Category Archives: Governor’s Blog

DG’s Blog April 6 2020


This week Linda Piggott of the Ilminster Club participated in the first of what will now be twice weekly updates, held by video conference to keep everyone informed of developments. The tone of the hour-long briefing was one of positivity and mutual collective support to find ways of accessing maximum resources and sharing of information to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 in this area.

• As of Fri. 3rd April there had been 1,000 cases in the South West, and a total of 126 deaths in the area (9 of which were in Somerset).
• Government legislation has now been passed to enable virtual meetings to take place. It is expected that scheduled SCC meetings will re-commence in May.
• Concern has been raised about the inability of residents and family members to be able to attend funerals of loved ones. Both Taunton and Yeovil crematoriums have the facility to webcam services if required.
• Because Covid-19 has been declared a ‘Major Incident’ a local resilience forum has been set up to coordinate activity.
• Most SCC staff are now working from home, with many working 7 days per week at this time. Those working in child protection are on 24-hour standby, fully aware of the impact on families that this crisis is likely to have and are ready to handle the situation.
• Routine adult social care visits are not being made at present, and where necessary partner organisations are being asked to take on this commitment for urgent cases.
• Easter Sunday is when the number of cases across the UK is expected to reach its peak, with the SW seeing its peak approx. two weeks later, towards the end of April. It is vital that in the interim we all continue to take the necessary precautions to ensure our safety and that of others around us.
• As far as Easter is concerned the message for Somerset is please, please do NOT come to visit our county. The county is closed for Easter.
• It is intended that schools remain open over the Easter holiday period to continue to provide necessary childcare for key workers.
• A new waste/recycling contract is now in place but the intended increase in recycling activity is on hold for the present time.
• SCC are taking on infection control duties for reportable diseases to help to ease the burden on the NHS.
• A number of staff have been re-deployed to other duties, including 50 to the Registration Service to support staff responsible for registering deaths, which can now be done online.
• Two former care homes have been re-opened (Yeovil, Wellington) to provide 100+ beds to enable recovering patients to be moved from hospital to free up beds. 60 volunteers have come forward to staff the properties, including hotel staff, who will provide meals.
• PPE is in extremely short supply across the county and the resilience forum is working hard to source the necessary supplies, including 1200 rolls of plastic aprons. County Hall is to be used as a distribution centre, with support from the volunteer army.
• Military assistance is being sought for assistance with body storage.
• 1.5 million vulnerable people have been identified as requiring support nationally, and support cells have been set up. Both district and county councils are stepping in to provide any necessary intervention for residents and businesses while details of the national response to coordinate support is awaited.
• Across the county 5 warehouses are ready for action, with 1,000 food parcels ready to go.
• £15.68m has been received from central government towards putting in place the measures required to deal with Covid-19. There is likely to be a shortfall of around £1m and MPs are lobbying for an increase in funds.
• There is an awareness of the need to support business recovery in the aftermath of Covid-19 and planning for that is underway,
• Several local town and parish councils have put aside money to help those in need, and various schemes are in place to enable people to shop who may not have ready access to money. ‘Square Point of Sale’ is being used in some areas to facilitate this.

What we as a District are doing.

Chrissie Bailey is logging what our clubs are doing so please let her know how you are meeting and what projects you are undertaking. Or of course you could post your projects on Rotary Showcase and log effort in Rotary Club Central – all available from your MyRotary account.

Whilst we are busy helping our local communities, spare a thought for other poor parts of the world such as Nepal, Syria and Yemen where there are no local resources.

Mental health.

This is becoming increasingly an issue as people try to cope with the lock down environment. Please help Mind, Samaritans and Citizens Advice Bureaux if you can.

Online website training.

Whilst many of us are at home most of the time, Chris Sweeney thought it would be a good opportunity to provide some online website training to fellow club and district administrators,
He proposes to run a series of 30-minute sessions, at 2pm Monday-Friday, for the week commencing 13th April. Members need not attend all sessions but pick and choose relevant topics. He would like to receive suggestions for topics from Rotarians over the next week. Please email him direct ( with details of topics you’d like covered. The sessions will take place using Zoom software.

On a positive note.

