Thursday, 16 September 2021

The Shattered Dreams of Abused Kids

Instead of talking about herself and her career as other members have done over the past few months, Karlien Kruger opted to use her turn at the microphone at the meeting this week to bring the club up to date with developments at Copessa, the NGO tackling child abuse and gender based violence in Soweto that she has been consulting with for the past more than two years.

Karlien estimates that she and fellow club member Gavin Atkins have done the equivalent of R335 000 worth of consulting for Copessa (Community-Based Prevention and Empowerment Strategies - South Africa) led by the inspiring medical doctor Dr Nobs Mwanda.

Copessa deals with the aftermath of violence against children and child abuse, and more recently gender based violence, and attempts to prevent conditions that can lead to violence.

Karlien and Gavin's efforts have revolved around putting proper administrative structures and practices in place to help the organisation to run more smoothly and enable it to concentrate on projects and fundraising.

These projects include a soccer league designed to keep mostly young boys off the streets and transforming dumps where children are often in danger, into play areas, a holiday schooling programme, a library unit, a sewing project for women and health parks, amongst many other efforts.

When the successive lockdowns started at the end of March last year, Copessa also set up a feeding scheme distributing food parcels and have started a garden project for food security to address poverty. This has been so successful that they are already supplying the local Pick n Pay with fresh vegetables.

                                  Dr Nobs Mwanda

These are all major achievements given that raising funds for all their efforts has become more and more difficult over the past almost two years, something that we at the Rotary Club of Johannesburg New Dawn know only too well.

With the work that they are doing, Copessa is a prime candidate for a Global Grant (along with Donate a Loo), something which President Ian Widdop will be addressing over the next few months with input from club members at a Global Grant meeting for which we've set a Wednesday meeting aside during October.

                                   Hannes Dressler

Hannes Dressler told the club that by next month he and  his wife Katya will have been in South Africa for three years. They're unfortunately leaving South Africa at the end of the year as Hannes's contract with SAP in South Africa has expired and he'll be deployed elsewhere, although he doesn't know where yet.

Hannes told how he'd seen the New Dawn sign up at the Parkview Golf Club soon after arriving in the country and decided to pay the club a visit. A hearty Guten Morgen! from Graham Donet and a genuine greeting from fellow German Frank Odenthal, who has since left the club, sealed the deal for him and he joined soon afterwards.

Hannes had met Katya when he moved to Moscow where she was HR head at KPMG and introduced him to the company and country. He says although they were expecting a posting in Europe, America or other similar places he was given the option of China, India or South Africa.

They were sent on a scouting tour of South Africa and both immediately decided this is where they wanted to be.

He said South Africa is in many ways similar to Moscow, where you have to be a member of the inner circle, whether in the country, in your community or club to be anyone. Rotary has, however taught him that the more open you are as a club or community, the better ideas you get and the more creative you can be.

                                   The poster for the New Dawn Golf Day raffle first prize

Hannes also pledged 4 bottles of the finest whisky from the Bottega Café Whisky Club in Parkhurst as a first prize for the Golf Day coming up on Friday, 15th October, as well as a case of wine.

The Golf Day is in aid of Donate a Loo, the other project in which New Dawn is involved for which the process of applying for a global grant has started.

These two projects will have to find an overseas sponsor club and New Dawn would also have to contribute. As mentioned, Karlien and Gavin for Copessa and Helene and Adele at Donate a Loo will be involved with President Ian in identifying the specific projects, the overseas contributors and the writing of the final proposal.

Time will be set aside, probably during the second club meeting in October, for members to join in the discussion.

Dates to Diarise: This Saturday and the following one we'll be selling raffle tickets for the Golf Day at the Spar in Parkview. Contact Linda Vink (082 782 4628) if you want to volunteer to help.

The meeting next week will be a morning meeting and not an evening one as originally planned. The speaker will be Hillary Biller, food editor at the Star, talking about heritage food.

The meeting the week after (29 September) marks the DG visit to New Dawn.

There'll be a club assembly at Twickenham Guest House in Auckland Park on Saturday, 2nd October.

