Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Planting the Seeds of the Past

Can a vegetable have a story? Can it have a history and aspect? The answer is yes if it's an heirloom vegetable. That's the story that our speaker this week, Melissa de Billot, told the club. Melissa, for those who couldn't make the meeting, is passionate about heirloom vegetables.

She likes eating them, not so much cooking them (in her own words she can't claim to be much of a chef) but she certainly likes growing them and talking about them.

                       Melissa de Billot with an heirloom tomato vine, in a photo from the Internet

Although she's an architect by trade, Melissa is a food warrior, propagating the message that a valuable part of human history is being lost as fewer and fewer heirloom veggies are grown, produced and consumed.

Most of what remains are kept by farmers, passed on in families over generations. But farming has been transformed over the past few generations as populations grow and the demand for mass cultivation grows with it.

                      Rainbow maize in many different hues

She used maize as an example, available in the modern world as either white or yellow (sweetcorn) with almost nothing else. Yet historically there were tens of thousands of different strains of maize. She describes the local so-called rainbow maize as far tastier and having a much more old-school and more earthy flavour than commercially grown products.

Food has become a commercial commodity and producing farms have become further and further away from cities, meaning people have lost their ties with farmers and the unique crops they once grew.

                        A bowl of heirloom tomatoes and yellow baby tomatoes in a slide Melissa shared 

Heirloom tomatoes are particularly rewarding to grow, she said. Tomatoes have become thicker skinned because it makes them easier to transport, but at the same time they've lost most of their taste.

But, she said, if you want to eat heirloom vegetables, you'll have to grow them yourself. Very few are available in shops and markets.

Seeds are available, although many different strains have become almost extinct. She mentioned Linda's Original Seeds (Linda's Original Seeds) and Livingseeds 

                        Ark of Taste is part of the Slow Food movement                   

Melissa said she's become part of Ark of Taste, within the worldwide Slow Food movement, who aim to preserve heirloom food cultures all over the world. The database already has more than 5 000 heirloom products from 150 countries, of which there are some 60 South African types. These don't only include heirloom vegetables, but also for instance Afrikaner cattle, Amani, Rex Union Oranges (they're on sale now at the Cheese Gourmet in Linden if you want to make the best marmalade, she said) and wild rooibos.

Blanket Drive: In just one weekend the club collected R13 200, enough to buy 160 blankets for our two beneficiaries, Woodside Sanctuary and the Christ Church Christian Care Centre.

The annual blanket drive is an inter-club effort by clubs in District 9400 and the blankets, specially made for single beds, come from Sesli Blankets. They're still being manufactured and will probably only be available next week, when the present cold spell looks set to continue.

Upcoming meetings: There is NO MEETING this coming week, as the Wednesday falls on 16 June. There is also NO MEETING on the following Wednesday, as we'll be getting together on Zoom on Friday 25th June to see in the next Rotary year with President Ian Widdop remaining at the helm.

The speaker during the special Friday meeting is the journalist and academic Prof Anton Harber, talking about his latest book, So, For the Record, about the media and state capture.

A Thought for the Week: Ah, good taste, what a dreadful thing! Taste is the enemy of creativeness. - Pablo Picasso (1881 - 1973)

Friday, 4 June 2021

The Art of Helping People

Community work at Lefika La Phodiso is based on art therapy principles and the flagship programme is called Open Studio. This is an after-school programme for children from Hillbrow, Berea, Yeoville and other surrounding Johannesburg inner city suburbs, Rozanne Myburgh, managing director, told the club at the meeting this week.

The big advantage that Lefika has is being situated at the Children's Memorial Institute building in Braamfontein, which is accessible on foot for people from these areas, Rozanne said. She is also a very committed drama therapist and judging by her talk to the club at the meeting this week, a very accomplished one. She had us in tears.

