Chelwood Bridge helping Finn from Winford

Can you assist us to help young Finn from Winford realise a more fulfilling life? 

Finn is an 8 year old boy with quadriplegic cerebral palsy with very limited functions. He loves the outdoors but as he grows older his ability to participate in activities he so enjoys is becoming more challenging as his parents are finding it harder to lift him. The solution is a specialist Hippocampe all-terrain wheelchair.

Chelwood Bridge Rotary Club are spearheading a crowd funding campaign to raise £4,400 to enable Finn’s family purchase this wheelchair and accessories.

Please visit to read Finn’s story and donate by 30th September at the latest.

Please share this appeal with a family member, friend or business colleague. Even a quick mention on your social media would mean the world to Finn’s family and us.

In times like this, we are reminded of how interconnected we all are. Thank you for being part of our community. Without you, none of it is possible. 

Finn top

DG Blog 19th September 2020

Forum 19th September

Please don’t forget that Forum is imminent – one of the four occasions per year when we try and pull together as many members of Rotary as possible. This will of course be a virtual event and an agenda and zoom invitation will be forwarded shortly. The aftermath of the Beirut explosion remains with us, and we are therefore pleased to announce that the President of Beirut Cosmopolitan Club Habib Saba will be talking to us about the disaster.

The main theme of the day will be Growing Rotary and we will be discussing ideas as to how to grow our membership – so challenging in today’s virtual world.

There will be:

Briefing for Presidents Elect

Crowdfunding partnership for Rotary projects – Global Giving

Dave King (editor of Rotary magazine) video on Growing Rotary

Do try and attend!

A snapshot in time

The National Finals of Young Photographer took place this year via electronic submissions and desktop judging at RGBI. Obviously, youth competitions have been affected by the pandemic, but it is very gratifying to see that all three candidates from District 1200 – Junior, Intermediate and Senior – gained places, and that the clubs below supported these young people. Photography is such an important medium, affects how we view life and the world in general, and can capture one moment in time, an historic happening, or a mood. More of us than ever before take photos with the ease of using mobile phone cameras, whilst some continue to perfect their art using specialist equipment.

Congratulations to the following talented young people:

Junior: Sam Mathais – 3rd (sponsored by Brue Valley)

Intermediate: Sophie Goggs – 2nd (sponsored by Brue Valley)

Senior Emily Bunce – 1st (sponsored by Calne)

You can see for yourself the quality of the images produced, and the judges were certainly wowed by them. As well as providing constructive comments, praise included:

Emily Bunce: ‘Three superb images entitled ‘Bio Creature’. Bright, colourful and a joy to look at and technically very well accomplished.”

Sophie Goggs: ‘ Well done, Sophie, three excellent images. Picture 1 has captured the bee in precisely the right spot as it approaches the bloom, good composition. Picture 2 is spot on, a very good image. Picture 3 I find thought provoking and technically very good.

Sam Mathias: unfortunately the judge’s comments weren’t available at the time of writing this – so please judge for yourselves! In fact, why not give a caption to Sam’s picture of a frog spouting out water? Do comment here, or email me, and I’ll send a prize for the best one.

Martin Carter has received a couple of enquiries from clubs wanting information about youth competitions for 2020/21, in particular Young Writer and Photographer. This is encouraging given the focus schools will have on students ‘catching up’ after the Covid break. Rotary is very good at sponsoring such contests and therefore helping to nurture talent in so many fields. However, perhaps we are not so good at building on these relationships we establish, for example encouraging young people to join their age-appropriate part of the Rotary family (probably because we don’t have many opportunities for that currently!), or encouraging schools to set up these clubs, as per Midsomer Norton Rotakids. I do feel strongly that this is an area where we need to focus more, and to that end Martin will be circulating a questionnaire to capture what our clubs are all doing in the youth arena the connections we have with educational establishments, and helping us to map out a way forward for the District. We’ll incorporate this in future membership discussions (as in Forum – thought I’d give it another plug!) and do feed in your ideas to your AGs.

Talking of capturing information to help us all evaluate what we are doing and provide us with more Rotary good news to tell (you’ll hear more about that in Dave King’s session in – yes, you’ve guessed it – Forum!), I’m also asking all clubs to provide more detail as to the causes they are supporting for example, a club may say – gave money to polio, or foodbank, or whatever – but may not tell us how much they did give. My objective is not to draw any comparisons between clubs, but to be able to put together some newsworthy soundbites as and when opportunity affords itself. An example of this is that as a District we have given £28,718 to Polio in the year ended 30th June 2020 and this has been matched 2 to 1 by the Bill Gates Foundation meaning an impressive £86,154 raised for polio because of our fundraising. Rotary and the Gates foundation combined contribute approx. 28% of the total funds raised for Polio eradication around the world. Individually each club should be very proud of what they have fundraised and donated, but collectively it makes for an even bigger picture and helps demonstrate our impact. So please update your AGs with details of monies raised for local causes.

