revenue Services and the Mpati commission into the Public Investment Corporation.
President Judy Sligcher with Matt Matthee after his presentation
     New boards have been appointed at ten state owned enterprises including Denel, Transnet, Eskom, the PIC, NPA, SA Express, SARS, the SABC, Safcol and Alexkor.
     He described the Moody's downgrade as a wake-up call, echoing Finance Minister Tito Mboweni's words that "South Africans must roll up their sleeves".
     All in all, Matthee concluded, there's a lot to be optimistic about.

     Foundation minute: November is Foundation month in Rotary, with the news that the Rotary Foundation has received the highest rating from Charity Navigator, an independent valuator of charities in the USA, for the 12th consecutive year.
    The Foundation earned the recognition - four stars - for demonstrating both strong financial health and commitment to accountability and transparency. Only one percent of the organisations Charity Navigator evaluates, have received twelve consecutive 4-star evaluations.
     PDG Francis Callard, a former district Foundation chair, is the speaker tomorrow and will tell us a bit more about the workings of the Foundation.
Sinterklaas arrives in the Netherlands last year
     Festive Dinner: Arrangements are in full swing for the annual Christmas/Festive dinner. It's on Wednesday, 4 December this year and coincides with the visit of Sinterklaas, the Dutch version of Santa, who traditionally arrives in the Netherlands on 5 December.
     The feast of St Nicholas has been celebrated for at least 700 years in the Netherlands. Many of today's traditions, such as the now controversial Zwarte Piet, date from the 1850s.
     Up until the 1940s children would find a present in their shoe on 6 December, but over time the partying shifter to the night before, according to the website
     This year Dutch television and many Dutch towns have changed Zwarte Piet (originally a Moor from Spain) to Sooty Pete with a slightly dirty face from climbing down chimneys rather than full blackface make-up.
     A Thought for the Week: Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face. - Victor Hugo (1802-1885)