Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Opening Rotary Opportunities

More than 30 club members (out of 36) attended the induction of Ian Widdop as the new president of the Rotary Club of Johannesburg New Dawn on Saturday evening, surely a number record for any meeting of Johannesburg New Dawn and our first online induction. No pressure Ian, but I suspect expectations are running high.
     There were also almost 40 guests by my count (which is not that easy, as the panels on screen keep shifting). At the highest count there were 53 panels joining the meeting, many of them obviously couples.
Incoming president Ian Widdop raises his glass to the club
     Zoom meetings will never replace actual meetings, but Ian saw to it that it was a festive affair, marking the beginning of the Rotary year with the theme Rotary Opens Opportunities.
     It was also an opportunity to look back on what has been a year to remember for the world, for Rotary and for the club.
Ronnie Kasrils and Amina Frense. Ronnie plans on joining Amina as a member of New Dawn
     There were many highlights during a quite packed programme, starting with making Megan Maynard of The Link, Ronnie Kasrils and Mike MacDonald Paul Harris Fellows, and awarding Joan Donet with a Paul Harris Sapphire (meaning that it is her second Paul Harris).
     A person becomes a Paul Harris Fellow either by donating $1000 to The Rotary Foundation, or if someone donates $1000 on their behalf. Of current members, 16 are Paul Harris Fellows.
One of the latest Paul Harris Fellows, Mike MacDonald
     All the certificates, pins and medallions have been delivered and the handover will take place as soon as we can meet in person again.
     Ronnie Kasrils was so moved by the award that he has (finally!) decided to become a member of New Dawn. We'll hold him to his promise. He made the announcement on Saturday evening during the meeting.
     Needless to say all four are very, very deserving recipients.
Nadine Mitchley, incoming Rotaract president
     The evening also saw the induction as Nadine Mitchell as president of the Rotaract Club of Johannesburg. Nadine has been involved with the Rotaracters from the beginning and great things are expected of her term. She is one of the students who based their Masters degree research on Rotary projects in Middelburg under the stewardship of PDG Charles Deiner.
Nick Bell, who spoke on the theme of kindness
     Another highlight was the awarding of honorary membership of Johannesburg New Dawn to Nick Bell, who was also the keynote speaker on Saturday evening.
     Rt. Canon Nicholas Bell, to give him his full title, spoke on the theme of kindness and quoted Mother Theresa who said her life is all about doing small things with great love.
     Nick is a member of the Rotary Club of Holt in Norfolk, England. He and his wife, Hillary, spend three months each year with their daughter and grandchildren in Greenside and Nick has been attending New Dawn meetings regularly during their South African visits.
     Nick is only the third honorary member of the club after Yakub Essack of Gift of the Givers and the late Frayne Mathijs.
District Governor Annemarie Mostert with the year's Rotary theme in the background
     Judy Sligcher then introduced a number of guests, amongst them the new District Governor, Annemarie Mostert. Immediate Past District Governor Maurice and Chrisna Stander were also attendees, as were PDG Francis and Janet Callard, PDG Charles and Colleen Deiner and PDG Lynette and Koos Stassen from Cape Town
     We'll be seeing the new DG again on 30 September when Annemarie pays her official visit to New Dawn.
Waddy Sowma of Surinam
     Other guests included our AG, Peter James-Smith, John and Brenda McCallum, Tad Hasanuma, Waddy Sowma of Surinam, Tim Bashall of The Link, Grace van Zyl, president of the Rotary Club of Johannesburg and Errol Burman, a friend of Helene Bramwell and a prospective new member.
     Waddy said afterwards that he thoroughly enjoyed the meeting and the opportunity to speak to tell members a little bit about where he's from and about his Rotary connections.
PDG Charles and Colleen Deiner
     After the award ceremonies Judy Sligcher looked back on her year and its many highlights and then handed over the reins to Ian Widdop.
     Ian's first act as president was to re-induct Linda Vink into the club.
     In his speech he thanked Judy Sligcher for her successful year as president and continued:
   "The circumstances this evening are unusual, socially distanced and perhaps lacking atmosphere relative to our friendly environment at Parkview Golf Club. And yet we are all adapting to the changed requirement. Are we more efficient these days than in the past in how we adapt to change? Perhaps, I think so, if only because we have little choice. Charles Darwin was the first person to say species either adapt or they die. This imperative drives us on, made even quicker by the adaptations we find causing our existence to be less painful or more pleasant. So, for instance, it has been recently with remote, or virtual, communications. We now expect the opportunity presented by the likes of Zoom to extrapolate beyond our original expectations. This is how change works; sometimes it overtakes us and pulls us along opportunistically.
     Rotary is in this mix. Perhaps no surprise, given its size and global character. However, it is interesting that many months ago when the incoming Rotary International President, Holger Knaack, crafted a theme for his year in office 2020 to 2021, he chose Rotary Opens Opportunities, and a trio of opening doors as a logo. Back then, Holger had had no sight of Covid-19.
President Ian Widdop
     So – if we as individuals wish to remain relevant, empowered, and magnetic - our expectations should naturally incline towards constant change and constantly opening doors through which to venture. On this cusp is where Rotary people live and form relationships. 
     However, the opportunities, once opened, do not launch themselves. They need agency and again Rotary people step up to the plate. The creativity required to understand the new opportunity and its consequences, the structured thinking to evaluate the investment, the action orientation to make it happen, the dedication to persevere in the gathering of funds – all these and more characteristics enabled members of Rotary International, for instance, to collaborate in the reduction of the number of global polio cases from 460 000 in 1980 to less than ten in 2019.
     There is more: the real deal of Rotary is how we live. Open to opportunity and ready to act, thinking fast and slow, relevant, compassionate, and willing to share. Oh - and laugh! Fellow Rotarians have the opportunity open to them to form life-long friendships.
     And the last word: voluntary. Once a committed Rotary volunteer has made up her mind, she becomes a force of nature.
     So, to Rotarians and their friends and family, thank you for your presence here tonight. Thank you for playing a role in this community, for listening, for your moral support, and for your love. Good evening."

     Ian's year kicked off last night with his first board meeting. For those who wish to attend, and he is encouraging members to attend board meetings and take part, they are going to be held at 6pm on the first Monday evening of the month. The next board meeting will therefore be at 6pm on Monday, 3 August.
     Board meetings will, as always, be followed by a club business meeting.
     A Thought for the Week: A book must be an axe for the frozen sea inside of us. - Franz Kafka (1883 - 1924)

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