Category Archives: DISTRICT News

DG Blog December 2021

We continue to live in challenging times.

As expected, Rotarians have risen to the challenge and continue to support our communities. This is exemplified by the keenness in which Clubs have taken up the recently offered Project Matching Grants for service projects including

  • Taunton (supporting RYLA), Wells (supporting the provision of local defibrillators),
  • Yeo Vale (supporting The Lord’s Larder),
  • Bridport (supporting The Spinning Well),
  • Weston-super-Mare (supporting Winter Warmers, supplying clothes),
  • Shepton Mallet (Christmas toy boxes),
  • Chelwood Bridge (Breakthrough),
  • Chippenham (supporting families in Western Kenya),
  • Lyme Regis (pop up stall),
  • Dorchester Casterbridge (cooker for school in Kenya) 
  • Bradford-on Avon (children’s Christmas presents).

As a District, we are proud of our traditions and our past; as you know, two of our clubs have celebrated their centenaries recently.

The most important part of Rotary is each individual member; clubs form a vital channel through which members may serve their communities; we are doing this very effectively now, in the present. I was recently at a talk about the history of Rotary in a local club over the last hundred years. This was a story of how Rotary has adapted over the years; one which it would be prudent to learn from.

You may have heard about alternative club models; experience from within our District, and from further afield, shows that having a variety of ways to take part in Rotary strengthens existing clubs in the local area. Our District is taking part in a national pilot in having a ‘District Hub Club’ where people can join Rotary directly, rather than an existing physical club. The ‘Hub’ is online and members can’t take part in projects through the Hub itself but would be available and willing to help existing physical clubs with their projects. In the longer term, Hub members may well go onto joining physical clubs. It is envisaged that many of those joining may be new to the area. There are many ways in which to enjoy Rotary and this is another option. Whilst we may talk about the new, we absolutely value the experience and expertise of existing Clubs and the vital work done through them.

Thank you to everyone in the District for continuing to support Foundation.

It is encouraging that contributions to Foundation have increased. The Rotary Foundation is our charity; it has minimal overheads and supports local projects (such as the Cancer unit in Dorchester, and the Breast Cancer unit in Yeovil) as well as international projects such as the funding of equipment of a Children’s Cancer Unit in Cyprus, transcending political, religious and social barriers. Until relatively recently, I was unaware of the reach and influence Rotary has around the world. As mentioned at the recent District Forum and District Conference, I would like to formally congratulate Stan Jones for the outstanding work he has carried out managing grants from the Rotary Foundation over the past years. Stan was recognised in the Awards section of the Conference for this.

As 2021 comes to an end, on behalf of the District, I would like to wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Michael Fernando

District Governor

Operation Pollination – COP26 Rotary Action

As a Rotarian will you and your Club promote Operation Pollination?

The changing climate impacts pollinators by shifting growing and blooming seasons and potentially weakening the plant populations that pollinators depend on. Additionally, warmer temperatures have altered migration patterns, affecting pollinator species like butterflies.”

Rotary eClub West of England have already signed the Operation Pollination pledge.

Find out more by visiting the Rotary GB&I page of the Environmental Sustainability Action Group 

District Governors Blog November 2021

It gives me great pleasure to report that two of our clubs celebrated their centenaries, Weston-super-Mare and Bath. Around 300 people joined in the centenary celebrations of Rotary Weston-super-Mare at The Winter Gardens Pavilion on 23 October, joined by local dignitaries including the local Mayor and M.P. A great time was had by all. The celebrations for Bath have been postponed until April, owing to the uncertainty of the situation with Covid-19.

Chard Rotary celebrated the end of its 75th Anniversary year with a dinner, at which Stanley Hopkins and Robert Jackson were both awarded certificates of long service (50 years).

Many Clubs have supported World Polio Day on 24th October, lighting up local buildings in purple. I am delighted to share news that there have only been two cases of wild Polio reported anywhere in the world this year (the last being in January).