Members are now using modern technology. One of my personal objectives this year was to “Update Rotary” and many clubs are now using modern technology and social media to communicate and hold meeting.

Meetings held via Zoom or WhatsApp mean there are no costs involved for members and people from all over the world can join in or be the speaker. One club recently had the RI President Mark Maloney as speaker. Rotary truly does Connect the World. The “saved” meal costs can then be used to support local food banks and other local charities that are in much demand in the current circumstances.

Best wishes and stay safe. Dennis

DG’s Blog 30 March 2020

Community support.

I am receiving reports that clubs are helping their communities wherever they can. I know that Taunton Vale are helping their local Halcon community with food and many other clubs are supporting their local food banks. Donating the cost of forgone Rotary meals to local food banks is an ideal way to support your local community. Other clubs doing similar things that I am aware of include Frome, Frome Town and Yeo Vale. There is a small amount of District Grant DDF still available which may be used in helping local food banks. It will be allocated on a first come basis so if you would like to augment your donations please contact Stan Jones.

Penny Underwood receiving her Paul Harris Fellowship certificate that was awarded virtually at the Forum.


The Emergency Volunteer Action Group is on a second-degree standby with a possibility of a call for help from the authorities, along with other voluntary organisations. In the meantime, many Clubs are operating successfully in providing support at local level. Clubs which are seeking the route to providing local support could access and find the link to SPARK. (EVAG is represented on 2 committees of Somerset Prepared). Dorset: access and follow the ‘Community Involvement’ tab. If you have any queries, contact – David Welch who will respond on behalf of EVAG. Dorset: Contact Joseph Swindell

Justin Sargent of Somerset Community Foundation has written.

“We have now launched our Somerset Coronavirus Appeal and it would be great if Rotary Clubs felt able to support this. As you will appreciate local charities and community organisations are needed more than ever. They know where the most vulnerable are in their communities and can help ensure the right support reaches them at the right time. Funding them while their own income sources are under strain will make a critical difference. (I recognise that the District covers other areas outside of Somerset, but our neighbouring CFs will also be running funds).

In terms of practical support, I imagine by now your members will also be aware of local grassroots action taking place and tapped into that. We would certainly welcome being made aware of opportunities to use funding to support effective initiatives run by local charities and community organisations (although we are not yet seeking unsolicited applications until sufficient funds are in place).” See

RYLA Report.

There is an excellent report by John Mander on this year’s RYLA on the Circa 1200 online magazine. See


Unfortunately, Somerton & District inauguration has been delayed for three months. We are all looking forward to this event.

International Humanitarian Service.

Whilst we are all in lock down there is still a need for Rotary works to carry on.

Shelter box appeal for Syria. See

Food Plant Solutions Rotary Action Group (FPSRAG) has been asked to provide educational materials for families in Cambodia, Cameroon, Uganda, Nepal, Tanzania, Vietnam and Ethiopia, to enable them to assist their communities to develop gardens to tackle malnutrition and ensure food security. To do this the FPSRAG need assistance from clubs to raise about $48,000 in total. For more information go to

Zoom tips.

I know many of you are using Zoom to continue to hold meetings. Meetings for up to 40 minutes for up to 100 attendees are free. Find out more from We have been using this software in the District for the last couple of years. One tip is to use the Personal ID meeting number when calling meetings, this means that the attendees who have downloaded the app will be able to join by clicking on the list of previous meetings.

Best wishes and stay safe, Dennis

DG’s Blog 23 March 2020


You know you are old when one of your neighbours puts a note through your door offering you help. This happened to me twice last week and of course like many other Rotarians I am in the “at risk” group. It is odd when I feel that I should be the one offering help to others. It is vital that we all take notice of the Government guidelines to try to restrict the spread of the virus but there are still things we can do.

