We’ve had a fantastic year and would like to take this chance to thank all those who’ve helped us – whether it be with donations, gifts, sponsorship or by attending our events.
As usual, it’s been a year of fundraising for numerous causes and lots of activity within the community. The biggest event of course was our Annual Duck Race, held in Westgate Gardens. Hundreds of locals came along with friends and family to see 1000s of ducks bob down the river – a vision of yellow! This year was particularly special. Not only was it our 20th race year, but the Rotary District 1120 Conference 2018 ‘Engage!’ was being held in Canterbury, hosted by our sister Club, Rotary Club of Canterbury, Sunrise. This gave us a chance to hold a race within a race – which was won by Maidstone Dawn Patrol Club.
It’s also been a huge pleasure for us to work with the Prince of Wales Youth Club to host not one but two charity boxing matches, with funds raised split between the Youth Club and our own causes. The Youth Club was set up with help from Rotarians and it’s nice to continue our longstanding relationship. Another of the local causes that we like to support is the K&C Hospital League of Friends – so, yet again this year, Members happily manned our BBQ stall during the League of Friends’ fair in the summer.
Other causes close to home
We continue to support a number of other charities and causes – local, national and international. For example, we gave a donation for woodwork equipment to the Fifth Trust, a local charity that supports people with learning disabilities. We helped fund transport for young care leavers who attended a Christmas Dinner organised by a local team, in an initiative inspired by Canterbury’s Poet Laureate Lemn Sissay. Rotarians were happy to support the Mustard Seed Singers with a donation and it’s always a pleasure to attend their concerts; this is an excellent group of singers who are directly or indirectly affected by mental health issues. We’ve also donated to Hi Kent, a charity for those with hearing impairment, to support Lip Reading Classes for the deaf in Canterbury - John Clayton, came to talk to us from the charity. The visually-impaired have been helped through a donation to The Canterbury Recorder – a local ‘talking newspaper’, while Kent MS Therapy Centre had a donation to help users of the facility. (We also hosted one of our meetings at the venue.) A modest donation to All4Fun, Querns Community Centre helped children in one of Canterbury's most deprived areas. Domestic abuse charity Rising Sun also got support to help with a study into abuse, and along with some neighbouring Clubs we fund an ongoing programme, specifically working with adolescents where there has been serious domestic abuse in their families. This consisted of one-to-one and group work to calm major tensions arising after the removal of an abusive parent. One of our members is currently volunteering in this and closely related programmes and recently reported on their Christmas party.
Porchlight is a regular recipient of our support and we were pleased to help them refurbish one of their hostels; along with Canterbury Food Bank, Porchlight is one of our current President Dr Margaret Griffin’s selected local charities this year. We were delighted to hear from Graham Bough, Trustee of the Food Bank (and also a Member of our Club), and Rachel Van Hoven, Porchlight’s Community Fundraising Manager, during our talks. We’ve also supported Tools for Self Reliance (TFSR) and welcome their inspiring partnership project with Pilgrim’s Hospices - this involves the bereaved in refurbishing tools, giving them a chance for camaraderie and something positive to focus on.
But our local support doesn’t just extend to formal projects and organisations. Sometimes we also help individuals, and this year we were delighted to help a little girl with complex health problems have her first ever proper birthday party.
Around the world
On the international front we’ve created an account with Lendwithcare – a microfinance organisation that helps entrepreneurs in developing countries with small loans; we also heard about this from David Evans. Whenever money is paid into the account we re-invest in others, so it really is a win-win situation. We’ve also supported Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) for their work in Yemen and we’ve supported Kerala flood relief through ShelterBox. One of President Margaret’s focus charities for the year is a secondary school in Juba, South Sudan, where we support the education of a number of underprivileged youngsters; this year we held our first Open Farm Day in Lenham which raised over £1000 to support the initiative. The day proved to be fun and educational - with plenty of good food and a chance to bask in glorious sunshine thrown in!