As you know, local Children’s Hospices (CHSW and Julia’s House) are my chosen charities for the year, as District Governor. Many of you have been putting on events in support. Many congratulations to Peter Stefanovich and Paul Arnold from Chard Rotary, who have walked between all three CHSW hospices; 156 miles over 12 walking days. Cate Whitewood and other members of Yeo Vale Rotary organised curry night in support of CHSW. Richard and Karen Meek from Chippenham Rotary put on an Italian Dinner in aid of Julia’s House. Many others have put on events in support.

The District Conference took place in Plymouth, face-to-face. Around 200 people took part and heard speakers including Plymouth resident and Royal Marine, Ben McBean, who told of his courage in the face of adversity.  Eddie Farwell, Founder of Children’s Hospice South West (CHSW) talked about how he and his wife had founded it to provide services for local families with children with life limiting illnesses.  We also heard from Graham Cole, former Chairman of AgustaWestland, about providing opportunity, talking about working his way up from the shopfloor to being Chairman. Keynote speaker at the Rotary International Convention in Toronto, Xavier Ramey, gave a challenging talk about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Dr Aubrey Cunnington (Consultant in Paediatric Infectious Diseases, St. Mary’s Hospital, London) talked about global challenges after eradicating Polio. Rotary Foundation Trustee, Aziz Memon had hoped to join us in person, but had to send a video message, owing to the global situation with Covid-19. Other speakers included local Rotarians Dot Cretney and Yinka Osoba. Past District Governor Julia Diment joined us as Rotary International President Shekhar’s representative.

Looking forward to more normal times again, there is still an early bird reduction to register for the Rotary International Convention in Houston, Texas this June. Closer to home, the next District Forum is online on Saturday 4th December at 10.00 A.M.; we would like as many clubs as possible, if not all, to be represented. Here are the joining details:

Topic: District Forum 4th December 2021
Time: Dec 4, 2021 10:00 London

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 825 0969 4823

What environmental project or activity?

As members of Rotary we are in a great position to organise and participate in projects to protect our environment and communities which we care so much about.

Throughout the UK Rotarians are organising projects to raise awareness and to make changes which contribute to environmental sustainability.  Small actions taken by many people can make a bit difference, whether is re-cycling, re-wilding, planting trees or walking to work.

Here in the West Country it feels like nature is in control, but we have all noticed the changes in our climate here.  How is this affecting our communities?  How is increased tourism impacting on nature?  Are we doing enough in our own lives to re-cycle what we consume and help create a circular economy?

Throughout the UK Rotary members are planning projects and raising awareness, with Eco Fairs,  school book re-cycling, community vegetable gardens and litter picks.   We talk about it but what are we doing in our communities?

If you are organising, or participating in an environmental sustainability project in your community, please email me about it so that we can share with others.

Here are some examples of what is going on throughout the UK which may help you if you need some ideas.

The Queen’s Green Canopy

Rotary in the South East

ESRAG UK – Rotary Action Group 

Rotary Billion Seed Project

Rotary Young Environmentalist Competition Winners 2021



District Governor’s Blog – September 2021

We are already in the middle of September (almost a quarter of the way through the Rotary year). I continue to be impressed by the outstanding work carried out by Rotary members in our District, serving their local communities, as well as those further afield.


Peter Stefanovic and Paul Arnold (Chard Rotary) have completed 87 miles of their 157 mile trek in support of Children’s Hospice South West. As many of you are aware, I have asked clubs to support their local Children’s Hospice during this Rotary year. Well done to Chard Rotary and the many other clubs supporting their local Children’s Hospice. Members of Chard Rotary have also carried out supporting roles at Britain’s Disable Strongman and Strongwoman Competition, held at Holyrood School, Chard.


