Thursday, 15 April 2021

Getting to Know New Members

Nine new members in a month must be some kind of Rotary record and the end is clearly not in sight yet, as there'll be a fireside chat with Linda Hamilton on Monday with a view to inducting her soon.

This is the biggest the club has ever been (45 active members) and heralds a new chapter in Johannesburg new Dawn's 12-year-old history.

To help integrate the new members into the club President Ian Widdop has asked each new member to speak about themselves for about five minutes by way of introduction to present members.

The first three did so last week and the others will follow.

        Getting to know you ...  Welcome to New Dawn, Matlaba Pitjeng

First up was Matlaba Pitjeng who said in answer to the question,  Who am I? that he's an optimist; that he is task driven; and that he is very time conscious.

Mat comes from a large family of 11 children, 5 boys and 6 girls. He was the tenth in line.

Mat said he'd never even heard of Rotary until he met up with Joan Sainsbury about two years ago at the Leeuwkop prison where he works in as a mathematics teacher and facilitator with inmates, and where Joan does so much good work.

Mat says he firmly believes that collaborating with others leads to better solutions and that he really wants to leave the world a better place one day.

"Service is the foundation of greatness," he said.

He's passionate about literacy, fired up by meeting a Grade 8 girl at Waverley Girls' High where he taught mathematics, who couldn't read and write, which had never been picked up by anybody.

"Any project I'm involved in, must have something to do with education," he said.

He'll fit right in at New Dawn.

                            Jeni Lobel's life has taken her from Zimbabwe to Rotary New Dawn

Mat was followed by Jeni Lobel, who described herself as "committed with a tad of chutzpah", that good old Yiddish expression for extreme self-confidence or audacity.

Jeni hails from Zimbabwe and has been involved with farming and food all her life.

"I've spent the last 15 years in outreach with food orientated endeavours and had worked with the Rotary Club of Rosebank before. I've worked with many NGO's and it gets lonely out there working on your own."

She says she believes that through Rotary and with New Dawn, she can contribute much more than she could on her own.

                                              Karen Harkema at the induction at The Wilds

Karen Harkema took President Ian's request to use an adjective that starts with the first letter of your name to best describe yourself, to heart and said she considers herself kind-hearted and knowledgeable. She could have added artistic to that, but it doesn't start with a k.

Karen said she was born in the Cape (all the best people are) and lived in Pretoria before settling in Johannesburg (as all the best people do).

She's the oldest of three children, is married and has two children of her own, a son at university and a daughter at high school.

Karen said she regards herself as a good planner and a good organiser.

She studied computer science at the then Rand Afrikaans University and comes from a family of IT buffs; both her father and sister are computer programmers.

She loves teaching and has in recent years concentrated on her art.

She hopes to use her membership to build bonds with other Rotarians.

                              Lucille Blumberg amongst the seedlings

In her weekly update Lucille Blumberg again said it is a pity that the vaccine rollout is going so slowly and that the suspension of the American J&J vaccine would only be temporary. She said the J&J and Astra-Zeneca vaccines are the two most ideally suited to South African conditions because of the relatively easy storage conditions and the fact that the latter is a single shot vaccine.

The risk for patients who are hospitalised with Covid is much larger than the very small amount of incidences of clotting that have been reported after the vaccine has been administered.

She emphasised that family and close friends have become the major source of the spread of the infection and urged members to practise masking, distancing and sanitising and to have a flu injection as soon as possible.

Lucille also appealed to members for help at The Ark, the school in Hluwekane in Bushbuckridge bordering the Kruger National Park that she and her colleagues at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases have been helping for a number of years.

The school obtained funding for a new classroom, but now has to add the roof, for which there is no funding.

                           Salads in the sky from the Urban Agriculture Initiative

Next week: The speaker next week will again be Brendon Martens of the Urban Agriculture Initiative, the driving force behind the seedling farm that New Dawn has funded at the National School of the Arts in Braamfontein. The UAI supports and supplies rooftop gardens, sidewalk feeding schemes and many similar initiatives in and around Johannesburg to keep communities fed.