    Rozanne Myburgh of Lefika La Phodiso

Lefika, which was founded in 1994,  uses art in most of its forms, drama and storytelling to help kids process their emotions and often very harrowing life experiences.

                     A slide from Rozanne's presentation detailing their work                   

Lefika had, in her words, 362 unique beneficiaries in total last year. Rozanne said their Saturday programme is always very well attended and a hive of activity with on average 125 children there at a time. She invited members, Covid permitting of course, to join in on a Saturday and experience for themselves what the organisation is doing.

                       A distribution vehicle from SA Harvest in Cape Town. The photo is from their website

As so many others did during the successive Covid-19 lockdowns, Lefika helped 72 families with food parcels through access to Checkers food vouchers and the organisation SA Harvest, which aims to ""rescue" food from restaurants, supermarkets, suppliers and many other establishments and create a platform from where it can be passed on to the needy. After all, you can't counsel a hungry child, as Rozanne says.

During lockdown many sessions were done online by prerecording sessions that are sent to parents via YouTube. Through the contact with parents, parenting groups have started meeting to discuss issues that their children have to deal with like bullying, for example.

Schoolchildren from Kingsmead College have, for instance, started helping with the art counselling sessions and St. Stithians will be joining in soon.

Also at the meeting President Ian Widdop read out a statement he'd prepared for the way forward for the club next year when he will continue as official president, but where many duties will be delegated to other members. The statement has been sent out to members, so read it.

Probably the most visible change will be that different people will be running club meetings for the year, taking turns for about a month at a time primarily to ease the burden on only one person doing it all the time.

We'll be in uncharted waters, but the club is strong enough to keep growing. Zoom meetings especially frustrate many members, despite their obvious advantages such as allowing people to join remotely who for whatever reason, can't be present physically. These meetings do lack the personal touch, though.

Speaker next week: The speaker next week is Melissa de Billot, who'll be talking on growing heirloom vegetables. Immediate past president Judy Sligcher will run the Zoom meeting in President Ian's absence - he will be in the Kruger National Park. Remember that there will be no meeting the following week, 16 June, as it is Youth Day.

Crocks' Corner: Linda and I visited Julian Nagy yesterday and he's in good spirits. He's at the beginning of his cycle of treatment, but says he's already in better spirits.

Graham Donet said in a message from his hospital bed in Krugersdorp he's on the mend and expecting to be home on Sunday. Joan has also contracted Covid, but has managed to stay out of hospital and is also in good spirits. Her grandchildren obviously can't understand why they can see Joan but not visit her in their flatlet.           

A Thought for the Week: Success - keeping your mind awake and your desire asleep. - Walter Scott (1771 - 1832)

Thursday, 27 May 2021

Seven New Members in One Day

Who says seven into one doesn't go? Seven new members joined the club at the meeting of the Rotary Club of Johannesburg New Dawn this week, an unique occasion if ever there was. Apart from the induction of 19 new founder members in 2009, this week's seven definitely constitutes a record.

They were welcomed into Rotary by the outgoing District Governor, Annemarie Mostert, who is coming to the end of what must have been a very difficult Rotary year.

           DG Annemarie Mostert onscreen, reading out the Rotary charge to the new inductees

The seven new members bring the total membership of the club to 52, plus 3 honorary members (Yakub Essack of Gift of the Givers, Carin Holmes and Nick Bell).

Although the club has grown slowly over the past few years, this is by far the biggest New Dawn has ever been. We've inducted seventeen new members just in the past few months, thanks mainly to the efforts and arm-twisting abilities of Joan Sainsbury, ably aided and abetted by President Ian Widdop.

The new members are Janice Angove, Mayshree Bhim, Babette Gallard, Danielle Geddes, Linda Hammond, Brendon Martens and Shan Vorster, bringing the ratio of women to men to 62% to 38%. All managed to attend the zoom meeting except for Brendon, who was doing the school run after his wife hurt her shoulder, which has meant that she can't drive.