Many of you will be aware that Peter Renshaw (Taunton Rotary) has asked that Clubs in our District get behind an initiative ‘The Green Canopy’, which is a U.K. wide tree planting initiative to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee next year. As District Governor, I am proud to support this initiative and encourage you all to do so too. Further information is available at



On behalf of the District, I would congratulate David Welch for having led the D1200 Emergency Volunteer Action Group (EVAG) since its inception in 2014. It developed from the efforts Rotarians in our District made following the flooding on the Somerset Levels in 2014. EVAG plans, trains and serves on the planning groups of Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire to help in times of emergency. David has now handed over the baton, as Chair of the group, to John Butler, to whom I wish the very best, as Chair of EVAG. EVAG has shown itself, time and time again, to support our local communities in their time of need.


Guy Parkinson in Rotary Frome Selwood has co-ordinated the District response to help with the Covid-19 crisis in Nepal, liaising with Assistant Governor Ranjeev Shrestha from Rotary Dhulikhel in Nepal. Our focus is on providing service, above fundraising; it is still heartening to see that Rotarians in our District raised £9,600 to enable the provision of service in Nepal to help ameliorate the situation surrounding Covid-19.


Well done to our new online District Membership Initiative, ‘Rotary without Borders’, which continues to welcome new faces, the latest being Jules Kew and Steve Sliney. Welcome to you both!


Finally, with a month to go until our District Conference in Plymouth, I urge you to consider joining us. If you have not already registered, please could you do your very best to register this week.

I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend the Rotary International Convention in Toronto 3 years ago. Well over 20,000 people attended and it was literally a lifechanging event. We have been thinking about how to replicate some of this magic by ‘bringing the world to you’ in District 1200. We have persuaded one of the keynote speakers in Toronto to speak in Plymouth. Xavier Ramey was a keynote speaker, along with the Princess Royal, Justin Trudeau, Helen Clarke (former Prime Minister of New Zealand) and Laura Bush (former First Lady of the United States). Xavier has a confirmed plane ticket to speak in person at our Conference in Plymouth (Covid rules still permitting). We have several other world class speakers, including Plymouth local, Ben McBean (Former Royal Marine), Graham Cole (former Chairman, AgustaWestland Helicopters) and Dr Aubrey Cunnington (Children’s Infectious Diseases Expert from St. Mary’s Hospital, Paddington).      2021 Conference Programme Edition 13 September 2021

Radio presenter/Comedian/Author Tony Hawks shall also be entertaining us with tales of walking around Ireland in a Fridge. We have entertainment in the form of ‘Horse Racing’ organised by Rotary Brue Valley during the buffet on the Friday night (in support of Children’s Hospice South West and other Rotary supported charities). We have a Black Tie/Formal Dinner Dance on the Saturday evening with live entertainment from ‘Boom Town’.

The Day event cost just shy of £50, including lunch and refreshments. People who want to make a weekend of it have other options. Please see for further details and a downloadable booking form  Conference booking form (Final) 2021.

What can we do to contribute to Environmental Sustatinability?

“Think of an idea, research, and put it into action”

That is what the Rotary Young Environmentalist Competition is asking young people to do.

This competition is open to young people from 7 to 17 years old and Rotary clubs in Somerset, Wiltshire and Dorset are looking for groups or individuals to take part in local and regional heats for this national competition.

Check here to see the winning projects for 2021 .

Last years theme has been repeated due to the pandemic, so the theme for 2021-22 is:

“Climate Change / Carbon Reduction”

This competition encourages young people to interact with the environment address serious issues and explore solutions to the problems.  Participants are encouraged  to explore, investigate, research and undertake an environmental sustainability project on the theme of ‘Climate Change/Carbon Reduction’.

If you are a school, or organiser for any youth group, which is interested in taking part in this competition, then please contact to and we will help you to find a participating Rotary club near you.

DG Blog 1st August 2021

One month into the new Rotary Year, members in our District have been going full steam ahead in fulfilling our promise ‘Service above Self’. Several activities in our District have now been face-to-face, including the ‘Big Breakfast’ at Chelwood Bridge, which raised over £1200 for local causes. District Governor Elect, Ric Canham led a Rotary Community project to keep a footpath open (with mostly volunteers from within the local community), encouraging potential new members of Rotary and fulfilling a local community need at the same time. Rotary in Frome sold donated goods in the Rotary shop and supported the continuation of a local sensory book club.