The New Dawn Golf Day, in aid of Donate a Loo, is on Friday, 15 October at the Wanderers Golf Club.

A Thought for the Week: The purpose of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware. - Henry Miller (1891 - 1980)

Thursday, 9 September 2021

Spying on the Spies With Red Ronnie

It's hard to believe the looting in KwaZulu-Nata and Gauteng was six to eight weeks ago, a truly traumatic experience for the country but looking back, it all seems shrouded in fog.

It was a nightmare, said Ronnie Kasrils, that started with the arrest and incarceration of former President Jacob Zuma on charges of contempt of court.

Kasrils, a member of the Rotary Club of Johannesburg New Dawn and ex-Minister of Intelligence, was the speaker at the hybrid meeting on Wednesday.

During the 9 days of hell that followed, he said, more than 350 people lost their lives. South Africa had never seen anything like this since 1994.

     The damage to the economy from the looting is estimated at R20 billion in KZN and R3.5 billion in Gauteng

The security cluster at cabinet level had failed to pick up that trouble is coming, said Kasrils.

"When they hear that Caesar is going to be stabbed on the steps of the Senate, they should immediately go to the President and tell him, not write reports that no-one reads," he said.

                        Ronnie Kasrils. The photo is from the Internet

There was no single cause for the looting and destruction, he said. Poverty is one of them, in a country where an estimated 60 percent of the population lives in poverty. Disunity, splits and faction forming within the ANC also played a role.

"We've by no means seen the last of the problems in South Africa," he said.

It is up to South Africans to demand that the right, strong people get put into key positions and those who are a deadweight are gotten rid of so that especially the police, military and intelligence services are sorted out.

                                 Eric Kimani, an eminent Rotarian from Kenya

Another interesting speaker this week was Eric Kimani of Kenya, the first ethic Kenyan to become a District Governor in his country, who addressed a seminar on Membership.

Rotary is flourishing in the East African country and for all the right reasons.

PDG Eric told how he has led a movement to create four new clubs in his home country over the past few years, all of which are flourishing, and two of which have a membership of 80 or more and heading for 100.

One of the ways they have achieved this, is by a rigorous training programme for prospective members before they even join. He told the meeting of a few highlights of the programme, which is available to clubs through PDG Annie Steyn.

     Wendy Challis, Mike MacDonald (doing the brag), Judy Symons, Helene Bramwell and Linda Vink at the meeting

The first requirement is that prospective members must attend at least 4 of the 6 training sessions if they want to join any of the four clubs.

They must be introduced by a Rotarian. Walk-ins are not countenanced.

They must show understanding of the three Rotary non-negotiables: Participation (Rotary is for leaders, not followers, he said); attendance of at 50% of meetings is compulsory; and payment is compulsory. If you can't afford it, you can't be a Rotarian.

Prospective members must know where the Rotary Foundation fits in and how it works.

                                       Graham Donet, President for September, and Paul Channon

Before finally being accepted they must attend a fireside chat of at least two hours, normally in the form of a cocktail party, to meet senior leaders of the club.

By that time they would have had to attend at least four of the previous eight club meetings, which means the whole process can take a few months.

Instead of telling people they should join Rotary to take part in community projects, they end every lesson by telling prospective members what Rotary can do for them. They emphasise the advantages of networking, of how Rotary helps you with personal discipline by teacher you how to keep and manage your time.

Another personal advantage is learning the tools of management.

                               We made the front page after the tree planting at Zoo Lake last week

Through Rotary you come to distill your conscience by taking to heart the lessons of the 4-Way Test.

Rotary also helps you to become a global citizen. It gives you a global passport with which you can create global networks.

You join Rotary to learn, to increase your knowledge because Rotary is such a diverse body of people, most of whom share their knowledge for free. You can travel all over the world and people will open their homes to you.

"Tell people Rotary is fun, tell them Rotary is 95% personal gain and 5% community effort. Once you've told them that, tell them  what Rotary does and what Rotary has done, for example with polio eradication."