Supporting young people
We very much believe in supporting the younger generation, and this we do in a variety of ways. The year started off with us hearing from two local schoolboys, Samuel Warman and Reece Coveney, about the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) Course that they attended with our backing – there they gained leadership and communications skills during a fun and activity-packed residential weekend. We awarded prizes in our Christmas-themed primary school writing competition to children from Blean Primary School, St Johns Primary School, and Kent College Junior School (and will award this year’s winners soon), and through our vocational committee we’re giving job talks and mock interviews to help older youngsters with their career choices. We’ve continued to encourage design, entrepreneurship and creativity through our Innovation Competition – the 2018 1st prize went to Niamh Watts for her ‘Altruistic Watch’ idea – basically a fitness aid linked to charitable giving. Together with the English Speaking Union (ESU) we’ve hosted the ESU's public speaking competition; this year the winners were Folkestone School for Girls. Meanwhile, Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School (QEGS) in Faversham picked up awards in the National Final of the 'F1 for Schools' competition at Silverstone; we’d previously sponsored a team from the school. Olympic skeleton hopeful Rachel Hanagan, who we gave some sponsorship to a while ago, came to talk to us and it’s been exciting to follow her sporting journey through her updates. Another of our regular activities for youngsters is to support St. Nicholas School – a community day school in Canterbury for pupils with severe and complex learning needs – by helping staff take the children on supervised outings to Wingham Wildife Park and an Activity Centre in Chartham.
This year we also hosted the Mini Group Study Exchange, which is a chance for local youngsters aged 19 – 23 and youngsters from the area of our collaborative ‘Pentangular’ Clubs (in France, Holland, Germany and Belgium) to get together for fun and cultural exchange. They were entertained for a week and were housed by individual Rotarians in their own homes. They got to bond with each other through an intensive programme of social and educational events, spending time with local experts in the fields of study or work in which they intend to specialise. We took them to police HQ, to Oakedene Farm, one of the UK’s largest fruit growers in the country, to Shepherd Neame brewery and to the BBC studio in Tunbridge Wells. At the latter they got to the chance to see how a local news show is produced and broadcast – live! They also enjoyed local pastimes such as ‘bat & trap’ in the garden of Ye Oldie Beverly.
We’ve also been promoting our Millennium Scholarship Trust Fund – a fund established to mark the Millennium that provides financial assistance to youngsters planning to volunteer overseas.
Speakers and guests
There are many people and organisations out there who are quietly doing good work and don’t get as much publicity as they deserve that we like to hear from. Amongst these is Catching Lives, a Canterbury-based charity for the homeless and vulnerable; it was our pleasure to hear from one of their Trustees, James Duff, during one of our talks. Paul Butt came to speak about KSS Air Ambulance – this was one of past President Sharon Jordan’s three charities for her presidential year and it was a great pleasure to hand over a donation. Graham Edwards visited us from PCSA Kent to tell us about prostate cancer. Canterbury Street Pastors spoke to one of our committees at a crucial time for them. Mavis Hyde told us about Disabled Equipment Sent Overseas (DESO), a charity sending medical equipment overseas, while Malcolm Wagget from Dover gave a presentation about the Institute for Rural Health Studies, an India-based charity that provides healthcare to India’s rural poor. Local anaesthetist Michelle Hamer came to tell us about the work she and colleagues do at Chaaria Hospital in Kenya, with one of our visitors giving a donation (match-funded by us) towards medical equipment. Romain De Cock spoke to us about eye surgery in Bolivia, and June Sirman spoke briefly about Days for Girls (DfG), a non-profit that helps produce and deliver hygiene kits to girls and young women in developing countries while also delivering health information to them.