Those present were given the opportunity to introduce themselves briefly and to say why they have joined Rotary and more specifically New Dawn. In the ongoing effort to integrate new members fully into the club, each will be given an opportunity over the coming weeks to introduce themselves more fully, while existing members are also doing the same.

                                             Janice Angove
Janice Angove grew up in Rotary and was joined in the Zoom meeting by her mother, Barbara, who has been a Rotary Ann at the Rotary Club of Boksburg for 41 years. She said she's learnt what a community of like-minded people are capable of doing while having fun at the same time.
                                              Mayshree Bhim
Mayshree Bhim told how she'd first experienced Rotary as a little girl in a Durban township. Rotary gave her an opportunity to speak and to be listened to. She loves the thought of belonging to a tribe that thinks like she does in giving to others.
                                              Babette Gallard
Babette Gallard told how Joan Sainsbury wouldn't let go until she finally agreed to join New Dawn. "I can't wait to get going and meet you all."
                                              Danielle Geddes
Danny Geddes also grew up with Rotary. Her mother was involved with Interact, Rotaract and Rotary and is a past president. Danny is rejoining Rotary after having been a member in Cape Town. She says her generation is inclined to put themselves above service and looks forward to placing service above self.
                                              Linda Hammond
Linda Hammond is also a child of Rotary. Her father is a Paul Harris Fellow and a past president of his club in Pietermaritzburg. She said she chooses to align with people and organisations that value the same things she does.

                                             Brendon Martens
Brendon Martens needs little introduction as he's been involved with New Dawn in setting up Seedling Farm 2 at the National School of the Arts in Braamfontein as part of the Urban Agriculture Initiative.
                                              Shan Vorster

Shan Forster is an accountant by trade and said she had been invited to Rotary by a friend of a friend and was immediately drawn by the enthusiasm in the club. 

If that all sounds a little matter-of-fact, it didn't come across as such at the meeting, which was an emotional affair even though it was held on Zoom.

Welcome to you all and we're all looking forward to getting to know you better.

                                Graham and Joan Donet at a club function pre-Covid

Graham and Joan Donet: Four current members also introduced themselves at the meeting. First up was Graham Donet, who had a career in the arts (he was with the then Natal Performing Arts Council and the Performing Arts Council of the Transvaal, followed by a few stints in his own business, followed by a career in catering, a seven-year stint as general manager of the SA Chefs Association and latterly he qualified as an insurance broker.

Joan worked in administration and secretarial posts most of her working life, ending up at Eskom where she did her best to keep the lights on. Joan hails from East London and she and Graham have two daughters, both married. The youngest daughter has made them proud grandparents of a grandson and a granddaughter.

Graham and Joan are both past presidents of New Dawn. Graham was previously a member of Rotary in East London. Both are Paul Harris Fellows and Joan a Paul Harris Sapphire for all she has done for the club over the years. Graham is a founding member and Joan joined very soon after the club started up.

                                                 Paul Kasango

Paul Kasango grew up in exile with his parents and lived in faraway places such as Tanzania, the then Soviet Union and Croatia. He sees himself as a member of the Lost Tribe of people who were uprooted from their homeland in the apartheid years. Paul is a qualified economist. He returned to South Africa in 1991 and is an entrepreneur whose focus has shifted from the aeronautical industry to that of renewable energy.

Paul has two sons, one of whom is studying in China (Covid permitting) and two daughters. He served two terms as a Rotary president before joining New Dawn as a founding member and is also a Paul Harris fellow. He is very involved with the Woodside Sanctuary in Cottesloe, near the SABC building complex in Auckland Park.

                                                Sarah de La Pasture

Sarah de La Pasture joined New Dawn almost two years ago. She was born in Uganda in the time of Idi Amin, got educated in Grahamstown and then relocated to the United Kingdom before finally settling in Johannesburg and Cape Town. She has a degree in history and economics and says the latter helps her to read the signs to be able to guide kids in the correct career choices.