Feedback and evaluation

Still on the topic of feedback, I was minded to look at some of our club websites as a direct result of a comment made by a potential future Rotarian. They had read the article about my DG appointment in the Somerset Gazette, and made contact with me. However they said they had gone to their local club’s website – and had been put off immediately! I’ll save this person’s other comments for discussion at the aforementioned virtual get-together (another reason for you to join in!), but as a result I’ve asked all AGs to do a quick review of the home pages and photo pages of their clubs, and feed this in. Observations from you all about club websites most welcome – it’s not a bad idea to just scan the pages and not look in depth – after all, that’s what most non-Rotarian visitors to the site will be doing. Or ask a friend or family member to take a very quick peek and provide feedback.

Of course, I’m conscious that our club websites are affected by many different factors including different club ‘styles’ and demographics, and not least, who is available to create and manage content, but I believe that in this period of stasis for most clubs, we should be taking a good, hard look at what image we are creating, whether or not it truly represents our clubs as they are currently and as we want them to be in the future, and whether or not some of us can learn from others. So – yes, I’m asking for a lot of feedback from you all via these blogs and meetings, but do bear in mind that I can’t get to visit you in person!

How to keep your Zoom meetings Interesting

I was asked recently whether there was a list of Speakers for clubs.  There is a Speaker’s List on the district web site  and we would like more contributions to add to it.  If you have had interesting speakers at your zoom meeting, and they are willing to be added to our list, then please send details to Penny Underwood.   

Also, what else have you done to make your Zoom meetings interesting?  Have you run competitions?  Have you invited prospective new members?  Have you found a way of fundraising online?  We would love to add your ideas to our online list.  

The power of 6?

My article last week about risk assessing face-to-face meetings and events apparently sparked off some debates, and I confess that I am pleased that it did. One club pulled back from its planned face-to-face meetings, whilst another went ahead this morning. It illustrates the need for each club and individual to judge the risks for themselves.

However, at the moment that decision-making has been pulled back from us with yesterday’s announcement re no more than 6 people meeting indoors or outside. Nevertheless, as that is eased at some time in the future, we will need to re-visit this risk assessment piece, so it’s been no bad practice run!

Best Wishes
Rory O’Donnell 


DG Blog 2nd September 2020

Facing up to things

Having just been to Turkey where people are now accustomed to wearing masks outdoors at all times (and we saw this enforced by the police), and where 80 per cent alcohol-based lemon cologne is used everywehre and anywhere (even pre-Covid-19 times), this was a reminder to me about clubs contemplating face-to-face meetings and what the requirements might be.

As we’re all aware, it is important to follow government advice, which changes from time to time. As to assessing risk in the context of face-to-face Rotary meetings, I’m aware of various discussions within the district. RGBI insurers Bartletts are advising that we have a risk assessment for ‘every activity or event’. In respect of meetings in Covid-compliant locations, eg restaurants or meeting venues, they are still needed – it is not enough to rely on the risk assessment carried out by the venue. The risk assessments also need to cover travel to meetings. The requirement for risk assessments is a condition of our insurance. The policy wording says:

It is imperative that you produce and retain all documentation from the organisation and planning of the event. Ensure that you keep a written copy of risk assessments and/or event plans which can be sent to the insurers in the event of a claim.’

Some sample risk assessments will be sent out to the secretaries.

Beirut disaster

Some useful press coverage for Rotary and what we can achieve in the following article in the Somerset County Gazette:

For the slightly differently-worded online article – see the link below. Sadly though, they got it wrong and billed it as being the new president of Taunton Vale. Apologies to Tony Blackshaw – that is obviously not what I told them!

RORY O’Donnell, the new president of the Rotary Club of Taunton Vale, is going to be doing things differently. For starters, you won’t catch him wearing red trousers as he tries to demolish the …

Youth Update

There is no doubt that the future of Rotary lies in attracting younger people, and what better way and place to start than with Rotary’s specific youth initiatives? We need a new Rotary Youth Exchange coordinator – and also someone to take on the role of Young Writer coordinator. Please do consider taking on one of these roles – there is so much experience within the District which can be put to good use here.