We’ve also had a number of speakers talk to us on other issues. We learned about ‘Intelligence’ from Air Marshal Christopher Nickols, and local MP Rosie Duffield told us about her first impressions of Westminster. Sir Konrad Schiemann gave us his views on sovereignty and the EU, while former Lord Mayor of Canterbury (and member of our Club) Rosemary Doyle described her year in office. Munya Badze from Kent County Council/The Careers and Enterprise Company spoke of his efforts to connect young people with the workplace, Rosie Turner talked about the Canterbury Festival, and Charles Marshall about the Red Cross. Martin Meyer impressed us with his work as a press photographer and our own Marjorie Lyle spoke about Canterbury ‘before the Unis’. Simon Dolby, Chief Executive of the Kent Messenger (KM) Charity Team, came along to tell us of their work – notably Buster’s Book Club and local ‘walking buses’. Professor Jan Pahl informed us about The Canterbury Society, and Professor of History Mark Connolly spoke about Ypres. We also learned about Ramsgate and its Royal Harbour from Ralph Hoult OBE, and about the organ at Canterbury Cathedral - The Canterbury Voice - from Alexandra Madgwick and her colleague. Assistant Governor for our District (1120) (Rotary South East) and a member of the Rotary Club of Chestfield, Hilary Brian, told us of her experience of a national immunization day in India – a cause supported by Rotary in its efforts to combat the devastating illness, polio. Aby Evans from NatWest also gave timely advice on scams, and Sheila Cragg told us about the Lord Mayor of Canterbury's Christmas Gift Fund.
The people of Canterbury and surrounding areas have been helping us by donating into our collection tins in and around Canterbury or by spinning a coin (or few) in our bright yellow Wishing Well (earlier we shared our proceeds with Tesco’s chosen charity – Cancer Research). Currently, the well is at Sainsbury’s, Kingsmead – and we encourage all to spin their coins there. Members of the public also helped us get funds from Waitrose by dropping a green disc in our buckets; they have kindly supported our recent collections for the Poppy Appeal and the Lord Mayor of Canterbury's Christmas Gift Fund as well.
Visits, events and Club news
For our Rotarians it’s not ‘all work and no play’. As well as hearing excellent talks and getting the chance to enjoy each other’s company, we also get an opportunity to go on various visits. This year we visited The Grand Hotel, Folkestone, Dover Transport Museum, the Fire station (twice), Malling Abbey, and Canterbury Cathedral Archives & Library. There was also a trip to our fellow Pentangular Club in Leiden in June, and we hosted the St Quentin Club in October.
In July we welcomed our new President – Dr Margaret Griffin – who took over from our very first female President, Sharon Jordan. During the year we have also been delighted to welcome some new Rotarians – including our first Rotarian spouse – and look forward to working with them in our upcoming events.
We’ve also had various guest events during the year – these are a chance for us to invite guests to find out more about us and our work; they are a great way of raising additional funds too. This year we revisited the 60s with Alan Haines, had a taste of the 70s through the ‘Fawlty Towers Experience’, and enjoyed a magical musical summer evening at the Cathedral Lodge. Our latest event was our Christmas Dinner, a black tie event with entertainment from singer Alice Vane.
The year ahead
The year has already got off to a flying start – we’re getting ready for an exciting Music Hall event, (‘The Old Bull & Bush’) which promises to be an evening of fun and nostalgia with the Lindley Players at Simon Langton Boy’s School on 2nd February (tickets here).
We’ll be launching our 2019 Innovation Competition soon and will be helping to help host and judge the ESU's Public Speaking Competition. In July we’ll be hosting our second Open Farm Day event, and in September our ducks will be out and about again for our Annual Duck Race. (The ducks have already started their travels, so do keep an eye out for news about them on our website.)
As usual, we’ll be supporting the Royal British Legion for their Poppy Appeal in October and our Members will attend the Remembrance Day service in November. And finally, at the end of the year, we’ll be holding our Christmas-themed writing competition and supporting the Lord Mayor of Canterbury’s Gift Fund.
Wishing you a very happy new year!