The seedling farm has progressed by leaps and bounds and will be delivering around 15 000 seedlings a week by June and Brendon will be asking for favourite Rotary projects to which these can be delivered. Members involved in urban farming projects should be ready to send the details to him.

A Thought for the Week: The boisterous sea of liberty is never without a wave. - Thomas Jefferson (1743 - 1826)


Thursday, 8 April 2021

Meeting and Greeting in The Wilds

The fifth Wednesday of March took the form of a walk, a talk and a raft of inductions in The Wilds, the almost forgotten botanical gardens nestling between Roedean and St John's schools in Houghton, only recently reclaimed by ordinary citizens after being the stomping ground of vagrants and miscreants for many years.

Graham Donet reports that 20 members and 10 visitors joined for the meeting on Fever Tree Lawn at 7am last Wednesday.

That was almost only 19 members as Paul Channon took a wrong term (yes Paul, the park is well signposted) and arrived 30 minutes late!

President Ian Widdop (far left) leading the induction meeting at The Wilds in Houghton

Four new members were inducted. They are Karen Harkema, Inga Molzen, Mimi van Deventer and Annette Volschenk. Welcome to you all and please send a reminder if we've got the spelling wrong.

An honorary member, Duffy (Widdop), also joined the early morning festivities and heralded a new day by running around and barking a lot.

President Ian with two new members, Mimi van Deventer and Annette Volschenk


Robyn Widdop with Duffy and Sarah de Lapasture

Graham reports that The Wilds is an inner city park and consists of 16 Ha of indigenous vegetation with over 8 km of stone pathways on the sides of two koppies with lovely views of the city and its suburbs.

Through the 1990s the park gained a reputation for being a highly dangerous and crime ridden area, with a number of rapes and other attacks reported. It has become increasingly popular again through the intervention of volunteers such as the artist James Delaney, who started clearing up the pathways and other areas almost single handedly.

Graham Donet and Paul Kasango at The Wilds
                                           Karen Harkema and Inga Molzen at their induction

James has contributed countless artworks to the park, most notably 67 owls nestled in the forest of yellowwood trees just below Fever Tree Lawn. These were done for Nelson Mandela Day in 2017 and it's great fun to try to count how many you can spot.

James told the club about his efforts at a meeting a few weeks ago and remains passionate about the project.

Even if the meeting was so early, Graham reports that there were many other visitors last Wednesday.

Prince Baloyi and Vusi Pedi with Paul Channon

Also present last Wednesday for early morning coffee and hot cross buns were two Interact members from Highlands North High School, Prince Baloyi and Vusi Padi, looking resplendent in their blue striped blazers and badges.

The meeting at The Wilds was followed by a training meeting on Zoom this week, presided over by Past President Carol Stier in the absence of President Ian Widdop, who is spending week in the bush with family.

Carol took members through the My Rotary landing page and explained where the important links were, how to register and find your own details and where to go to find whatever Rotary has to offer.  It was a very informative session and should help newcomers and other members to navigate the wealth of information (to the point sometimes of overload) that Rotary offers.

                    Could you answer this in 30 seconds? The answer is The Rembrandts and I'll be there for you

This was followed on Wednesday evening by a quiz against the Rotary Club of Rosebank which, needless to say, New Dawn won. Apparently it's not easy to beat Rosebank at their own game (they set the questions but largely thanks to team Donet, who got 26 out of the 40 questions correct)  we managed to do so.

My feeling was that even if there was a lot to learn out of the questions and answers, many were a bit too obscure and not enough were based on what could be considered current general knowledge. After all, how many people know what word describes the grammatical question mark followed immediately by an exclamation?! (The answer is interrobang, by the way). But my carping could be because Linda and I only managed 16 correct answers out of the 40 questions.