Congratulations to Poppy McGhee, successfully nominated by Mendip Rotary for a Diana Award, the highest accolade a young person can achieve for social action or humanitarian efforts. Poppy is a 16 year old violinist from Wells, who has raised many thousands of pounds for the Amber Trust (which funds music opportunities for blind and partially sighted children).

Hugh Deed (from Rotary in Frome) has been running a project collecting unwanted mobility aids (not NHS provided) and exporting them to South Africa, where Northcliff Rotary refurbishes and repairs (as necessary) and distributes them to those that need them. Please contact if you would like to support this.

District Skittles

Roger White (Yeovil Rotary) has very kindly agreed to arrange the District Skittles Competition in the coming year (proceeds in support of Children’s Hospice South West). Roger shall speak about this more at the next District Forum on 25 September, as well as at the District Conference in October.

District Conference

Registrations for the upcoming District Conference at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Plymouth on 15-17th October have been coming along nicely, with more than a hundred guests registered so far.

Three years ago, I had the opportunity to attend the Rotary International Convention in Toronto with over 20,000 fellow Rotarians from all around the world. Outstanding speakers included the Princess Royal, Justin Trudeau (Prime Minister of Canada), Laura Bush (Former First Lady of the United States) and Helen Clarke (former Prime Minister of New Zealand). I wondered whether it may be possible to replicate some of the magic here by ‘Bringing the World to You’. I contacted one of the keynote speakers (who had some of the best feedback), Xavier Ramey, from Chicago, and he has agreed to come to England to visit our District Conference.

Other speakers include the Rotary Lead for Polio Eradication in Pakistan, Aziz Memon (Covid rules permitting). Aziz was taken blindfolded to Taliban controlled areas to try and persuade people to allow their children to be vaccinated. Aziz is coming to England to be at our conference at his own expense. Founder/Chief Executive of Children’s Hospice South West (Eddie Farwell) is also a speaker, as well as Tony Hawkes (Comedian/Author). Local Rotarians Yinka Osoba (Yeovil) and Dot Cretney (Frome Town) shall be talking about projects from our District.

Please take the opportunity to join them and take the opportunity to meet other Rotarians at our District Conference on 15-17 October (Main Event Saturday 16th October).  Click here to download a booking form 

Prices start at £49 per person (including lunch and refreshments) for the day event on the Saturday. Arrangements have also been made for people who want to make a weekend of it, with entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights, including a Black Tie Dinner Dance with a live band on the Saturday.

Please come and join us; see for further information!

Upcoming posts in the District Team

-3 Assistant Governor Posts (from July next year):

To replace those who have completed their three year term, as well as Stuart Gilbert, who shall be moving into the District Governor Elect Role from July.

-District Governor Nominee (from July next year, who would also be District Governor Nominee Designate from this year)

-District Training Officer

-District Treasurer (from July next year)

The District Team shall be holding information events regarding these roles, but please feel free to contact me (or an existing postholder), if you would like further information.

Warm wishes,



Michael Fernando
District Governor D1200

DG Blog 1st July 2021


Today marks the start of the new Rotary Year, which I would like to start by congratulating Rory for leading us through the pandemic in support of communities at home and further afield.

I am looking forward to facing the challenge of leading our District through the challenges of coming out of lockdown.  For those I am yet to meet in person, I am a member of Yeovil Rotary and a local Consultant Paediatrician. My wife, Katalin is an Emergency Medicine Consultant and we have a five year old daughter, Charlotte.

Club members are the most important part of Rotary and we are here to serve you, as a District. If there is anything we can do to support clubs, we shall do our very best to help.

We have a history of which we can be proud. Two of our Clubs are celebrating their centenaries this year, Weston-super-Mare and Bath; a magnificent testimony to the legacy which Rotary is leaving in our local area and beyond.