KidsOut have circulated information about a new initiative to supply toy boxes to local refuges in club areas. The KidsOut data will identify the number of children in your local refuge(s), in order to provide a Rotary Christmas Toy Box. ‘Every Refuge, Every Child’. We are asking clubs to consider sponsoring toy boxes for £25.00 each child, each refuge.

For further information or if you’d like to volunteer to help in respect of any young people initiatives, please contact Martin Carter or me.

Certified free!

Important announcement

On Tuesday, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Africa region, has officially been certified free from wild poliovirus [LINK], signifying a major milestone in the battle to eradicate the disease worldwide
This progress is the result of a decades-long effort across the 47 countries which make up the WHO’s African region and now means that five of the six WHO regions, which represent 90% of the world’s population, will be free of wild polio.

Rotary members have played an invaluable role in the effort to rid the African region of wild polio.

By raising funds for polio eradication, advocating with world governments and national and local leaders, and raising awareness, Rotarians have contributed nearly US $890 million to conquer polio in the region.

Opportunities to attend other meetings

RGBI, PP Gordon McInally has advised of two upcoming meetings hosted by the Kelso Club on 17th September and 5th November.

On Thursday 17 September, the Rotary Club of Kelso is welcoming RI Past President John Germ who will be giving an update on Rotary’s Polio Eradication Campaign and then on Thursday 5 November the current RI President, Holger Knaack will share his hopes and aspirations for Rotary.

Each meeting will commence at 6:00pm and will run for around hour.

The registration links for both meetings are below:

17 September – John Germ:

5 November – Holger Knaack:

Best Wishes
DG Rory O’Donnell 

Yeovil Hospital Breast Cancer Unit Appeal

District has supported the Yeovil Hospital Breast Cancer Unit Appeal for the last couple of years. The appeal in total is for £2 million with Rotary aiming to raise £100K.

The Rotary appeal has struggled as you would imagine since March with clubs and fundraising events being adversely affected. As an example, a wing walking day has had to be postponed for at least a year, and the latest blow being the removal of some global grant benefits. This on its own will result in a £20K hit. Therefore, I would like to remind clubs of this district-supported appeal for a cause that will directly benefit members, their relatives and friends.

It’s official – The WHO Africa Region has been declared wild polio-free!

Today, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Africa region, has officially been certified free from wild poliovirus [LINK], signifying a major milestone in the battle to eradicate the disease worldwide.

This progress is the result of a decades-long effort across the 47 countries which make up the WHO’s African region and now means that five of the six WHO regions, which represent 90% of the world’s population, will be free of wild polio.

Rotary members have played an invaluable role in the effort to rid the African region of wild polio.

By raising funds for polio eradication, advocating with world governments and national and local leaders, and raising awareness, Rotarians have contributed nearly US $890 million to conquer polio in the region.

Read the full story here 

DG Blog 18th August 2020


I still find it amazing that with 1.2m members all over the world and 33,000 clubs many people have a vision of Rotary as ‘well-meaning old men in red trousers doing good in the community’! No offence to anyone wearing red trousers! But this was said again to me only last week, so it’s an image we need to dispel, and major on the difference Rotary makes.

A typical example is the Beirut disaster on 4th August. On Thursday evening (13th) I had a zoom meeting hosted by the Rotary Club of Mendip and attended by the President of Rotary International Holger Knaack. What an opportunity platforms such as Zoom has afforded us – the man in charge of 33,000 clubs world-wide, able to connect directly with Somerset, and also with the President of the local Rotary Cosmopolitan club in Beirut, Habib Saba, who had met with the other 27 Rotary club presidents in Beirut that morning and decided on a project of rebuilding two floors of the local hospital, a project that would cost around $800,000.

Following the Monday 10th August Rotary meeting in Taunton, the Taunton Vale Rotary club had pledged £1,000 towards the Lebanon crisis, Wrington Vale had carried out a collection at Sanders Garden Centre and many other clubs had pledged money – a typical Rotary response to a disaster, be it local or international. Many charities advertise for donations, only for us to find that there are massive delays in getting the support to where it is needed and indeed after deduction of costs for administration. But we were able to get the bank details of the Rotary club ‘on the ground’ in Beirut and get the money there immediately and with no deduction for expenses. I am immensely proud of what we do in Rotary in Somerset and this is the kind of example we can promote to others who may wish to join us in the Rotary family.



Just thought I’d share with you a photo of our trip to the International Convention in Hawaii – not! Sadly of course the trip was cancelled due to coronavirus, and I can’t help but feel for those who had put so much work into setting up the event, and the suppliers in Honolulu who were expecting thousands to input to their local economy. Not to mention those of us who were planning to share the international fellowship of Rotary. Anyway, when my granddaughter asked to have her 8th birthday party at our house this week, since children no longer have to socially isolate, guess what theme she requested?