                    An Easter cheer from the happy kids at the Christ Church Christian Care Centre in Berea

Easter celebrations: There were kind words of thanks from both Woodside Sanctuary and the Christ Church Christian Care Centre for the donation of Easter eggs that Judy Symons collected for and delivered to both just before the Easter weekend. Thanks, Judy and to everybody who contributed.

                     Amina Frense and Judy Symons, who played the role of the Easter Bunny, at The Wilds

At both places children and others have been cooped up for over a year with their way of life changed even more profoundly than ours. During all this Pastor Mike Sunker, who runs the 5 Cees, has had a foot amputated due to poor circulation, just one of many, many challenges he and his staff face in coping with the needs of about a hundred children.

                                              Lucille Blumberg maintaining all the necessary protocols

Civid-19 update: It looks like we'll be stuck with Zoom-only meetings for the foreseeable future pending an indication if and when a third wave of infections starts. Numbers are still low, Lucille Blumberg reported, but that is probably due to very little testing over the Easter weekend. 

There's two more public holidays coming up at the end of the month and beginning of May, so that signs of an uptick could only become obvious afterwards, with many potential superseder events a possibility.

Lucille said the answer is to keep up with masking, social distancing and sanitising.

She also said the local vaccination programme is not going very far very fast and noted that many countries with far less resources than South Africa have managed to do much better than us. She also urged members to get the flu vaccine, which is now available, but may run out before too long.

A Thought for the Week: The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent upon it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do. - Galileo Galilei (1564 - 1642)


Thursday, 25 March 2021

100 Years of Rotary in Africa

A visit by a Pennsylvanian in 1921 led to the founding of the first Rotary club in Johannesburg. It was also the first club in South Africa and on the African continent.

Grace van Zyl, President off the Rotary Club of Johannesburg, paid New Dawn a visit this week to tell us more about the history of her club, their plans for celebrating their centennial and how they aim to leave a legacy way beyond their first 100 years.

     President Grace van Zyl with New Dawn President Ian Widdop after her talk

A few years ago RC Johannesburg was struggling to attract new members, as so many Rotary clubs all over the world do. During her term (this is her second) Gerace has managed to increase membership from a sluggish 17 members who were just waiting for the centennial celebrations to be over before disbanding the club, to a thriving and diverse 23, which reflects more women and more people of colour.

She told the club how Fisher, a member of the Rotary Club of Pittsburgh, had convened a meeting of five business men and other people at the Johannesburg YMCA in April 1921 to discuss Rotary.

The following week each one brought somebody else along and decided to start a Rotary Club. On 25 April 1921 a third meeting was held and 45 signatures were obtained for an application for membership. The club was chartered on 1 July 2021 as club no. 976.

This was barely 16 years after Paul Harris founded Rotary in Chicago in 1905. Many more clubs were chartered in Africa after that so that there are now 1485 clubs and 33 644 Rotarians across most of the continent.

The Johannesburg club started off by forming a choir to sing to patients at the then Johannesburg Hospital. As with Rotary worldwide, this soon translated into contributions to the hospital  and raising funds to do so.

The role of Rotary in Johannesburg was crucial during the 1922 Miners Strike and the civil war that ensued.

Looking to the future, the club wants to continue their bursary and scholarship project which over the years has paid over R25 million towards education for disadvantaged children.

       A Peace Pipe letter to a club in Paris, and the reply of RC Johannesburg to their letter

The Johannesburg club was also the recipient in 1931 of one of the so-called Peace Pipe Letters from the Rotary Club of Keokuk in Iowa, USA, which fostered the role of Rotary clubs in promoting a peaceful world by smoking the proverbial Peace Pipe, as the letter states.

President Grace also spoke about her club becoming a Peacebuilder Club and her wish to encourage more clubs in the district to join the Rotarian Action Group for Peace, a suggestion that found fertile ground at New Dawn.

She said the centenary will be celebrated by occupying cyberspace at Discon in April and more formally in July, Covid permitting.