She says the years in the Uganda of Idi Amin left her with a horror of bad government.

Next Week: The speaker next week is Roxanne Myburgh, managing director of Lefika La Phodiso, who will be accompanied by Kate Shand. Lefika La Phodiso is a community art counselling and training institute and is situated in Braamfontein at the Children's Memorial Institute just over the road from the National School of the Arts.

There will also be a report back on the board meeting on Monday,  which will focus on the way in which the club will operate now that Julian Nagy, the president-elect, has become indisposed.

A Thought for the Week: Silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone. - Gertrude Stein (1874 - 1946)

Thursday, 20 May 2021

Looking Back, Looking Forward

It was a week of looking forward and back, in the words of President Ian Widdop.

We started by looking forward; more specifically to the coming Rotary year. As we all know by now, Julian Nagy, the president-elect for the Rotary year 2021-2022, which starts on 1 July, is indisposed and will not be able to take the reins.

This has come almost at the last minute and after much discussion and approaching various members, nobody put their hand up emphatically to take over at such short notice.

                        Carrying the burden ... President Ian Widdop

The Rotary Memorandum of Procedure stipulates that when there is an emergency in such cases, the sitting president, in this case Ian Widdop,  stays on.

Anyone who has been president will know that this is not a great scenario. The presidency takes a lot out of you and uses up a lot of your time. You normally look forward to stepping down; and that is true of "normal" years, let alone such an abnormal one as we've had.

To alleviate the burden, President Ian initiated a discussion at a special board meeting suggesting that a group of past presidents form a sort of council to help carry the load. Details haven't been thrashed out yet, but we can get a fair idea out of the statement he made at the meeting, which has now been circulated to all members. Read it and start thinking how you fit into this new world.

One of the plans is to ask other members to run meetings, not just the president. Start thinking how you can do this if you were to be asked. Study the format of meetings, who says what, to whom and when, then throw the role book out of the window and be creative and innovative.

This could make for a very exciting year!

                      Hello from Brazil ... founding president Don Lindsay

The backward glance came from Don Lindsay, who told the club in a video link how he came to start a new club and why (!Au9rUCcjUDXRgXiQgwr_uPad-k3_?e=yAHVYM). You can copy and paste the link into your browser if it doesn't open directly. It's worth listening to if you weren't at the meeting.

Don is a consummate Rotarian who started off at the Morningside club before moving on to Henley on Klip, where he and Arthur lived at the time. When that didn't suit his travelling plans, he hit on the idea of starting his own breakfast club, mainly with people (Peter James-Smith and Graham Donet were two exceptions) who hadn't had any experience of Rotary before.

                     The club induction dinner. In those days the women wore tiaras to formal functions

The club started with 20 members (the minimum number required) of whom only 7 are still members; Lucille Blumberg, Graham Donet, Paul Kasango, Jankees Sligcher, Linda and Mike Vink and Ian Widdop.

Don also spoke about his Rotary experiences in Brazil and his life with Arthur Begley in that country ever since they left in 2013 after a decade or more in South Africa.

                    A collage from Don's farewell meeting in March 2013

That little glimpse into the New Dawn past should give newer members a better idea of the journey that we've undertaken over the past twelve years and how necessary it is to shake things up continuously to ward off the evil spirits of stagnation and boredom.

                     Jankees Sligcher and DG Annemarie Mostert with Francis and Janet Callard                 

New Dawn has come a long way and occupies a senior place at district level thanks in no small part to Jankees and Judy Sligchers' tenure as District Governor and DGA. This was illustrated this past week when PDG Jankees was asked to officiate in the handing over of major donor level 2 (to the Rotary Foundation) status to PDG Francis and PDGA Janet Callard at the Northcliff Rotary Club.

Major Donor Level 2 is recognised for people who have donated between $25 000 to $49 999 to the Foundation.

