Friday, 3 April 2020

Facing Down the Virus

On a Sunday morning 7th Street in Melville is normally a busy, bustling boulevard of breakfasters. Last Sunday it was deserted. Restaurants like Nuno's, Pablo Eggs-Go-Bar, La Stalla, The Whippet and De la Crème were all closed. All the other restaurants, bars and clubs were also locked on a strip which is now known all over the world for its vibrancy, a symbol of the good life, a place where people go to meet people, thanks to publications and websites such as Tripadvisor and Time Out.
Melville in lock down mode
          Who knows how many of these joints will be able to open again after 16 April, or whenever the lock-down ends?
     Will we ever truly now the toll that the coronavirus has taken here and all over the world? Think of the suffering and hardship of all those waiters, chefs, restauranteurs, storekeepers, piece workers, car guards and even the beggars and vagrants that made the street such an appealing place?
7th Street in busier times, as seen on Tripadvisor
     Millions of other South Africans and people all over the world face the same hardship with few, if any, resources to last the weeks and possible even months of lock-down that lie ahead.
     Business owners face the prospect of paying salaries without any income to give them the means to do it. Many will go bankrupt in the process.
     About the only thing we know with any certainty, is that once all this is over, the world will have changed.
Zooming in on the club meeting
     The coronavirus crisis was of course the focal point of the board and club meetings this week, with a lot of emphasis at the board meeting on what New Dawn can do to help.
     The consensus in the club is that members should be encouraged to channel any financial contributions through the New Dawn account while having the freedom to help others efforts related to the coronavirus if they wish to do so privately.
     We're all being inundated with appeals in social media and elsewhere for this and that effort and as a club with limited resources we could not possibly give attention to even a fraction of those.
     We must also take into account that club projects like The Link, Meriting, 5 Cees, Hotel Hope and all the others are going to need all the help they can get in the coming months while fundraisers such as the Bridge Drive may not happen at all and certainly not in the present financial year. In short there will be minimal income and maximum pressure.
     There was also an appeal to contribute what you would have to breakfast and brag each week, to the club to keep us afloat. This can be done into the main bank account, FNB cheque account, 62217422609. The reference should be your name and Breakfast.

The initiators of the sanitisers project are Eckard Steyn (Sandton Satellite), Nokwazi Gxubane (in front, Johannesburg North Central), Larry Hyde (Benoni Aurora), Monica Kiwanuka (Johannesburg North Central), Audrey Gatawa (Johannesburg New Dawn and Sharon Fitzgerald (Benoni Aurora)
     The most exciting news to come out of the past few meetings is the initiative called Hlanza Izandla - meaning "wash your hands". A number of New Dawn members (Audrey Gatawa, Ian Widdop and Jankees Sligcher) are participating.
     The project was conceived at an RLI training session on 14 March by Rotarians from several clubs  in D9400 just as the virus fears were starting to grow.
     The project's primary purpose is to support the sanitisation of public transport hubs. This includes the provision of hand sanitisers, installation of sanitisation units at transport hubs and a campaign to promote a culture of hand washing.
     The members of the project team are President-elect Ian Widdop as chairman, PDG Jankees Sligcher, Audrey (Johannesburg New Dawn), Larry Hyde (Benoni Aurora), Monica Kiwanuka and Nokwazi Gxubane (Johannesburg North Central) and Eckard Steyn (Sandton Satellite).
The Wanderers taxi rank where project team member Nokwazi Gxubane held the first meeting with the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) members a few short weeks ago
     To date, the project has received R500 000 in sponsorship from Standard Bank which has also included Hlanza Izandla in their CSI matching programme which will ensure further funds during the lifetime of the project.
     Jankees Sligcher arranged for industrial grade sanitiser, which works for much longer than the ordinary product, through his contacts in the poultry business and the first consignment has already been ordered. The first delivery of 1480 Rotary branded hand sanitisers for distribution to commuters was made to Santaco today.
Jankees zooming in on the meeting
Joan and Graham Donet listening in
Karlien Kruger proposed Sarah de La Pasture as a member

     If the board meeting was all about the clubs response to the coronavirus, then the meeting on Wednesday was about the way in which members in lockdown mode are dealing and coping with the crisis.
     The virtual meeting on Zoom was well attended, and we even had our fair share of guests joining in.
     These included DG Maurice and DGA Chrisna Stander, our old friend Rev. Nick Bell, Nick Stier, Sarah de La Pasture and Ronnie Kasrils even made a quick appearance behind Amina's shoulder. Twenty members made an appearance at one time or another and each got a turn to tell the others about their experiences.
A screenshot of the meeting
     By the time all this is over, virtual meetings will have become second nature, one of the ways in which behaviour will no doubt change all over the world.
     Sarah, who was introduced to the club by Karlien Kruger, joined a few club members for a virtual fireside chat on Thursday and her membership was unanimously approved. She and Christoph Plate, who is transferring from a Rotary club in Germany, will be inducted during the meeting on 15 April.
     For the next meeting, at 8am on Wednesday, 8 April, President Judy Sligcher asks that everyone should wear a necktie of some sort, just for the fun of it.
     In closing, I'd like to give a personal word of thanks to Graham Donet for carrying on with the blog in my absence over the past six weeks. He can confirm that it's not always an easy task and often a thankless one.
     The latest stats from Mailchimp show that on average only about 60% of the recipients open the blog email and only 39% click through the link to the blog. Hopefully with everybody having a bit more time on their hands, these figures will increase during the lockdown.
     A Thought for the Week: Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy. Leo Buscaglia (1924 - 1998)


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