Welcome 2021!

The last year has been like no other. Many have had to face difficult times and have had to deal with loss, hardship & isolation. At a time like this we've seen the importance of health, family, friendships, community, the environment & caring for others.

All we can do as Rotarians at the end of this year is look back on our own modest efforts to help local and international causes, to support young people, and to build fellowship and friendship within our Club.

Despite lockdowns and various restrictions, our Club has continued to meet thanks to new technology. We have learned to adapt and act in new ways, despite the fact that we've not been able to fundraise as usual, and despite the fact that many of our own members fell into a “vulnerable” category.

Some of our proudest achievements have been to help those in greatest need. Here, in the UK, we have helped to support Canterbury Food Bank, Porchlight and the Salvation Army so that they could give help locally to those going through hard times. We have supported the Prince of Wales Youth Club who, in turn, have also been helping out local families and the elderly. Aware of the increase in domestic abuse, we have also supported domestic violence charity Rising Sun.

On the International front, we have continued to support emergency aid charity Shelterbox and microfinance organisation Lendwithcare. As we went into lockdown here in the UK, our thoughts also turned to other countries such as Bangladesh, impacted by a super-cyclone as well as Covid-19 lockdown and the knock-on effect of our own lockdown on families there affected by the closure of factories supplying fashion clothing to the UK. We also helped raise a global grant to build a much-needed Covid-19-testing lab in a national cancer hospital so that patients can receive timely cancer treatment. In Juba, South Sudan, one of the poorest countries in the world, we have continued (jointly with our Pentangular partners) our support of a local school, aware of the way in which education can have an impact on economic prospects. As usual, we were also able to support Polio Plus and the global effort to rid the world of polio, and to mark World Polio Day (don’t forget to look out for purple crocuses around-and-about Canterbury in the spring).

Thankfully, we were able to raise some funds through our fundraising auction thanks to Canterbury Auction Galleries and donations from our Members and their families. Thus, through the efforts of individual Rotarians and generous donations by many of our Members we have managed to keep donating to, or supporting, worthy causes – some big, some small. There are other activities and donations too – a few too many to mention here.

While funds were limited, we realised the value of having an online presence through our website and social media – we felt there were non-financial ways that we could help others. We were able to raise profiles for various charities and provide information for members of the public to donate if they wished to do so. For those struggling with lockdown & isolation we attempted to bring cheer and perhaps interest them in a new hobby through a number of short articles on Members’ hobbies and interests. Although our Duck Race could not take place as planned, we started a duck-themed lockdown art challenge for youngsters, and this Christmas we attempted to help raise the profile of small local businesses online; while the latter two initiatives did not take off as we might have hoped, they gave us ideas for the future.

We now have a new Instagram account – this is proving to be a great way to connect with younger members of the community and with other Rotary Clubs around the country and overseas; it's already helping to give us further ideas and inspiration.

And talking of ideas, we re-worked our innovation competition in 2020 into a “popup” competition, with the winning idea a way to help social distancing. We are excited to have just launched our 2021 innovation competition (back in its more familiar format). This is open to all sorts of ideas, but this year we also have a special prize for an idea to improve global health. Wanting young people to look ahead, we are just about to launch a competition for them to write a message to their future selves. We have helped run a primary school story writing competition and assisted the English Speaking Union’s Public Speaking contest. We have also supported young people in other ways and continue to build relationships with teachers and schools to find out how we can help them.

In November the City marked its tribute to those who have died in wars – our usual participation was not possible, but we were represented by Chris Barnett, the President of our fellow Rotary Club, Canterbury Sunrise, who lay a wreath on behalf of all three Canterbury Clubs on Remembrance Day. Although we did not “shake cans” as usual for the Poppy Appeal, many of our Members sent in a personal donation.

Fellowship & friendship has been a challenge in this socially-distanced world. Nevertheless, we had presidential handovers (from Neil Fraser to Alan Mepstead), a Paul Harris Fellowship and Friendship, Strength & Energy award given and a (double) induction by Zoom; we shared coffee together, told some untruths, managed to enjoy a festive quiz and even had a Christmas Party. When there was some respite earlier in the year, a few of our Members were able to enjoy the delights of a scenic walk or a trip to Stelling Minnis; some also helped with planting crocuses.

Our speakers this year have been exceptional, with Zoom meetings allowing us to invite overseas speakers to talk to us. We heard from Past District Governor Shehzad Ahmed joining us from Pakistan about efforts to combat polio, while Goldman prizewinning lawyer Syeda Rizwana Hasan spoke about Environmental Justice and Rafiqul Rowly told us about Dhaka Rotary Club's Covid-19/Cyclone relief efforts. To help us cope with stress we heard from Russ Hargreaves about Mindfulness and Cora Kemball-Cook about Breathing. Sunrise member Gloria Barnett gave an excellent talk on the Ocean World, and we heard the sweet but based-on-real-life lockdown story behind children’s book Four Peacocks go to Town, while Minal Koria got us up and dancing Bollywood style. Millennium scholar Katie Washington told us about her Malawi trip, and youngsters given Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) spoke about their experience. We also learnt about F1 in Schools, Churchill’s Secret Army, Macular Degeneration, Windfarms, Broadfield Court, Mary’s Meals, Machu PicchuRotary Grants, Leuven, Inheritance Tax and Lawrence of Arabia.

Our Members also gave talks on topics including the Vietnam War & its Music, Domestic ViolenceSocial Media, Psychiatry, Cherry Blossom in Japan, Saris, Bomber Command, Shipping & Travel and Ancient Egypt.

And what of our little ducks, what were they doing in a year in which we couldn't hold our duck race? Well, some of them were busy too. 

As the New Year starts, we hope things will start to improve and that it will not be long before we can meet again in person. Whatever happens, we, as a service club, will continue to serve the community as best we can.

We take this opportunity to thank all those who have helped or supported us in our work, whether they have donated towards one of our causes or just followed or shared our social media posts. We would like to praise the organisations and individuals that have continued to help others through this pandemic despite adversity and uncertainty. And we look forward to working together towards a better world.

If you would like to know more about some of our recent activities, please visit our news page: https://www.rotarycanterbury.org.uk/canterbury-rotary-news/

If you are interested in finding out more about our Club and learning about how you might join, please contact us.  https://www.rotarycanterbury.org.uk/contact/contact.html

And if you have a fantastic idea about how we can help the community, we’d love to hear from you! https://www.rotarycanterbury.org.uk/contact/contact.html

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Picture by iXimus from Pixabay.

Thursday 31st December 2020

Published by: The Rotary Club of Canterbury

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