He also told the meeting of a Buddy system they have initiated where a club will have, for example, 10 groups of 8 randomly chosen members who hold their own casual meetings over coffee or a glass of wine and discuss club matters. The system has been so successful that many of the groups find a name for themselves and tackle projects together.

Next Week and Beyond: More members will be introducing themselves at the meeting next week. The following week (22 September) Hillary Biller, the renowned food journalist, will be talking about heritage food. Remember the DG visit on 29 September.

A Thought for the Week: We must believe in luck. For how else can we explain the success of those we don't like? - Jean Cocteau (1889 - 1963)

Thursday, 2 September 2021

Spring in the New Dawn Step

Just when it seemed as if winter would never end, with snow on the mountains down south sending icy winds our way, Wednesday, 1 September  dawned as a true Spring day on the Highveld with the Rotary Club of Johannesburg New Dawn.

At 6.30 am Zoo Lake was already bathed in sunshine and became warmer as the fun Rotary morning with a tree planting, induction of 5 new members and an inspiring update on the work of The Link Trust progressed.

    Tree planters galore at Zoo Lake. Those not wearing masks (like the guy on the right with the red bowtie) will have   to report to Professor Lucille Blumberg

Excellent coffee and a muffin and rusk (courtesy of Twickenham Guest House) was served from 6.30 am by a very chatty Craig Green of CupaJozi and his mobile coffee kiosk (071 676 3638) if you want to make use of his services).

Craig sold 44 cups of coffee giving him a cash injection of R1100 with the same amount for the New Dawn membership committee.

                Linda Vink wearing her prize-winning hat, with PDG Jankees and Judy Sligcher

To add to the fun Fran Haslam, managing director of the Zoo Lake Users Committee, adjudicated a competition for the best bonnet (ladies) and bowtie (gentlemen).

Because there was no clear winner in the bowtie competition (they must have overlooked mine) the hamper prizes were awarded to Linda Vink and Helene Bramwell, both of whom re-donated their fabulous looking prizes (courtesy of Joan Sainsbury) to the Golf Day, now fast approaching on 15 October at the Wanderers Golf Club.

               Fran Haslam with Helene Bramwell and her hamper       
                                        Joan Sainsbury looked striking in her spring outfit

Fran was also in charge of the tree planting ceremony when an indigenous African Olive (Olienhout in Afrikaans) was planted  a little way uphill from the parking lot of the now defunct Moyo restaurant where it will provide shade and edible black olives.

Although the tree had already been planted the day before, members and guests, amongst them six girls from the National School of the Arts, helped to fill the hole with soil to make sure the tree is bedded down properly.

I've been describing the day in reverse, because it ended with the tree ceremony, preceded by the prize giving and group photograph (see above), which was preceded by the induction and Megan Maynard's talk.

The new inductees are Desh Moodley, Nola Ostle, Velani  Buthelezi, Olivia Schoombie-Khoza and
 Mpho Zetina Mosia

After being inducted by September President Graham Donet, the five briefly introduced themselves and received their badges and other Rotary paraphernalia.

It was certainly a day to remember and hopefully for them an induction that they'll always hold dear.

                                  A very stylish Nola Ostle and Mpho Zetina Mosia after their induction
                                  PP Graham Donet with Velani Buthelezi

Before the inductions Megan Maynard gave an update on one of our signature projects, The Link Trust, which engages volunteers to teach literacy and numeracy to young primary school children who have fallen behind at an early age.

As in so many other spheres, Covid-19 has had a very negative effect on their work at the 19 schools where The Link had been engaged originally, Rotary, through New Dawn, was funding them to set up in new schools at a rate of three or four per year before Covid struck at the beginning of 2020.

                                    Paul Channon with Megan Maynard

In the process The Link has lost quite a lot of their volunteers, either to the virus or because they're afraid to venture out too much, especially deep into townships, even when the schools have been operating.

Ever resourceful, The Link has responded by curating games that the children can take home and more recently engaged with the University of Johannesburg and the Alexander Education Committee to get student volunteers to visit the children.