                                  The new seedling tent at the NSA being readied for planting

President Ian Widdop reported that work on the seedling farm at the National School of the Arts in Braamfontein is progressing at a good pace and that the club would possibly be able to meet there later in April (Covid allowing) to take a closer look at the project.

The first seeds will be planted within the next two weeks and the first seedlings should be available for distribution by the end of April.

Lucille Blumberg gave her weekly summary of the Civid situation and warned of an impending third wave, especially following Easter Weekend festivities. She said the situation should be monitored carefully so as not to react too late to rising infections.

She also encouraged members to get the seasonal flu vaccination, which is now available and warned that it might run out before the end of the flu season.
                                   The tranquil Fever Tree Lawn at The Wilds

The meeting next week is  outdoors at The Wilds (bring your own chair, coffee and a roll), following which a decision will be made as to whether we should return to Zoom-only meetings for the next while.

Incidentally, President Grace boasted that RC Johannesburg had been instrumental in the founding of The Wilds, having had a JCI board member in their ranks who helped persuade the company to donate the land to the city to establish the botanical gardens.

The Wilds meeting will be used to induct a number of new members, adding to the recent New Dawn growth spurt. Once all the new inductions have been completed the club will number 46 members and growing (put that in your pipe and smoke it, RC Johannesburg!) the biggest and most diverse we've ever been.

A Thought for the Week: There is nothing like a dream to create the future. - Victor Hugo (1802 - 1885)


Monday, 22 March 2021

Four New Members

It is not often that we induct four new members at once, but thanks to the efforts of Joan Sainsbury, we managed to do just that on Wednesday at our hybrid meeting.  

Supported by President Ian, and in the presence of DG Annemarie Mostert (on Zoom), Joan Sainsbury read out the charge for four new members – Brenda Sakellarides, Cuthbert Gumbochuma, Jeni Lobel and Matt Pitjeng.

Cuthbert, Brenda, Joan, Jeni, Matt and Ian at the induction

                             DG Annemarie Mostert attended on Zoom


                            Cuthbert and Brenda after being inducted

                                 Matt with a very proud President Ian
                                      

All four new members introduced themselves and were were handed their certificates, pins and other items including the Four-way test.  

Carol Stier then introduced our guest speaker, Gabriel Krause, whose chosen subject was the life and times of WEB Du Bois.

                                      Brenda and Jeni, proud new members of Johannesburg New Dawn

Gabriel, a graduate of Princeton, gave an illuminating look into the life of WEB Du Bois, who was born in 1868 and died in Ghana in 1963, aged 95. Du Bois was an American sociologist, socialist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, writer, author and Editor.  Du Bois studied at various universities, namely Risk, Harvard and Berlin.  At Harvard he was the first African American to earn a Doctorate.  

                                            Gabriel Crouse speaking about WEB Du Bois                                           

Racism was the main target of Du Boise’s polemics, and he strongly protested lynching, Jim Crow laws and discrimination in education and employment.  His cause included people of color everywhere, particularly Africans and Asians in colonies.

 Du Bois was a prolific author and popularized the use of the term color line.  Du Bois was one of the founding members of The National Association for the Advancement of Colored people, and edited the NAACP’s monthly magazine, “The Crisis”.

When he became editor in 1911, he joined The Socialist Party of America.  During the 1950’s, the US government anti-communist McCarthyism campaign targeted Du Bois because of his socialist leanings.  D. Kwame Nkrumah invited Du Bois to participate in the independence of Ghana.  It is rumored that he renounced his American citizenship at this time, but never actually did.  He died in the Capitol of Accra at the age of 95.  

As discussed, Du Bois was a prolific author and fought for black rights around the world.  

Gabriel’s talk generated much conversation in the club, and he responded to several questions before being thanked by President Ian.

Next week’s speaker is Grace van Zyl, President of Johannesburg Rotary Club.  She will talk about the plans for the celebration of their Centenary year.

The following week is a 5th Wednesday, and we plan to meet at 07h00 in the Wilds on the Fever Tree Lawn.