                       Amina (left) with the group of new members who visited the Humanitarian Centre recently

Also at the meeting Amina Frense, consummate journalist, TV producer, free press advocate and human rights activist of note, was given the opportunity to introduce herself to the newer members of the club to try to get members to know each other a bit better, a difficult task in Covid times.

Amina has retired from the SABC but is still active in the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism, the SA Press council (she's deputy chair) and the Editors' Forum, amongst other forums.

She's been doing a lot of work at the Humanitarian Centre on behalf of New Dawn and has already roped a number of other members in after the club nearly cut ties with the project a few years ago due to lack of interest.

Next week sees the induction of probably seven new members, a certain record for New Dawn, either at Fever Tree Lawn at The Wilds or on Zoom. At the time of writing the final decision had not yet been made.

A Thought for the Week: At a dinner party one should eat wisely but not too well, and talk well but not too wisely. - W. Somerset Maugham (1874 - 1965)

Thursday, 13 May 2021

More Member Introductions

Rather than just asking newer members to introduce themselves to the club, more established members are also going to get a turn so that the new members get to know them a bit better, something that hasn't been that easy since the various stages of lockdown began in March last year.

With eight new members in the past few weeks and about seven waiting in the wings, the club has grown immensely and because we're not meeting in person, getting to know each other has become a challenge.

First up on Wednesday was Annette Volschenk, who works in sport and recreation at the Johannesburg Municipality.

                                   Annette Volschenk

Annette told the club that she started off studying social services at the Potchefstroom University (now the North West University) but didn't feel she fitted in and requalified in sporting recreation management. 

She's passionate about youth development and likes walking and hiking. Before lockdown began she had been making plans to hike the Portuguese Camino di Santiago trail and is looking forward to doing it as soon as she can once the borders are open again.

Annette is already active in the club and was one of the volunteers to collate information from club members for the Urban Agriculture Initiative to help them plan the planting of seedlings.

She also told the club that she had contacted the American Embassy, who have expressed interest in collaborating with Rotary on book distribution projects.

                                    Brenda Sakellarides

Brenda Sakellarides used the first letter of her name to describe herself as brave, bold, benevolent, previously blonde and mostly buxom and told the club about her fabled career as a singer and actor in some of the best known musicals in South Africa.

Brenda is of course artistic director of the National School of the Arts and was our host during the visit to the seedling farm there last week. She said she loves working with children and is not afraid to dream impossible dreams. She sees joining Rotary as an opportunity to make a difference.

Her father is at 90 years of age still an active Rotarian in East London, where she was born and grew up. She has three children from her first marriage to the composer Kiruna Devar and after his death married another composer, Nik Sakellarides. 

                                     Paul Channon

Paul Channon spoke as an existing member and told about his career in education which started when her was 18 and continues to this day. Paul was headmaster of The Ridge School in Westcliff amongst many other postings and now runs the Alexander Education Committee, which oversees bursaries and scholarships to deserving but needy pupils in the Sandton township.

I had an opportunity to speak about my career as a journalist, our guest house business that has been going for the past 16 years and about Rotary for the past 12 years since New Dawn became part of the Rotary International family in 2009.

    Excited toddlers and teachers at the Hluvekani crèche which now has new doors and windows 

As always members of the club have been very active despite the lockdown and a lovely letter of thanks came from Bushbuckridge in far away Polokwane to thank Lucille Blumberg and Amina Frense for their gift of books to the municipal library.

Lucille has been involved in community work in the area with the National Institute of Communicable Diseases where she works, for quite a few years and was instrumental in helping them to build a new classroom for the Hluvekani crèche.

Amina arranged for books to be sent to the municipal library, which in turn helped another library in the area ( see the letter above) with some of the books. It's heartwarming stuff indeed.

                                        Julian Nagy

The news of Julian Nagy's illness has come as a shock and we all wish him a speedy and full recovery. Julian is not only a fellow club member, but has been a personal friend to Linda and me for many years and our daughters have been the best of friends for many years.