                                      President Ian Widdop introducing Megan Maynard

A positive development is that UJ has included practical teaching as a requirement for their third-year teaching students, which could potentially guarantee future crops of volunteers.

She said The Link has had enquiries from as far afield as Mpumalanga, KZN and Knysna to set up similar operations. Whichever way things go, they'd like to get volunteers to get back into classrooms for one-on-one teaching as soon as possible.

                                     Babette Gallard with Zoo Lake's newest tree

Well done to Babette Gallard for being so instrumental in organising such an auspicious Spring day, in typical Rotary style with more than just a touch of seriousness to go with the fellowship and fun.

                                      A very colourful Paul Kasango showing off his digging skills
                                       Matt Pitjeng taking a turn with the spade

                                       The photographer photographed ... Hannes Dressler and the tree

Many thanks also to Hannes Dressler for volunteering to be the official photographer for the day and for making his photos available online for everybody to see.

Next Week: We'll be having a hybrid meeting next week, online for those who can't or don't want to venture out and in person at the Parkview Golf Club for the first time in quite a while for the rest of the club.

The speaker will be Ronnie Kasrils in his guise of ex-minister of security services, speaking about the role of the security cluster in the recent widespread looting in KZN and Gauteng.

A Thought for the Week: To be resolute and firm, simple and slow in speech, is to approach true goodness. - Confucius (c. 551 - 478 BC)


Thursday, 26 August 2021

Two Speakers for the Price of One

Two speakers on one day made for quite a hectic meeting on Wednesday evening. Two such brilliant speakers gave us all a lot to think about.

First up was Emma Franklin, a young lawyer about to embark on a career as a barrister in the United Kingdom, who was fortunate enough to find a place as a legal researcher with the Zondo Commission of Enquiry into Allegations of State Capture for the past 10 months.

         Emma Franklin at the Zondo Commission and in the panel second from the bottom

Emma spoke about her role at the commission and the experiences she had; her impression of the commission and its work; and how she sees the commission's impact in the future.

She said she found herself seeing and reading things that she could not believe; that she felt like she was a junior doctor being expected to deliver her first baby alone and at short notice.

What she learnt was that there had been a very clear modus operandi in how procurement laws were subverted during the time covered by the commission.

She emphasised that a commission is a fact-finding exercise and believes the Zondo commission has done a great job in uncovering the years of malfeasance during the Zuma years. There was a pattern of corruption rather than just random acts of corruption. The commission also uncovered the role of the private sector as an enabler of corruption.

There's still a log way to go, though. More people need to be sent to jail and more stolen money needs to be paid back. Looking to the future, the recommendations of the commission will be far-reaching and difficult political decisions await President Ramaphosa.

                         Seropane Lesoka at Wits

Serokane Lesoka, a 5th year medical student at the University of the Witwatersrand, is tied to the Rotary Club of Johannesburg New Dawn in quite a few ways: he got through school with the help of the Alexander Education Committee, whose director is Paul Channon, a New Dawn member. The school was Highlands North High, where Mimi van Deventer, another member, teaches and the headmaster there, Mike Masinge, has expressed great interest in joining New Dawn.

Not only does Mr Masinge want to join, he also wants his school to be part of the Rotary seedling project, where New Dawn has taken a leading role through the efforts of Brendon Martens, Danny Geddes and of course President Ian Widdop.

Serokane ended up with five distinctions in Matric (one of them for Afrikaans thanks to Mevrou Mimi, as he called her).

Serokane was granted an AEC bursary in Grade 8 after failing to get one the previous year. The following year his mother died and after living with an uncle in Edenvale for a year, he was left with the choice of going back to Alexandra township on his own, or to his grandmother in Tzaneen.

He chose Alex, where he lived alone in a cardboard shack in a dangerous part of the township and continued going to Highlands North High until one day, after noticing that his marks were dropping, his Maths teacher realised something was wrong.

Through the AEC he met the Barrow family of Barrow Construction, a donor company to the AEC and they gave him a room at their Wynberg premises, where he still lives while tackling his Wits courses.