Professor Lucille Lucille Blumberg than gave an update on the Covid situation and said that there were early indications of an increase in cases which could herald the arrival of a Third Wave.

A Thought for the Week: It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light. - Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC)

Monday, 15 March 2021

A Golf Day to Remember

Golf Day 2021 could just be a turning point for the Rotary Club of Johannesburg New Dawn after more than a year of lockdown restrictions.

          The winning team with their prizes and trophies with Paul Kasango and Judy Sligcher looking on

Not only did we as a club achieve most of what we set out to do, we surpassed those goals in terms of total income, the number of golfers (28 teams), the quality of the field, the number of prizes and the excitement that the quality of prizes generated on the day.

The raffle for the barrow of booze didn't raise as much as in previous years for obvious reasons (accosting people maskless on the pavement at Parkview for one) and there were not as many sponsorships as previously (most businesses have been hard hit) but despite that the overall target reached has been quite astonishing.

           A winning team ... Helene Bramwell, Carl Chemaly,  Mike Macdonald, Jankees Sligcher and Dave Marshall

Thanks to a huge team effort by Mike MacDonald, the fundraising committee and many other club members, especially on the day, it was an achievement to be emulated.

There'll be a full report on what exactly was raised in due course once we've been presented a bill by the Parkview Golf Cub, and other expenses have been defrayed.

              Andy and Nola Ostle at the meeting last week

The South African Golf Development Board, represented by Andy Ostle from the organisation on the golf day, gets a cut. They are using the money to sponsor young Eric Ncube's budding golf training and career. Eric was at the golf day.

Andy's wife, Nola, helped with selling raffle tickets and did a great job.

                                                        Eric Mncube at Parkview

There were a great many repeat golfers from previous golf days, but also quite a few more thanks to the SAGDB and the likes of Debbie de Vries, who arrived with two four balls.

The winning team were Reggie Barry, Vischen Govender, Corné Pienaar and Dave Lawrence.

They won a week in an eight sleeper unit right on the golf course at the Champagne Sports Resort in the Drakensberg as well as a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue whisky  each and a trophy donated by the SAGDB. There was also a big floating trophy which will hopefully now become an annual feature at New Dawn golf days.

             It was a case of all hands on deck on the day, so many thanks to everyone who pitched in

Greg Smith, a former New Dawn member and his team came third and Carl Chemaly and his team sixth.

The Barrow of Booze was won by Jose Vargas and the second prize of a weekend at a City Lodge hotel was won by Franco Pellegrini, both regulars at our golf days.

Many thanks to all the club members who donated prizes and who helped fill the Barrow of Booze.

Most notable amongst the prizes sponsors were Judy and Jankees Sligcher for the Champagne Sports stay. They also gave four Rotary branded umbrellas and R5000 towards the halfway house meal for the golfers.

Carol Stier gave three of the bottles of Johnny Walker Blue and Paul Channon one.

               Carl Chemaly showing off his golf swing

Helene Bramwell gave four vouchers for treatment at The Mask as well as four hampers of beauty products.

Hannes Dressler gave a case of wine and another one for good measure for the barrow, which Judy Symons provided as usual. Hannes and Adele Dabbs also gave four golf umbrellas.

Carl Schmidt gave four sets of tools and other useful household tools and the Parkview Golf Club gave a lesson by their Pro, Tandi Cunningham.

The list is too long mention everybody, but thanks again to every single one who contributed in whatever way. We had the full list of everyone on the tables at the prize giving.

                                   PDG Jankees Sligcher in Rotary Africa

In other news: Don't miss the March edition of Rotary Africa with PDG Jankees's first monthly contribution on the Rotary Foundation as regional co-ordinator.

In his article he tackles, amongst other themes, the culture of non-contributions by clubs to TRF and how short-sighted that is in terms of leveraging global and district grants.

Speakers:  The speaker this week is Gabriel Crouse of the Institute of Race Relations. Gabiel studied philosophy at Princeton University in the USA and will be going to New York University later in the year to study bio-ethics.

