The picnic on the lawn at Marks Park towards the end of last year seems like a distant memory as we started off the new year with the first meeting for New Dawn amidst a raging new Covid-19 wave. There's not much new so far in this new year, just lots more of the same lockdown blues carried over from a fraught 2020.
We've already missed out on the traditional New Year's kuier on the Sligcher stoep and will certainly miss out on any group Valentine's Day celebrations but despite the gloom of recent weeks, the first meeting of the year started off with lots of good news.President Ian Widdop amongst the plants
President Ian Widdop told the club that the larger portion of the Rotary International grant for the now defunct taxi sanitising project had been paid out to the Rotary Club of Johannesburg New Dawn specifically for the seedling project at the National School of the Arts.
Almost R350 000 is in the club account for the project, which should be in full swing soon. There's a speaker on the matter the week after next (see below).
President Ian also announced a new and prestigious Rotary appointment for PDG Jankees Sligcher.PDG Jankees Sligcher takes on a new role for the Rotary Foundation
He has been appointed Regional Rotary Foundation Coordinator (RRFC) for Zone 22 with responsibility for the area which covers the mainly eastern, English speaking part of Africa from South Sudan through Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenia and Mozambique to South Africa.
PDG Jankees is taking over from PDG Andrew Jaeger, who has decided he needs to spend more time with his businesses in the Western Cape due to the Covid crisis in the wine and restaurant industry.
Jankees has pledged to address the club on the appointment once he's got his teeth into what is expected of him, but be aware that his main job will be to wrest more contributions from clubs and members for the Rotary Foundation.Joan Sainsbury hard at work making masks last year
Members of New Dawn were, as usual, not inactive over the festive season and many kudos must go to Joan Sainsbury who somehow manages to wave her magic wand and gather club support for a range of projects. The most recent of these has been a supply of very reasonably priced single use masks which members have paid for and which will be distributed to various worthy causes.
This netted over R2000 for the club coffers, a very generous amount.
Joan reports that she has also been able to have art and other supplies delivered to the Leeuwkop Prison despite the strict lockdown rules.
Oliver Quambusch in one of the Hotel Hope charity shops
Joan Donet reported that a fourth candidate for a Rotary short-term exchange at the end of the year, from Parktown Boys High, has come forward, meaning that New Dawn will potentially be sponsoring two boys and two girls for the programme.
President Ian Widdop reported that Tim Bashall, chairman of The Link Trust, donated some of the contents of his home in Forest Town to New Dawn because he has moved to Cape Town and is letting the house. These were passed on to the Christ Church Christian Care Centre in Berea and to Hotel Hope Ministries in Melville and were gratefully received.
One of the busiest of all our members has been Prof. Lucille Blumberg due to her Covid-related work.
Lucille gave an update on the current state of affairs and said the situation is pretty grim as the second wave of infections sweeps across the country. She said the new variant has proved to be highly transferable although it hasn't necessarily increased the death rate.
Professor Lucille Blumberg behind her desk
Hospitals are overwhelmed, there are no beds available and oxygen, for instance, is in short supply.
She ascribes the current increased death rate to an overwhelmed health system which is struggling to cope.
The country has not yet reached the peak of the second wave, which is only expected in the next 2 - 3 weeks.
She conceded that the health authorities had been a bit slow on sourcing vaccines, but that the first consignments are expected soon. She urged members to get vaccinated as soon as they qualify.
She recommends that people remain in lockdown until at least the end of February.
"My advice is to be particularly careful. There's no room for any slips. We don't know yet if the vaccines will work," she said, and added that initial indications are good.
"We need to all push for a vaccine and I encourage you all to get it if it becomes available."
She said the vaccination rollout is complicated by the fact that you can't just round up people at venues such as clinics, because of the danger of infections spreading amongst them.
In keeping with her advice, the club decided to move back to Zoom-only meetings for the next few weeks at least.PDG Robert Strachan of Cheshire in England
Speakers: The speaker next week (on Zoom) is Robert Strachan, a director of Disaster Aid UK and Ireland, an organisation affiliated with Rotary. He hails from Cheshire and will update the club on the Disaster Aid project, of which we've heard before from the Aussie Dave Tuzewski of DisasterAid Australia.
The week after Brendan Martins of Urban Agricultural Initiative will be speaking on sustainable food production linked to the seedling project at the National School of the Arts.
A Thought for the Rotary Year Ahead: So many gods, so many creeds/ So many paths that wind and wind/ While just the art of being kind is all the sad world needs. - (Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850 - 1919)