Seeing the youngsters enjoying themselves so much reminded me that young people have endured a great deal in lockdown, and of the sharp contrast for children in poor or abusive families who have had to cope with significant added burdens and trauma. I’ll be writing more about mental health issues in a future blog, about the food bank initiatives which have helped so many in our district, including families with young children, and about the work in the Halcon district of Taunton – my chosen district charity.

However – a couple of photos from ‘Hawaii’, just because they brought a smile to my face. Surely the next best thing to the convention in Honolulu!

Best Wishes

Rory O’Donnell 

Mendip send £500 to assist with the relief efforts in Beirut

Following investgations by International Chair Mike Latham to determine which NGO was on the ground the Rotary Club of Mendip have sent £500 within days of the massive explosion in the docks in Beirut. The monies were sent to the NGO Medicin Sans Frontieres, to assist with their work in helping those injured in the blast. Thanks have been received from MSF and Rotary Clubs in Beirut.

Rotary in Action.

DG Blog 12 August 2020


Well, just when I thought that we might not be meeting physically until 2021, lockdown is being eased and ‘Eat out to help out’ encouraged by Rishi Sunak, so I attended my first club meeting in person last Wednesday: the Taunton Vale breakfast club meeting at Mr Miles restaurant in Taunton, with all very conscious of the challenge of socially distancing, of course.

I must stress that any clubs contemplating face to face meetings should be careful that they comply with government guidelines and also carry out their own risk assessment and not just rely on that of the proprietor.   Insurance for any event requires a risk assessment as a prerequisite. Obviously should I become aware of any updates to guidance from RIBI I will highlight it to you all. 

The induction of a new member was a very pleasurable part of the proceedings, and we were all thrilled to welcome someone into Rotary particularly during these challenging coronavirus times. However, this was to me a very special occasion – a full circle being completed. When I joined the club in 1988, it was Tim Jay, a local chiropractor, who sponsored me and  signed my application to join Rotary.   He left the club some years later but has decided to re-join, so it was an honour and delight for me to sponsor him this time round!


In respect of efforts to combat coronavirus, resource and funds to combat polio and other foundation projects have been vired to this global battle. I’m immensely proud of Rotary’s role in the fight against Covid-19, and I’ll no doubt talk about it further in future blogs. I’m not sure how successfully Rotary as an organisation is getting the message out that our support is playing such a big part – something for us all to think about. And, of course, alongside this current virus focus is the continuing need to wage war against polio, and Rotary’s work to support worthwhile concerns continues, so please do your utmost to donate to our foundation which is acknowledged as a gold star charity by Charity Navigator – the largest and most utilised evaluator of charities in the US.


Whilst we are dealing with Covid-19 world-wide, there are of course some countries having to cope with the additional circumstances – horrific at any time, let alone now. The explosion in Beirut, which measured 4.5 on the Richter Scale, has caused many deaths and injuries and international support will be required in order to facilitate a recovery. The following is an announcement by Dominic Raab UK Foreign Secretary setting out the actions being taken by the UK Government to support the people of Lebanon:

‘This was a devastating explosion which has caused enormous suffering and damage. The UK is a long-standing friend of Lebanon and the Lebanese people, and will stand with them in their hour of need. We have offered immediate direct support including search and rescue, emergency medical assistance and up to £5m in humanitarian aid.”

As always, Rotarians are stepping up to the plate. District 2452 in Lebanon has established a Disaster Response Account. Follow the link below for Information on how Rotarians can contribute to this disaster:

My Rotary is not working but the above page is available and has details of a bank account to which donations can be made. We don’t hold significant reserves to meet disasters, therefore we advise clubs on how to direct their contributions to the Rotary clubs on the ground.


Holger Knaack sees opportunities for Rotary to change and thrive

As many of us have experienced already, Zoom presents great opportunities for international speakers to present to us, and I know I’m not alone in valuing the international input, information and at times, entertainment (as per Dave King’s presentation about which I wrote last time.) As I write this blog, I am looking forward to RI President Holger Knaack’s presentation to Mendip Rotary Club tomorrow evening – something which, in ‘normal’ times, would have been unlikely to happen, given that he has about 33,000 Rotary clubs under his jurisdiction!

Water Survival Box

Screenshot 2020-08-10 at 21.11.41

This year, Water Survival Box is applying to take part in the Big Give Christmas Challenge, the UK’s biggest online match funding campaign. We’re hoping to raise vital funds for our project 

As part of our application, we need our key supporters to make promises of funding, called ‘Pledges’, which will be used as match funds to double online donations made to our charity during the campaign. Your commitment of funding might also help us to secure additional match funds via a Champion (sourced by the Big Give).