His talk is on a biography of the American sociologist, author and civil rights activist WEB Du Bois by KA Appiah and will centre on his exploration of the concept of race in terms of how race mattered to him and to others and some of the mistakes he made.

Four new members are also being inducted.

The speaker on 24 March is Grace van Zyl, who will be talking about the centenary of the Rotary Club of Johannesburg and co-operation between the two clubs.

On the last and fifth Wednesday in March the cub will be meeting on Fever Tree Lawn at The Wilds for an early morning coffee and picnic get-together.

                     A moment for reflection on a busy week at Ngwenya Lodge, bordering the Kruger Park

A Thought for the Week: The secret of happiness is something to do. - John Burroughs (1837 - 1921)

Thursday, 4 March 2021

Gearing Up for the Golf Day

And so, my fellow New Dawn Rotarians: ask not what your Golf Day can do for you - ask what you can do for your annual Golf Day.

Now that you've asked, there's a lot you can do (with apologies to John F. Kennedy and his speechwriter, Ted Sorenson, who wrote those famous words for JFK's inauguration speech as US President in 1961).

Why do we ask this? To quote Kennedy again: "To those people in the huts and villages across the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves ... because it is right."
    Members of  the fundraising committee planning the Golf Day; Linda Vink, Carol Stier, Mike MacDonald, Helene Bramwell, Andy Ostle, who is helping Mike, Karlien Kruger, Adele Dabbs and Jankees Sligcher. Ian Widdop also joined us.

Money raised for the Golf Day will go a long way to help with club projects and allow us leverage to raise global grants. So get going today.

In no particular order: sell at least one sheet of raffle tickets. Each sheet has place for 15 names. At R50 a ticket, that brings in R750, or at 3 tickets for R100, it'll be R500. That's not too much to ask. The more raffle tickets we sell, the more of a success the Golf Day next Thursday will be.

If every member sells tickets (sell five sheets if you can, there's no limit, but even one will do) then we'll make up for not being able to sell on the street outside the Parkview Spar on Saturday mornings this year

Over the past few years the raffle for the now famous Barrow of Booze has netted R14930 (2015); R23850 (2016); R27640 (2017); R34560 (2018); and R35601 in 2019.

That's an upward curve and it would be great if we could keep that going this year, so sell to your friends, family and whoever's arm you can twist. There's a way to go, as we have R7200 to date.

Joan Donet emailed raffle sheets to members a while ago, so print it out and sell, sell, sell. If you don't have the sheet anymore, ask Joan or myself to resend it or make your own with space for a name, cellphone number and email address. Tickets are R50 for one and R100 for three. We can transfer that information to an official sheet later.
                            The Barrow of Booze is looking good, but needs some contributions

The Barrow of Booze is starting to fill up nicely but there is space for beer, whisky and good wine, so remember to bring with next week, or contact Linda Vink, who can arrange for a driver to pick it up.

Although we have some fabulous prizes for the winning four balls, there are still a few gaps and you can help there, too.

The top prizes are a golfing week for eight people at the Champagne Sports resort in the Drakensberg thanks to a generous  donation by the Sligchers, who are also sponsoring the Halfway House meal to the tune of R5000; four Johnny Walker Blue whisky thanks to Carol Stier and Paul Channon; four vouchers and beauty products from Helene Bramwell and The Mask; four hampers and butchery vouchers from Impala in Northcliff; and two cases  of prime wine from Hannes Dressler. There are also quite a few other, mostly individual prizes, such as a jazz microphone from Audrey Gatawa (come on all you wannabe singers) and a City Lodge voucher as well as Adele Dabbs's house in Plettenberg Bay for a week, which we may hold back for  now. Adele is also giving us four golf umbrellas. The idea is to have great prizes for the top six teams, so any help would be most welcome.
                        President Ian hands over a bottle of Prosecco to Helene to celebrate 50 years at The Mask

Helene, who has become one of the stalwarts of the club since joining, celebrated the 50th anniversary of The Mask this week, a milestone if ever there was.