Looking forward to the year ahead, I would be very grateful if you could consider supporting Children’s Hospice South West (CHSW), or your local children’s hospice, as my chosen charity for the year ahead. I would also be very grateful if you could support ‘The Green Canopy’, a U.K. wide tree planting initiative to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee next year. Peter Renshaw from Taunton Rotary shall be telling us more about this initiative in the months to come.

Rotary International President, Shekhar Mehta, has emphasised the importance of service in our communities as his theme for the year ahead. I know that this is a theme that resonates with many of us. He has asked that we have ‘Rotary Days of Service’ where clubs join with neighbouring clubs, involving the local community in service. Other key themes at a global level are the Environment (a new Area of Focus in the Rotary Foundation), the education of children (particularly girls) and growing Rotary.

District Governor Nominee (DGN) is leading a programme to reintroduce Rotaract to our District. I am sure we all agree that this will bring new energy and ideas to our organisation and help build Rotary further in our District.

With regard to International projects in our District, congratulations to Guy Parkinson in Frome Selwood for swift action, co-ordinating the District response in support of the COVID related emergency in Nepal. District Rotary Foundation Chair (DRFCC) for Nepal, Ranjeev Shrestha has thanked out District for its rapid response. Yinka Osoba (Yeovil) is leading a project with Global Sight Solutions (formerly the Guildford Eye Project) to equip an Eye Hospital in Nigeria. Dot Cretney (Frome Town) is leading a project for books to be sent to Malawi.

In closing, on behalf of the District, I would like to congratulate Mike Webb (from Mendip Rotary on stepping down as Vice-Chair of The Rotary Foundation), who has been awarded the Rotary ‘Distinguished Service Award’ by Ravi Ravindran, Chair of Trustees of The Rotary Foundation. Well done, Mike for being awarded this most prestigious honour.

I plan to update you through this Blog on a monthly basis. The best of luck for the year ahead to you all.

Warm wishes,

Michael Fernando

District Governor, District 1200


DG Blog 29th June 2021

‘And now the end is near…. I did it my way’

Well, as they say, all good things come to an end. Despite it being a most difficult year, I have greatly enjoyed meeting almost all of the clubs and, individually, their presidents, albeit virtually, and hope that I can catch up with many of you at Michael’s conference later this year on the weekend of 16th October I can sympathise with the club presidents in particular having to adapt their approach to their year, and perhaps not having the chance to deliver on the ideas and initiatives they must have had planned for their clubs. However, I have been impressed with how so many clubs have not only continued their meetings and supported each other during this pandemic, but have risen to the challenges and continued vital project work – and found innovative ways of fundraising. Well done to all of you for working through this challenging year. We were all focused on growing Rotary, but this has proved to be a hurdle because of the extreme circumstances.

There have been several highlights for me this year.  

‘Staying Alive’

Firstly, seeing the determination and resilience of clubs and their Rotarians to continue with community service and fundraising despite the difficulties.  I am especially proud of the 200 plus Rotarians and families who volunteered to help out at vaccination centres. Without this infrastructure support from Rotary, I am honestly doubtful that some of the clinics would have run so efficiently. This initiative showcased Rotary at its best, and in many areas, Rotarians are already being asked to be ready for any autumn vaccination roll-out. 

‘Please Release Me…’

District business:

And it was a pleasure to be able to release much needed funds from district reserves and persuade General Council to agree with my proposed amendment to maintain District Grant funding at the previous year level rather than reduce it. I felt very strongly that it was right to do so. 

I must also thank my District team, all drawn from clubs who are prepared to give that extra service supporting District and service to the clubs. I will say this – I know that some in the Clubs are sceptical about – some even hostile to – District’s existence. However, without people stepping up to take on these roles, and without District in some form or other, then we would lose the valuable resources that clubs can tap into.

