We have reached the end of my three-and-a-half-year journey as DG. It has been a privilege and a pleasure to serve the District.
RI President Mark Maloney’s theme for the year was “Rotary Connects the World” and this has been even more evident now that we all connect via Zoom!
My theme for the year was FUN, Fellowship, Updating Rotary and New Clubs. . The Fellowship has been great and I have been inspired by the works that our clubs do. We have Updated Rotary – who would have thought that almost everyone would be using online tools to meet and carry on the service to the communities. We even achieved a New Club – St John’s Primary Midsomer Norton Rotakids.
One of my aspirations was to educate members about the wider family of Rotary and I think that my weekly blog has gone some way to do this – at least the numbers of subscribers to Circa1200 has increased by 300 and there has been a 12% increase in the number of members with a MyRotary account. I have tried during the year to keep my weekly Blog to one page but I hope you will forgive me for giving a more comprehensive “end of term” report.
The year started with a Midsummer Madness / Handover party that raised £1,000 pounds split between School in a Bag and the YDH Breast Care Unit appeal. The District Conference in Southampton attracted 200 people and, as a side-line, raised £1,300 for Rainbow Trust.
I am proud of the innovative ways that members and clubs have responded to the challenges posed by Coronavirus and pleased that District allocated £10,000 to match fund many of the projects.
At the 1 July the membership totalled 1368, and we have had 100 new members this year. Membership retention is over 90%. Gender distribution is improving, with now over 18% female membership. There has been a 12% increase in members having a MyRotray Account.
We have approved 15 Membership Development grants to assist Clubs with recruitment and some of these are yet to take place. We have one satellite and at least one Rotaract club in course.
We chartered a Rotakids club at St John’s Primary School in Midsomer Norton and were close to starting two Rotaract Clubs when the virus struck.
Sadly, we have lost two clubs this year Avalon and Calne. Both of these failed to find incoming officers and people to run their projects – unfortunately not an uncommon situation.
The pandemic has brought forth a host of volunteers and this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to invite them into the Rotary family and to start new forms of Rotary for these people.
I have been amazed at the work the clubs do to support local, national and international communities. In particular, clubs supported the West Indies following Hurricane Dorian, the Bush Fires in Australia and floods here in the UK. David Perkins has provided the following summary:
“District donated $10,000 of its DDF to Polio Plus to help continue the fight to eradicate this terrible disease and made two grants of $2,500 to coronavirus projects in India and in Dominican Republic.
The Foundation team have been working throughout the year to promote Rotary’s only charity.
Over £18,000 of our District Dedicated Fund (DDF) allocation of £24,000 was given in 27 matching grants for various club projects, varying from community and disabled schemes within the District, to clean water and health needs abroad. The Grants Sub Committee has also cultivated a plethora of Global Grants, which need international involvement to draw down matched funding of at least $15,000, ranging from the Dorset Hospital Chemo unit to major clean water and hygiene facilities in Kerala and Kenya.
The PolioPlus campaign continued to fight against the objections of religion and politics in the Khyber Pass area where the last remaining cases of infection were on the increase, and has developed a new Polio vaccine which is expected to do away with the Vaccine Derived strain of the virus. The annual planting of purple crocus corms to raise awareness of the Purple Pinkie campaign was well taken up, although the resulting flowers were a bit insipid. The supplier has promised that the corms provided this years will be more robust.
Then the world went into lockdown! Meetings were cancelled, fund raising events abandoned and everything came to a halt. But The Rotary Foundation went into overdrive! D1200 clubs drew down the remaining DDF to help with local food banks and related schemes. When that was exhausted, District stepped in by allocating surplus funds to COVID19 related grants. The remnants of our Global Grant allocation has also been used in reciprocal arrangements with Districts in India and The Dominican Republic to provide ventilators and basic family hygiene kits respectively. Unlike most districts in RFUK, D1200 has utilised its entire allocation of grant funding in Doing Good, both locally and internationally.