Andy Ostle of the SA Golf Development Board is donating a floating trophy for the winning team and New Dawn will sponsor four smaller trophies for the players to take home.

Part of the funds raised for the Golf Day will go the the SAGDB (R15 000) to sponsor a youngster to attend the board's course. The rest of the proceeds go to our youth development programmes.

There is also a shortage of sponsorships for holes this year, no doubt due to Covid-19. If you know of anybody or work for or with anybody who is willing to sponsor a hole for R2000 (or less, we're very flexible) please contact Linda or Mike MacDonald. The idea is to have lots of activity out on the course to excite the players without distracting them.

Final arrangements will be made at the meeting next week, which will be devoted to the Golf Day the following day. Please arrive with your full raffle sheets on either day, or pay the money into the club bank account and email the sheet to Joan if you prefer to Zoom in.

At the meeting this week Lucille Blumberg said the Golf Day is being held at a perfect time as the second wave wains and before a possible third wave after the Easter festivities. Regarding the latter, Lucille said it's not the time to let your guard down and if people in general stick to the rules of masking, sanitising and distancing, the blow of a third wave can be softened.
                        President Ian and Helene were also involved in the induction of Wendy Challis

Also at the meeting this week we had the induction of Wendy Challis as our latest member. Wendy was introduced to the club by Helene. She works in the tourist industry, one of the hardest hit by Covid-19 over the past year. Wendy said she does a lot of her tourism work in rural areas and has always been amazed by the resilience of people. There are lots of good news stories that never get reported, she said.

She suspects that once the country opens up again, there will be any more opportunities in the world of tourism.

Last week: My apologies for missing the blog deadline last week, but time and connectivity issues caught up with me. The speaker was President Bhaca of the Rotaract Club of Johannesburg, also founder and chairperson of the Buntu Development Foundation, which runs environmental and sustainable food production programmes.

President said one of their biggest challenges is the poor quality of soil in the township areas where they try to operate due to pollution or in areas close to garbage dumps and the like.

He struck a chord in the club now that sustainable urban gardening and growing has become a Coronavirus induced focus area, especially with members such as President Ian Widdop, Paul Kasango, Joan Sainsbury, Helene Bramwell and our very own eco-warrior, Llewellyn Leonard.

The club's contacts with the Urban Agricultural Initiative in establishing a second seedling operation at the National School of the Arts and growing expertise in areas such as hydroponics is sure to benefit the BDF. This is a prime example of Rotary at work, helping each other help the world. In JFK's immortal words, Ask not ...

And finally: Amina Frense announced that the Humanitarian Distribution Centre in Bedfordview will be open this Saturday for the first time in a year.

For those who don't know, New Dawn traditionally opens the Centre on the first Saturday of the month so that schools and institutions who can't go during the week, can go and fetch books and other items such as linen.

Because of Covid protocols, Amina said visits on Saturday are by appointment only, so contact her if you know of anybody who wishes to go.

A Thought for the Week: It is not what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable. - Molière (1622 - 1673)



Saturday, 20 February 2021

A Walk On The Wilds Side

James Delaney's talk on The Wilds inspired Linda and me to go for a walk there this weekend and what a pleasant surprise it was.

As James promised, there were lots of people around to make you feel perfectly safe, but not that many that it seemed overcrowded.

My strongest impression was of the trees. There are not many places where you'll see that many different kinds of yellowwood, South Africa's national tree. There are also many white stinkwoods and the fever trees are quite something. There are hundreds of other tree species, to say nothing of the abundant bird life and many different indigenous plants.

Most of the trees were planted 80 and more years ago and are well established and the gardens look well kept by the 15 or so staff.

                                My, how tall you are! The giraffe statues stand at 5 metres

James's sculptures are dotted around the gardens (the kudu and other buck), up in the trees (the owls and bush babies) and on the lawns (the giraffes). The big giraffes, standing at 5m tall, are indeed a sight to behold.