Because of the treatment that will now follow  and the uncertainty this brings to his near future, Julian has stepped down as president-elect of New Dawn. This means that we'll have to find a new candidate within the next few short weeks to serve as president from 1 July until the end of June 2022.

For the newer members, that means a nomination process will be put into place after a special board meeting  on Monday. All members are allowed to take part and you can nominate any member, so long as you have discussed the matter with the nominee and they have agreed to be nominated.

If more than one candidate is nominated and the nominations stand, there will be a vote.

Although Julian has put a new board in place, the new president-elect will no doubt want to have some say in who serves where.

When I introduced myself during the meeting this week, I neglected to say that I had served as president for the year of 2016/2017. Believe it or not, I can only recommend serving as president to every club member. It provides an opportunity to lead a pack of volunteers (not an easy task, admittedly) but also deepens your knowledge of Rotary and the many wonderful opportunities (and some frustrations) the organisation offers.

There's never a good time to put your hand up and it is a huge responsibility, but that also means there is never a bad time. No matter how busy you are, you'll find the time and also find yourself surrounded by members who will help you carry that burden.

That's my little Rotary sermon for the week. Put your hand up!

Next week: Don Lindsay, our club founding president, has agreed to send an electronic talk all the way from Curitiba in Brazil where he now lives.

A Thought for the Week: It is perhaps more fortunate to have a taste for collecting shells than to be born a millionaire. - Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 - 1894)

Thursday, 6 May 2021

A Visit to the Seedling Farm

Braving the Wednesday morning cold for a Rotary meeting is not for the faint hearted, but then Rotarians are made of sterner stuff. And guess what? It wasn't all that cold and I'm sure everybody there will agree it was worth it.

The venue was of course SF2 at the NSA with the UAI.

For those who haven't been following what's going on at New Dawn, that translates into Seedling Farm 2 on the grounds of the National School of the Arts in Braamfontein, undertaken by the Urban Agriculture Initiative and funded by Rotary, through a Rotary Foundation emergency Covid grant.

    Dappled sunshine relieved the cold on an autumn morning for Annette Volschenk, Joan Sainsbury, Karen Harkema,    Joan's husband Jack, Ian Widdop, Helene Bramwell and Wendy Challis

The meeting started at the new outdoor auditorium that the NSA erected to be able to do Covid-safe concerts and performances. We were greeted by two pupils and a guitar and a lively song.

We were also greeted by the theatre cat, who apparently made himself at home around the new stage as soon as it was erected. Theatre people know a theatre cat brings good luck and sellout performances. Echoes of Gus the Theatre Cat, no doubt.

                     The NSA cat basking in the sun, unperturbed by the presence of Duffy, the Widdop's dog
                    Brenda Sakellarides addressing the club with the minstrel duo of the NSA looking on

Brenda Sakellarides, one of our newer members and a teacher at the NSA, said that the Interact club at the NSA had recently been rejuvenated by a group of eager pupils and that they are very excited to be able to work with New Dawn, a great fit because of the seedling farm on their premises.

The NSA has been through a tough time during the lockdowns starting in March last year, but it is clear their response hasn't been to sit and complain about the hardships, rather to get up and do something about it.

                                     Ian Widdop in full voice

A surprise act was when President Ian Widdop mounted the stage for a stirring rendition of a piece for baritone from Fauré's Requiem, which was going to be the work at the Concert from Scratch that New Dawn was planning on doing with Richard and Sue Cock as a fundraiser before lockdown struck in March last year (remember those days).

Ian sang in lieu of grace and freely translated the words as the stirring:

Free me, Lord/ From eternal death/ On that day to be trembled at/ On that day/ When the heavens are to be sundered/ When the heavens are to be sundered/ And the earth,/ Then you will come/ To judge the aeons/ By Fire!

