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)

Thursday, 22 April 2021

A Mighty New Project Grows

From a small seed a mighty trunk may grow, wrote the ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus, although in our case this would hopefully be mighty celery stalks, butternut, broccoli, tomatoes, basil and many other types of seedlings.

That's the image that came to mind during Brendon Marten's talk on Zoom this week, where he reported on the progress of Seedling Farm 2 at the National School of the Arts in Braamfontein.

To recap: At the beginning of lockdown last year New Dawn was one of a number of clubs in D9400 that applied for Rotary International emergency funding. A grant of $25000 for a taxi sanitising project was approved, which ran for a few months, aided by a donation of R500 000 from Standard Bank.

                An earlier photo of SF2. The seedling trays have since been installed

This project ground to a halt for various reasons and RI gave approval for New Dawn to use the remainder of the money for a second seedling tent at the NSA.

This is now about to come on stream, Brendon, from the Urban Agriculture Initiative, told the club. The first seedlings could be harvested by June.

What will become of the seedlings? Rotary, because of the said involvement, will have first dibs on them for gardening and/or agricultural projects that the club, or members of the club, are involved in.

                A graphic representation of the Makers Valley project

Brendon told the club that the UAI is involved with 11 urban farming operations, mainly in and around central Johannesburg. These include rooftop gardens and larger projects such as the Makers Valley Foodhub that serves the communities around Victoria Yards in Bertrams.

They originally tried distributing seeds, but because of the relative difficulty in planting them properly and then keeping the plants alive, decided to opt for seedling farms instead, that can deliver to projects for planting.

This is where Rotary came in with financing for the seedling tent; and where Rotary will remain involved by identifying the projects that will be getting the seedlings.

                                                   Annette Volschenk (top) and Karen Harkema                                 

Two new members, Annette Volschenk and Karen Harkema immediately volunteered to help set up a list of these projects with the information that the UAI requires.

This information includes the size of the plots/projects, the number of seedlings required and exactly where the seedlings are to be delivered (with a Google Map pin for accuracy).

Irrigation and water supply and other technical details with which the UAI can assist, also be discussed.

Clearly this inter-club project is coming together very quickly and will grow into a very significant Rotary effort. Well done to everybody involved, not least of all to President Ian Widdop, who has been the driving force behind getting everything to come together along with Joan Sainsbury, Helene Bramwell, Paul Kasango, Graham Donet and others.

There's a plan to visit the seedling farm in Braamfontein as soon as Covid allows, something that the rest of us who haven't been that involved in the project, are looking forward to.

Next week: President Ian will be the speaker at the meeting next week and will be running through the list of club projects and all the project related efforts in which individual members, or groups of members, are involved.

A Thought for the Week: The wise does at once what the fool does at last. - Baltasar Gracian y Morales (1601 - 1658)


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)