                          Helene Bramwell celebrating spring in a very colourful way

The meeting next week is on Spring day, 1 September and to celebrate, the club will be meeting at Zoo Lake. A part of the proceedings will be a tree planting of a wild olive donated by New Dawn.

The speaker is Megan Maynard of The Link Trust. September is Rotary's Basic Education and Literacy month.

Another exciting part will be the induction of five new members by our September president, Graham Donet.

Babette Gallard and Joan Sainsbury have promised that there will be a coffee kiosk with muffins and rusks available, so make sure you have a bit of cash on hand for that.

The theme is Spring Bonnets (for the ladies) and Bowties (for the gentlemen). The best in the two categories will win a hamper.

President Graham has promised some more great speakers for September, amongst them Hillary Biller talking about heritage food (September is also Heritage Month) and our own Ronnie Kasrils. Remember also the DG visit later in September.

Our thought for the week comes from a quote used by Serokane Lesoka with which he ended off his valedictorian address in Matric in 2016, according to Paul Channon.

A Thought for the Week: Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet. - Bob Dylan (1941 -)


Friday, 20 August 2021

Rotarians Roaming the World

In the absence of a speaker from Gravitree as scheduled, three more members introduced themselves to other club members on Zoom at the meeting this week.

First up was Zena Kimaro, who has been a member of the Rotary Club of Johannesburg New Dawn since 2012, a year after she moved to Johannesburg to do post-doctoral studies.

Zena came to New Dawn via the Rotary Club of Kilifi, a club on the coast of Kenya, a country where Rotary is truly prospering, where she had been a member since 2004.

                                    Zena Kimaro, molecular biologist, proud mother and proud Rotarian

Zena said she wishes she could be more involved in Rotary, something her work and being the mother of two boys doesn't always allow.

"I believe that you enjoy Rotary even more when you're involved," she said.

Zena has a PhD in molecular biology, two sons of 7 and 11 months and a medical doctor partner who has returned to Nairobi because he has not been allowed to practise is South Africa.

She works for the pharmaceutical company Merck. She lived and worked in the USA for two years but says she loves living in South Africa as a middle ground between the USA and Kenya and its proximity to her mother and siblings in Kenya.

She loves travelling, running, gardening, which she finds very therapeutic, and spending a lot of time with her boys and a small bubble of friends over weekends.

                                     Carl Chemaly, aka the Sheriff of Parkview

Next up was Carl Chemaly, also a Rotarian for a number of years, most recently with New Dawn. He joined the club in 2018 and had previously been a member of the Rotary Club of Johannesburg.

Carl told the club that he was born of a Lebanese father and 1820 Settler stock mother and went to school at St Andrews in Grahamstown and the University of Cape Town where he did a degree in marketing.

Carl owns his own business specialising in financial services and human resources.

After university he travelled overseas for 4 years doing jobs such as waitering and being a security guard "and realised what it is to be invisible".

Carl is married to the journalist Jacquie Myburgh, who is very involved in the charity Vintage With Love, which resells second-hand clothes from mainly northern suburbs women and manages to raise up to R1,5 million a year. The Alexandra Education Committee is one of their beneficiaries.

Carl himself is a champion of Realema, which takes promising young black pupils and sponsors them through a teacher training degree and then helps place them at good schools.

He is also a joint founder of Safe Parkview, an organisation which strives to keep that suburb crime-free, and is chairman of the Parkview Residents' Association because, he joked, nobody else wanted to do it.

Carl says he would love to see Rotary roping in more kids for projects that would at the same time help the children fulfil their community service hours. "I would love to help more people," he said.

                                                     One of Babette Gallard's travel guides

Babette Gallard hails from Shropshire in England, where she grew up among horses. She describes it as a very beautiful place.

At age 11 she broke her neck and back, but recovered and started riding dressage. She spent four years training in Germany and rode semi-professionally before going to university in Bristol. She then became a journalist, working for the BBC as a television researcher.

Her next stop was Papua New Guinea, during which time she married and had a daughter. The marriage ended in Portugal and she returned to the UK where she worked for a number of NGOs and learnt project management. She then went to Moscow as a business consultant and there met her present partner, Paul Chinn.