                                            Brendon Martens of the UAI

The day of course really belonged to Brendon Martens of the UAI, who took the group of some 20 members and half a dozen visitors (not counting the Interacters and the NSA performing duo) on a guided tour of the two seedling tents tucked away on a small patch of one of the sports fields. 

Brendon explained that it is planting and harvesting time for the seedlings, a busy time of the year for them. Seedling Farm 2 has now been paid off in full and the first seedlings should be there once production plans for the various sites that New Dawn members have identified, have been drawn up under the auspices of the UAI team.

He repeated his previous message that it is very important for them to know what the exact grow space in square metres is, and what the position is with water supply. He said about 25 sq. m. is a viable starting point for a garden. As soon as all that information is available, a date will be set to begin planting the seeds.

He also announced that the seed company Stark-Ayres had agreed to sponsor the seeds to be grown at SF2 to the tune of more than a kilogram of seeds for every variety planted, a very generous offer indeed. That's a large amount of seeds.

He said the UAI deems it important to plant crops that yield a high nutritional content. Donating bags of mielie meal for example, provides a short term solution in terms of their calorific value, but people need proper nutrition.

                                President Ian Widdop at the seedling tent. Next to him is Danny Geddes

Brendon is set to join New Dawn, as is Danny Geddes, a former member of the Rotary Club of Claremont in Cape Town and soon to be project manager for the UAI. Let's all hold thumbs.

The UAI is very excited by the initiative to train ten young people in the Vicoria Yards/Makers Valley scheme who can then help local gardeners with technical advice on what to plant, where to plant and to keep them motivated to carry on planting, Brendon told the club. If it works, this will be rolled out to other areas.

He also said supermarkets such as Checkers, Woolworths and Spar have started buying crops such as spring onions and celery from them.

The NSA will be able to begin sourcing their own vegetables for the kitchens soon and he envisions an ever closer relationship with the school.

                                Helene Bramwell, Adele Dabbs and Wendy Challis
                                 Helene with Linda Vink and Joan Donet
                                    Judy Symons, Amina Frense and Lucille Blumberg
                                  Lucille and Adele with Judy Sligcher
                                 Richard Moloney with Paul Kasango and Jankees Sligcher
                                  Graham Donet with Peter James-Smith

Our outgoing AG, Peter James-Smith, brought his successor, Richard Moloney of the Rotary Club of Rosebank, along for the site visit to introduce him to the members present. Richard will be assistant governor for a three-year term. The AG represents the District Governor for a number of clubs and basically helps to ensure compliance with Rotary International aims.

All in all it was a very successful visit and great to meet in person again. A decision on whether to batten down the hatches for a possible third wave of Covid infections or to attempt hybrid meetings again, is pending and will be announced soon.

Meanwhile, keep up the good work, Rotarians.

A Thought for the Week: Man is so made that he can only find relaxation from one kind of labour by taking up another. - Anatole France (1844 - 1924)

Thursday, 29 April 2021

A Tribute to Mike Sunker of the 5 Cees

When you asked Mike Sunker where he would get the money from to fund his latest plans for the Christ Church Christian Care Centre, he would reply: "If I had to wait for the money every time I felt we needed to take the next step, we would never have got anywhere. I pray and some or other how the funding follows."

That's a simple philosophy from a man who was used to getting things done; for a man who dreamt of getting street children off the streets of Hillbrow and Berea and bought an abandoned hotel on Louis Botha Avenue to do this.

                                 Mike Sunker addressing donors and volunteers at the 5 Cees

A lot of the funding came from church groups in the American South where Pastor Mike and his wife, Renu would visit annually before first ill health (he suffered from diabetes) and later Covid-19 prevented it.

For many years the American funding included a fixed quarterly amount in US Dollars that made much of the work of the 5 Cees possible. Even when these funds dried up after the death of the donor, the good work continued.