James told the club how he had taken a tentative walk in The Wilds with his new dog, Pablo,  some seven years ago and kept going back to this marvellous 16 hectare stretch of indigenous forest smack in the middle of Houghton and bordering Killarney.

                               A map of The Wilds, split into East and West Wilds by Joe Solve Drive

The Wilds was established by Johannesburg Consolidated Investment Co when Houghton was laid out as a township. That particular piece of land, which is made up of two fairly steep koppies, was donated to the City of Johannesburg as a park because it was too difficult for JCI to develop it.

The Wilds was opened to the public in the 1930s and was a popular Johannesburg retreat. Before James first walked his dog there in about 2013, it had gained an unfortunate reputation as an unsafe space. It had become overgrown and neglected, although by then it had been fenced off to keep vagrants out.

                                A baby giraffe in the woods

James told us how he first started clearing patches of garden which eventually became a passion of his. In recent years, with City Parks giving the space proper attention and the Friends of the Wilds helping with upkeep and soliciting donations, the Wilds have been restored to their former glory.

James keeps on adding his unique sculptures dotted around the park, which have now become synonymous with The Wilds. There are about 100 by now.

                                  Bushwillow Pond is one of the few working water features

There are also artists working on mosaics at the four fountains, James said.

The latest addition to the park, the Garden of Yarns in the East Wilds, just across the Rodean foot bridge, adds a very colourful note and at the same time creates awareness of the scourge of gender based violence. It is a very colourful garden of plants and trees covered in crocheted wool along Joe Slovo Drive.

                                   Linda admiring the crocheted Garden of Yarns 
                                   A spectacular crocheted butterfly
                                                         Dance with nature

The pathways in the gardens, in essence a botanical garden, are clearly marked and there is a map at the entrance. Visitors have to sign in and have their temperature taken. Dogs are very definitely allowed.

Members can make donations by buying vouchers from CND Nurseries at 44 3rd Road in Lindbro Park.

A visit is a very rewarding experience and it's worth going back time and again to explore even more of the paths and climbs.

                                 The New Dawn contingent with Principal Tshepo Ramutumbu at uMbuyisa

A delegation from New Dawn lead by President Ian Widdop visited the uMbiyiso School of Art in Vilakazi Street in Soweto yesterday, according to Joan Sainsbury one of only a handful of formal art schools in Soweto. Uniquely, they have between five and eight international exchange students attending regularly, Joan says. 

Apart from Ian and Joan, two prospective members, Wendy Challis and Karen Harkema also joined in.

                                 Mr Mako, the uMbuyisa gardening coach at the school

They attended a prize giving where the children were rewarded for the artworks and their gardening and then sang Happy Birthday to President Ian. One of the kids gave him a pair of Van Gogh socks as a gift.

Ian says Principal Tshepo Ramutumbu of the uMbuyisa School of Art could  be just the guy to lead Rotary's rebirth in Soweto.

Students at the school have started their own home grown vegetable gardens, Joan says.

Speaker: The speaker next week is Siphumeze President Bhaca, founder and chairperson of the Buntu Development Foundation. He'll be talking about the challenges of establishing community gardens. He's currently working in Riverlea and Langlaagte on such projects, which ties in nicely with what New Dawn is currently doing.

President says he's worked with our own Llewellyn Leonard on such projects.

And Finally: The board still needs to discuss the matter, but it looks very much as if we'll be able to start with hybrid meetings from March again, just in time to properly prepare for the Golf Day on Thursday, 11 March. Please remember to sell at least one sheet of raffle tickets to those with whom you have contact in these lockdown times.

Also, remember to bring a few bottles for the Barrow of Booze if you're coming to Parkview. If not and you cannot find a way to drop some off at Twickenham Guest House, or contact Linda or myself and we'll arrange for it to be fetched.

A Thought for the Week: What a strange machine man is! You fill him with bread, wine, fish, and radishes, and out come sighs, laughter, and dreams. - Nikos Kazantzakis (1883 - 1957)