Together they bought a 600 year old house in Northern France and rode the Santiago trail on horseback. The following year they did the Roman Way trail, also on horseback. Their adventures let to a publishing business based on their travels, which she described as "reasonably successful".

They ended up in Johannesburg after building a hospital in Kinshasha. Getting it off-grid by installing solar power was one of the things that led her to being very aptly called an eco warrior.

Mpho Mosia, a singer, artist and clearly a bubbly young woman of much talent, also (not so briefly) introduced herself at the meeting and is one of four prospective members who could be inducted at the meeting on 1 September. Watch this space.

                                    Emma Franklin will be talking about her Zondo Commission experience

Next week: Remember that the meeting next week is an evening meeting at 6pm on Zoom, and the last of the meetings chaired by Carol Stier. Graham Donet will be presiding over the meetings in September. The speaker next week is Emma Franklin, who is about to become a commercial law barrister in the UK, but who has spent much of lockdown on the Zondo Commission legal team.

She'll be speaking about her experiences and the way forward. She was part of a number of work streams for the legal team, including the State Security Agency, SARS, procurement irregularities in the State Owned Entities and the preparation for the questioning of both the former and current President.

Although her specific field is commercial law, Emma has a broader interest in the social impact of the law. She has used the time in between her studies at the University of Cape Town and the University of Oxford to be involved in various legal NGOs, pro bono organisations and legal aid clinics. Most recently, her internship at the International Bar Association gave her a platform to share her views and ideas with a wide audience on topics like gender-based violence and how technology might be able to solve the very “human” problem of sexual harassment in the workplace.

As a bonus there'll be a second speaker. Seropane Lesoka is a graduate from the Alexandra Education Committee programme and is now a 5th year medical student. He'll be talking about his experiences with the AEC.

Reminders: Remember to place your orders for delicious honey from Peter Standish by contacting Gavin Atkins, who will then email an order form to you. Orders must be in by end of business on Tuesday for delivery on Sunday.

Also remember to sign up and pay up for the Power of Pennies sustainable fundraising effort, also by contacting Gavin and Sarah de La Pasture.

A Thought for the Week: I speak two languages, Body and English. - Mae West (1893 - 1980)

Thursday, 12 August 2021

Women Rule in Rotary

South African women get two Women's Days a year; the international Women's Day in March and the South African National Women's Day on 9 August to commemorate the march of about 20 000 women to the Union Buildings in 1956 to petition against the pass laws under apartheid.

Yet the majority of women in South Africa are still very much oppressed, struggling to keep their families and themselves going, said Grace van Zyl of the Rotary Club of Johannesburg, who spoke at the meeting on Wednesday in celebration of Women's Day.

                                   PP Grace van Zyl of the Rotary Club of Johannesburg

Grace joined Rotary in December 2010 and is a past president of the Rotary Club of Benoni Aurora and twice past president of the Rotary Club of Johannesburg. She has served on the District Foundation committee since 2017 and is currently the Polio Plus chair and Peace Builder Chair. She was Rotarian of the Year in 2014/2015, is a Paul Harris Fellow, a bequest Society member and a Rotary Benefactor.

Grace told how she'd grown up in a male dominated world as the only girl in a family of four children.

She attended an Afrikaans language technical school as one of only 25 girls in a school of 800 pupils. She wanted to study mechanical engineering to become a motor mechanic, but when the school wouldn't allow it, she became a fitter and turner. She eventually ended up in finance and is now a financial life strategist and coach.


Grace told the club that she has lived in a male dominated world for most of her life.

When she joined Rotary there were still relatively few women, most of whom were involved in softer projects and not really taking up leadership roles.

She said women in Rotary should support each other. It's not necessary for women to be like men to succeed, she said.

"Being a Rotarian and being a woman has given me many opportunities," she said.

                                      Jennifer Jones, RI President-elect for 2022-2023

She referred to the Rotary International President-elect, Jennifer E. Jones, as an example of a woman who rose to her position on merit, by putting in the hard work at Rotary International level. She has served as RI vice president, director, training leader, committee chair, moderator and district governor.