You probably all know by now that we had an amazing virtual conference, well-attended (thank you to those of you who supported it and spent a day in front of the computer!) and, I’m pleased to say, under budget, yet free to all. There is no doubt that virtual meetings will continue to play a part in the ordinary business of clubs going forward as we strive to make efficiencies, reduce costs and improve our carbon footprint. A special thanks to my club, Taunton Vale, and my stalwart and dedicated conference committee, without whom it would not have taken place, as has been the case with many Districts this year. And let’s not forget that the poor souls on my committee ended up organising TWO conferences! Our original face-to-face event which had to be cancelled, then taking on the challenge of the first virtual conference. I lost count of how many committee meetings we had to have in the end because of our ‘double act’. Though I believe our chairman kept count. Don’t forget to read the article about our conference on the Rotary website and remember that on the conference website, which remains in situ as a legacy product, there are downloadable resources for you to use in your meetings.

This year we have also created a Membership Task Force, and under the Chairmanship of incoming DG Michael, strengthened our Public Image Team in order to support club efforts to grow Rotary. On that subject, following the introduction of the Global Hub, we have started the creation of a Passport Club. I believe that Passport Clubs are without doubt part of the way forward for Rotary. They are certainly not created as a threat to ‘traditional’ Rotary – rather, they create another conduit by which interested parties can be a Rotarian, but deciding how and when they want to carry out Rotary activities. And in taking this route, new Rotarians will learn about the work which already goes on in the district and be a resource to support existing clubs in projects, if they wish. Well done, Penny Underwood, for driving this forward, and with the help of White Knight Marketing and my wife Julie, all are busily engaged in its structure and the website creation. Watch this space! 

Another innovation of which I am proud is the inter District (3 and 4 District) district meetings which took place this year – long may they continue.

‘Young People are the Future’

On youth, I am pleased to report success in the Young Musician in the Regional (South and South West) Final of RYM. Ellen Steward and Amelie Lloyd (both from Taunton Club) were first and second respectively in the vocalist class, whilst Daisy Hickson (clarinet) of Minehead was third in the instrumental class, so three of the four D1200 candidates were placed and did us proud. Sadly, the National Final has been cancelled this year so that’s the end of the 2021 competition. This must be a disappointment to the participants, but they should all feel proud of their regional achievements, and I firmly believe that this is a key part of Rotary’s role – to encourage young people in projects or contests which acknowledge and develop their skills and confidence. 

‘A Question of Honour’

By the way, I was honoured by my own club last night with a Paul Harris Fellowship – what a way to end a very memorable Rotary year.

 ‘What a wonderful world’ 

I wish my successor Michael (who I am sure will be a wonderful DG), and all of you, all the best for the forthcoming year, and I thank you for your support. So many of you stepped up to the plate when, for example, we made a call-out for help with the virtual conference on the day. It was wonderful to see volunteers from a wide range of clubs offer their time and skills in a situation new to most of us. Again, that epitomises the friendship and willingness of many Rotarians to be involved in so many different ways. 

‘Be my Wife’

Lastly, a very special thanks to my wife Julie, who as a former GSE student has known Rotary longer than I have, whom I met because of Rotary, and who has been a tremendous support in my Rotary journey and especially this last year and in planning and delivering the conference. And, though it’s probably not the done thing for a DG to say, would have made a better DG in my view! 

Best wishes

Rory O’Donnell

PS – those who watched the conference will know that we used songs to introduce the speakers. Michael, for example, just had to have a famous Abba song attributed to him! So, in order to end a different year for a DG in a different way, I’ve used song titles as sub-headings for my final blog. I wonder how many of you spotted that? Or how many of you know the performers?! (Another example of how our virtual world and search engines can come into play!)

Answers: Frank Sinatra; Bee Gees; Engelbert Humperdinck; The Good Ones; Sarah Brightman; David Bowie

District Governor Handover

Join us on Zoom on 30th June 2021 at 7pm for handover event to Michael Fernando

District Handover Night 30th Julne without link-page-001

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