At the time of his death last weekend, Pastor Mike was already making plans to develop another care centre in Port Shepstone on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast on land donated by a church there. He also had a dream of setting up a network of care centres in townships around Gauteng, more specifically Orange Farm.

                     Pastor Mike at a 5 Cees curry evening with myself and Paul Kasango

New Dawn has been involved with the 5 Cees almost since the club started more than 12 years ago and over the years we have helped them with cooking equipment, fridges and freezers, Easter eggs at Easter and blankets for the winter and have sponsored school fees for two learners for the past three years.

Judy Symons has been tutoring these two girls and many of the other kids there over the past few years as a volunteer.

We also regularly attended their AGM at the end of every year (before Covid) and curry evenings at the beginning of the year to thank volunteers and donors and to allow the children to put on a concert.

The good work will hopefully continue and prosper under the guidance of his son, Ajith, himself a pastor, and his wife, Sarah. They take over the running of the Berea care centre with about 70 orphans, vulnerable children and youth and about 30 at the new facility at the Hope Community Centre in Bramley.

Pastor Mike said he decided to broaden the scope of his ministry to the street children when he realised that many of them preferred the life on the streets, but never gave up on them, initiating feeding schemes and other interventions over the years.

The old Berea Hotel on Louis Botha Avenue then became home to a group of children where they had a safe haven, received professional counselling, medical attention and education and could have a fulfilling life growing up.

That's quite an achievement for one man and his dream; and quite a legacy for his successors to build on.

                                             He will be remembered

Pastor Mike (his first name was Arunkumar) Sunker will be buried on Saturday according to his daughter-in-law, Sarah. "The body will be at the Centre at 9am and the service will be held at Hope Community Church Bramley at 10, then go to the Westpark Cemetery from 11.30. You can view the proceedings live on YouTube and Facebook," she says. The link is: Mike Sunker funeral.

                                          Mimi van Deventer

Meeting: At the meeting last week three more new members introduced themselves on Zoom.

First up was Mimi van Deventer, who has been a teacher at Highlands North High for the past nine years. For the past 5 years she has run the Interact club at the school. She said she feels the time is now right for her to become a full Rotary member herself, despite not having any family connections with Rotary.

Mimi said she had become a teacher at the age of 50 after having worked in research, both academically and in marketing. She has a passion for art and although not an artist herself, at one stage she owned a picture framing business.

She is passionate about her school and said she had already arranged with the headmaster to set aside land for planting vegetables.

                                         Wendy Challis

Wendy Challis is a tour guide and says she is passionate about South Africa and everything the country has to offer. As a Rotarian she aims to make fellow Rotarians aware of the possibilities this country has to offer, especially in the tourism industry. She is one of about 10 000 registered tour guides in the country, almost all of whom have been badly affected by the Covid lockdowns.

She sees her membership of Rotary as a way to meet and network with others to help those in need, especially people who have no work because there are almost no foreign tourists in the country at the moment.

Wendy says if she has to describe herself with an adjective starting with the same letter as her name, she would choose wanderlust or wayfarer.

                                          Cuthbert Gumbochuma

Cuthbert Gumbochuma is a previous member of the Rotary Club of Rosebank and was also involved with Interact and Roteract in Zimbabwe. He says he's a Rotarian because he wants to make a difference in the lives of others.

He wants to learn to be responsible and accountable and wants to be an icon in society. His areas of interest include youth and business development.

Cuthbert is a senior compliance analyst and says he enjoys being of service to those who need or can use his help.

Next week: Pending a final board decision (the board meets on Monday night) the meeting next week will be held at the National School of the Arts in Braamfontein, where Seedling Farm 2 is about to be launched. This will be an in person meeting with all Covid regulations observed and will give members a clearer idea of the scope and reach of this exciting new project. Be there!

A Thought for the Week: My words fly up, my thoughts remain below. Words without thoughts never to heaven go. - William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616)