One of her goals as RI president is to see double digit growth in the number of female Rotarians, as well as in Rotarians under the age of 40.

President-elect Jennifer is a member of the Rotary Club of Windsor-Roseland in Ontario, Canada.

PP Grace said women bring a nurturing ability and vulnerability to Rotary that make them well suited to dealing with peoples' needs. She spoke about the township behind George Goch Stadium next to the N2 where about 20 000 people live in dire poverty and where, through sitting down and talking to residents, they could ascertain what people needed most, and what kind of help they wanted most; educating their children.

"Because you're a woman, you have empathy and you can connect with people."

There is still a long way to go, evidenced by the fact that there are still two clubs in District 9400 that refuse to accept women as members.

Her advice to women in Rotary is to not be bullied, to go where your passion is.

"Put your hand up, get involved. Rotary is a lifestyle, a way of life, not a hobby."

In her Membership Minute Joan Sainsbury, Membership chair for New Dawn, said women comprise 21% of RI members; 41% in D9400 and a 61% in New Dawn. We're way ahead of everybody else as far as gender representation is concerned.

Next Week: The speaker next week will be from the organisation Gravitree.

A Thought for the Week: Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies. - Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 - 1900)

Friday, 6 August 2021

Making the Most of Your Membership


Membership is a key part of Rotary and our speaker this week chose the theme of membership retention for her talk. Sonja Shear of the Rotary Club of Benoni Aurora is district membership chair and has already made a mark there, presiding over  the first spurt of membership growth in the district for quite a few years.

Of course a solid percentage of that growth is due to the phenomenal growth at New Dawn during the past year, growth that doesn't look like slowing down much in the foreseeable future.

This growth comes in spite of Covid-19 claiming lives and a natural fall-off caused by people losing their jobs or livelihood.

                  Sonja Shear, district membership chair for D9400

Sonja said it's important that  Rotary must add value to your life; not just a place to forge new friendships, but also a place where every Rotarian can make a difference and impact on the lives of those in less fortunate circumstances.

It also allows us to engage with a global community of like minded people. Rotary calls for people to get involved. Dive right in, she advised; don't wait to be asked or told what to do.

Sonja told the club about the many avenues that Rotarians can use to be involved, not just with club projects, but also with Rotary in the wider world. Most of these start with My Rotary on the Rotary International website, which has speeded up communication within Rotary to a great degree.

During question time she addressed a problem that has vexed many clubs over the past few years; how to make virtual meetings more interesting. She said the key is to make meetings on Zoom more interactive and to go the route of discussion groups rather than following a push-down approach.

In her own club they'd experimented with fun quizzes for instance, to encourage active participation by a larger number of members.

Talks by Rotarians about Rotary seem to always go down well and this one was especially useful.

In keeping with membership month, acting president Carol Stier said there would be a membership minute at every meeting during August.

Membership was also very much to the fore at an Expand Your Network meeting on Tuesday evening, attended by more than a dozen New Dawn members along with Rotarians from the USA, the UK, Texas, Brazil, India and Jamaica.

After a presentation by Domenica Pradere of the Rotary Cub of Montego Bay in Jamaica, Carol Stier showed a brilliant video on New Dawn that she'd composed showcasing our important projects and achievements. This was very well received and if you weren't there at Wednesday's meeting, where it was shown again, ask her for a copy. It makes New Dawn something to be even more proud of than we already are.

After the presentations we joined breakaway groups to give everybody a ten minute opportunity to get to know one another and to hear more about their clubs and Rotary experiences.

We were fortunate to have a meeting with Domenica, who initiated the meetings and with Chris Right of the Rotary Club of Amber Valley near Manchester and Sheffield in the UK.

The meeting was one of a series of meetings presided over by Grace van Zyl of the Rotary Club of Johannesburg.

Next Week: It's Women's Month and the speaker next week is the very same Grace, who will be celebrating all things women two days after South Africa's National Women's Day on 9 August.

A Thought for the Week: As usual, there is a great woman behind every idiot. - John Lennon (1940 - 1980)