The Rotary Foundation headquarters in Evanston has also risen to the challenge. Although working from home, the staff have pulled out all the stops to help. Applications that usually expect to take months to authorise have been completed in less than 10 days! It is worthy of note that, since April, Foundation has given over $20million in grants to help with the worldwide fight against COVID19. A Disaster Relief Fund set up with a budget of $2 million donated $5 million in only 6 weeks!
Whilst the vaccination programme of the End Polio Now campaign is obviously in abeyance, the resources of the organisation – laboratories for sample testing, contact tracing, vaccine development, etc- are being well used in the Coronavirus battle. Unfortunately the instances of polio cases is on the increase, which proves that it will rapidly re-establish itself if we relinquish the task before it is complete. And we are now well aware that the spread of a virus is only a plane ride away.
The District Foundation Team has been trying to improve the awareness of what The Rotary Foundation is all about and how it operates. In some ways, the lockdown has actually helped as it is easier to give a Foundation talk to a club on Zoom than having to travel across the district. It also saves on travelling expenses and meal costs, which could be donated to TRF or PolioPlus.”
We started the year with plans to help the environment by hoping to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle as well as trying help fight loneliness and mental health. Our District Project for the year was to support the Yeovil District Hospital Breast Care Unit. Sarah Folland has sent the following report.
“It has certainly been a challenging year in which Connectivity and Humanitarian support has indeed been very meaningful with efforts and support shown locally and across the globe.
At the start of last year Rotary in GBI took steps to commit to tackling poor mental health by signing up to the Concordat for ‘Better mental Health’ with Public health England. The commitment from Rotary clubs has been demonstrated with many of our district clubs supporting local initiatives or starting up ‘drop in’ cafes and local support groups or activities to improve health and reduce isolation. Others have continued to raise awareness of mental health issues through poster campaigns or the dedicated ‘Rotarians 4 Mental Health’ website.
Disaster response and support has this year focused on 2 main areas. Six months ago world attention was focused on the Australian forest and bush Fires that devastated large parts of the country. Since January with the help of much needed rain the fires have been controlled but the recovery and rebuilding efforts will take years. In November last year following consistent and heavy rainfall the District responded to the flood relief efforts in NE. England. The resources and expertise of the EVAG group were mobilised to provide practical help and clubs and again Rotarians have given financial support through the RGBI Disaster and Recovery fund.
We were not expecting the rapid spread of the Covid 19 pandemic through the world and many of our normal activities and events came to a sudden halt in March. Our thoughts are with all those who have been directly affected by the disease and its consequences. However, there could not perhaps be a better example of ‘Rotary in Action’! This has been demonstrated in many different ways. Most of our clubs have kept in close touch with members and Rotarians been a huge support, actively contributing where possible, but also by providing funds and equipment, advice and encouragement to many local and some international projects These include support networks, foodbanks, hospital teams, hospices, PPE providers, also enabling home education and play for isolating families. Support to those colleagues who are isolated and vulnerable including those with health and welfare issues has been very evident. District 1200 allocated £10.000 pounds to match fund individual club projects and it has been moving to see the efforts and support from so many clubs. The pandemic will continue to place pressure on many health and social care providers as well as charities and I am sure our continued support will be needed in the months to come.
Many continue to support the Polio projects. Bears and Bulbs are available as Rotary its efforts to help rid the World of this disease.
RIBI has recently signed up to a 12 month partnership with Carers UK- This gives encouragement for us all to support young and unpaid carers.
Let us not forget too, the efforts made to take action in caring for our environment and Rotarians providing leadership and examples of good practice and we thank Penny Underwood for efforts to encourage this at district level.”
We have some brilliant Youth Projects and we started the year with a Youth Showcase, reviving a pet projects of the late Roger Andrews. The new Rotakids club were the stars of the District Conference. RYLA was again a delight to visit. I was also delighted to visit the Technology tournament held jointly by Crewkerne, Chard and Ilminster.
I send Rory and his team my very best wishes for the new year.
So long and thanks for all the fish (Douglas Adams). Very best wishes.- Dennis