We are aiming to raise a total of £[12500 in pledges to take part in the Christmas Challenge. Would you consider making a pledge to help us reach our target?

 If you would be willing to make a pledge to us, you can do so by completing this online form by the deadline of 5pm, Friday 28th August: 


What is the Christmas Challenge?

The Christmas Challenge (the UK’s biggest online match funding campaign) helps UK-registered charities to raise funds for their projects by doubling donations when the campaign goes live on 1st December. You can find full details of the Christmas Challenge, and how your pledge will enable us to be part of the UK’s largest Matched Funding Challenge, on Research shows that 84% of donors are more likely to give in a match funding campaign and that donations are on average 2.5 times bigger so we’re very excited about the opportunity to take part.

 How does it work?

  • The matching pots used to double donations for charities taking part in the Christmas Challenge are made up of a combination of funds. These are funds sourced by the charity (‘Pledges’) and funds sourced by the Big Give (‘Champions’) which are available if we are successfully selected by a Champion. 
  • The timeline for fulfilling the pledge (i.e. transferring the funds to us) is 9th December 2020 – 15th January 2021.
  • Fulfilment of your pledge is conditional on us receiving the appropriate online donations during the campaign (1st December – 8th December). You will only be required to pay a pro-rata amount of your pledge if we don’t hit our online target – it’s our guarantee to you that we are committed to raising additional donations.
  • Please note that if you pledge to Water Survival Box, you will not be able to make an online donation to us in December because your pledge will be used to match these donations.

Please don’t hesitate to ask if you have questions about the Christmas Challenge and what being a Pledger could mean to Water Survival Box

Mendip Induct New Member into the Rotary Family

Local businesman Mike Sartain was inducted into the Rotary Club of Mendip last Thursday by Club President Ceri Davies. Mike was sponsored by Rotarian Nigel Deane. The induction was carried out under the “new normal” conditions of social distancing outside at the Strawberry Special where the Club meet. In line with Government guidlines only three other members were in attendance, Mike Hiles Membership Chair, John Mander Secretary and Scott McIntosh Treasurer. In these unusual conditions a risk assessment was prepared with plenty of anticeptic wipes and gel available. Mike had to pin his new Rotary badge on himself another first. Following Mike’s induction into Rotary those in attendance had a good socially distancing fellowship evening to welcome our new Rotarian.

DG Blog 30th July 2020 – Growing Rotary

What’s been happening:

A trend over several years has been, for many clubs, a gradual decline in membership. This has been exacerbated by a 5% loss of membership at June renewal, no doubt influenced significantly by the coronavirus lockdown and the interruption of physical meetings. At the District Executive meeting last Friday we agreed to form a task force comprising the existing membership committee plus the District Executive and – importantly – co-opts, to further our objective of growing Rotary in this coming year.

What are we going to do about it?

This group will act as a focus on this challenge facing so many of us. Crucially, we will be asking clubs to share with us their ideas and promotional material of which they are particularly proud, have had a demonstrable impact, or are concepts in the making. We feel it’s vital that, as part of the service we offer at District, we help by acting as a conduit, to review and re-distribute the concepts and ideas as a framework for clubs to assist in their efforts to grow Rotary. We want to give you as much material and support as possible to help you achieve your own membership objectives. No plans to tell you what to do!

District is your support mechanism, so please, please forward your ideas to Ric Canham, our membership chair,, and copy me,

Thank you – membership opportunities arise daily so don’t wait to submit any ideas and thoughts – the time to pull all this together is now.

A starter for 10:

Here’s your starter for 10: one initiative, two weeks ago, was a three-district collaboration with a great presentation from Dave King, editor of Rotary magazine, on communications and growing Rotary. This would make an excellent presentation for a club meeting or a standalone presentation for any member interested in membership – the youtube link is

His advice was so thought-provoking, informative, and humorous. In fact when anyone who references Baldrick’s ‘cunning plan’ almost at the outset, you know you are in for a presentation which isn’t boring! I urge you to check it out – and it demonstrates the wide range of expertise and talent we have sitting within Rotary already! And those of you on Facebook will notice that I have learned from him and am venturing into the world of social media I hadn’t explored before. So bear with me whilst I learn and watch out for more updates!

And coming soon:

PDG Brian Murray’s daughter is offering social media training free-of-charge and we hope to arrange a session in the next few weeks.


District Governor

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