Thursday, 20 August 2020

Planting the Seeds of Hope

 The year 2020 started off on a positive note. Things were looking up, said Dawn Nathan-Jones in the first webinar arranged by the Rotary Club of Johannesburg New Dawn.

     She told how she and her business partner, Lesley Waterkeyn, had addressed more than 200 entrepreneurs in Johannesburg towards the middle of March, part of a countrywide tour they were undertaking. 

     Then came the news of a pending lockdown. "It was only supposed to last 21 days, remember," Dawn said. After the first 21 days and growing signs of a worldwide crisis, they decided that rather than sit back and wait for things to happen, they needed to find the positives in this strange new situation.

     "We felt morally obliged to do something more, something positive."

Stories of hope in a new book

     That something positive translated into writing a book about stories of hope in these critical times. The book, Hope Stories, authored by Dawn, Lesley and Sandy van Dijk, was published this week and ought to be in bookstores by now. It costs R299, but if you order it through Linda, they'll sell it directly for R250 and donate 10% of that to Meriting, the entrepreneurial NGO who'll also be the beneficiary of the rest of the funds raised from the webinar.

     There were payments from 24 club members, although not all of them attended. There were a further 16 payments, amongst them Rotaract members who were sponsored by individuals at New Dawn. The total income, without the proceeds of the book, comes to R6450.

     Some members said the price (R150) was too steep and others said the time (10am) didn't suit them.

     Dawn and Lesley said their book is divided into seven chapters, each representing lessons of hope they learnt from interviewing people who saw the lockdown as a unique opportunity not just to do business , but to give back to the community.

     They have branded the chapters with the seven colours of the rainbow, to tie in with their Over the Rainbow organisation. These interviewees include changing handbag manufacturing to face masks, teaching people how to plant and grow their own vegetables and making furniture for home offices. You'll have to read the book to get the full picture.

The famous stoep at the Parkview Golf Club. Picture yourself there with a G & T 

     This is possibly the first in a series of New Dawn Forum conversations proposed by some club members, although it raises the question of whether it will be a duplication of our normal speaker programme once we get back to meeting at the Parkview Golf Club again (hopefully soon now that we've been moved to Level 2 lockdown).

Linda, Helene and me flanked by Thobile Chittenden and Siya Ndlangamandla in front of a vertical garden at
 Victoria Yards

     Speaking of growing seeds, Helene Bramwell, Linda and I visited Victoria Yards in Bez Valley (it's actually in Lorentzville, but even most Johburgers don't know where that is. It's tucked away between Judith's Paarl, Bertrams and Bezuidenhout Valley).

     Victoria Yards is a complex of buildings housing small enterprises of mainly craftspeople and galleries, but also Makers Valley, an NGO which help tend the gardens in the complex, but also has an outreach programme in the area teaching people how to grow vegetables.

One of the gardens inside Victoria Yards

     They were one of the recipients of seeds for the programme which Helene spearheaded for New Dawn during the darkest days of the lockdown, which is also a story of hope that would've fitted in well with Dawn, Sandy and Lesley's book.

     Thobile Chittenden, CEO of Makers Valley and Siya Ndlangamandla, a director who is in charge of the neighbourhood gardening scheme, showed us around Victoria Yards and invited the club to attend their monthly market on the first Sunday of every month. We agreed that it sounded like a good idea for a club social outing, so watch this space.

     They'll be speaking to the club along with other recipients for seeds, in the near future.

     The ravages of time and load shedding got in the way of a blog last week, so I decided to combine the two weeks with a single blog.

Lake Kivu in Rwanda, on the DRC border and one of the African Great Lakes

     Last week's meeting was given over to Christoph Plate, a veteran journalist and now Director of the Media Programme for Sub-Saharan Africa for the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. 

     Christoph spent many years as a foreign correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya and covered most of the Great Lakes region in East Africa and other parts of the world from there. He sketched the colonial history of the region.

     He said it is a great tragedy that some of the world's worst conflicts (such as the Rwandan genocide) take place in some of the most beautiful places on earth.

     He is clearly well informed and many members said they hope he'll be available to speak to the club again soon.

Simon Selaledi at a Rotary display case at Promo World in Bedfordview

     The meeting last week also saw the induction of Errol Burman into the club after Dave Marshall read out the charge to him. I have Errol's badge and other induction paraphernalia safely at home after visiting the new Rotary Shop in Bedfordview for the first time. Simon Selaledi, who ran the old shop, has moved to Bedfordview and runs the Rotary Shop as part of the business Promo World, which specialises in branding merchandise and now holds the licence as an official Rotary vendor, the first in Africa.

     It was quite a busy Rotary week as Jankees and Judy Sligcher, Julian Nagy and I also met with David Southey, another prospective member, to give him a bit of a feel for the club, something that has been very difficult during lockdown. David seemed quite keen to join, but would prefer to see everybody in person before committing.

     There'll be a speaker next week, yet to be decided. Following that will be a board and business meeting the week after where a return to Parkview Golf Club will again be on the agenda, providing we get positive medical advice, of course.

     A Thought for the Week: Dreams will get you nowhere, a good kick in the pants will take you a long way. - Baltasar Gracian y Morales (1601 - 1658)

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