The Emergency Volunteer Action Group is in contact with Somerset County Council regarding the possible inclusion of voluntary agencies in the organisation of the response to the current virus crisis. They are offering help with deliveries to the isolated vulnerable, phone call checks, providing information and possible help with organising and planning. A further addition might include assistance in the organisation of food banks. A letter will be sent to all clubs but if you would like more information contact David Welch

Lorraine Wong has written “You will be aware of the challenges the NHS is facing to prepare for the peak in Coronavirus.  Some guidance has just been issued to support the rapid discharge of patients to free up hospital beds.   The arrangements identify the significant role that the voluntary sector can play and NHS England is setting up a new scheme to identify volunteers able to support the NHS led by the Royal Voluntary Service using the GoodSAM app as the digital platform.  Perhaps we could encourage able Rotarians (i.e. those not in the vulnerable groups) to register with the RVS and download the app.” For more information contact Lorraine

One of my initial objectives for this year was to help combat loneliness. This is even more important in the current circumstances when our own members are likely to suffer from the lack of social contact. Please do all you can to maintain contact by telephone or other technology with your members and others in the community.

Food Banks. Another idea is to donate our savings in meal costs from cancelled meetings to local food bank

District Forum.

New ground was broken on Saturday when we held our Forum via Zoom for the first time. We had 84 devices connected with another 4 people sharing devices and Jenny’s dog joined the first Zoom District Forum.

District business. Items on the agenda included approval of the 2019/19 accounts and the budget for 2020/21. Please get your secretaries to send in your votes in favour/ against approving both of these.

We celebrated a number of significant Club Anniversaries- see slide attached.

Penny Underwood was then presented with a Paul Harris Fellowship for her work serving District, starting a new club and her involvement in one the District’s most successful projects Sherborne Classic & Supercars.   Well done Penny, greatly deserved.

Conference 2020. Rory O’Donnell gave an update on the scheduled Conference still currently planned for 4 July. You can watch the video from the District website.

Young Carers. Alison Adlam, Chair of Friends of Somerset Young Carers then told us about the important work they do. See the website for more details.

Under Parish Notices a brief session was held about ideas on how Rotary could help in the current circumstances. See above.

Frome Town approach to membership. Karl Waldeck told the meeting how they attract young members and showed the film made by RGBI about the club that can be seen here. More information is available from Karl

Foundation. Ken Robertshaw joined us from Yorkshire to remind us all about our charity and gave a great overview with special emphasis on the Peace Scholars, an area close to his heart.

Breakout sessions. Those interested in the Foundation session then joined a separate meeting hosted by Tony Quinn. The main session then had a discussion on membership led by Ric Canham and then Rory O’Donnell explained the main messages for 2020-21 from the International Assembly.


What could be my last physical club visit was last Monday when Jill and I visited Bridgwater. I think that they were rather overwhelmed as not only I but DGN Michael Fernando and DGNN Ric Canham we’re also visiting. Thanks to President Mike and the club for the hospitality.

My diary has of course been decimated but I am available to join online club meetings – just send me an invitation.


With our face to face meeting cancelled for the next few weeks, Zoom would be a good tool to use to keep in touch with family, friends, club members and others in the community. It is totally free for meetings up to 40 minutes. Here is a link to help you get the most from Zoom

Best wishes and stay safe.

DGs Blog 16 March 2020

District Forum Saturday 21 March.

As you will have seen, we have decided to cancel the face to face meeting at Stanchester Academy and hold the meeting via Zoom instead. To join the meeting on Saturday please click the following link If you do not have the necessary technology, you can join by telephone by dialling 02030512874 and then entering the meeting reference 8184662099#.

Whilst there is currently no advice from the Government to cancel meetings, because our members are mainly in the “at risk” group several clubs are deciding to cancel meetings for the new few weeks. In the absence direct Governmental advice to cancel meetings it really up to each club to decide what they wish to do but in the circumstances it is probably sensible to cancel meetings for the time being. In any case attendance is likely to be down as individuals make their own decisions.


We should make every effort to maintain contact with our members and our communities without taking any unnecessary health risks and we can of course do this via telephone and the various video conferencing applications that are available to us. Zoom is an application that allows online meetings of up to 100 attendees for up to 40 minutes for free. Download the free app from

Volunteer Expo and National Youth Finals.

RGBI has decided to postpone the Expo until next year and this years national Youth Finals have been cancelled.

District 1090.

Jill and I spent a very enjoyable weekend at District 1090, Thames Valley, Conference at Newbury Racecourse where we heard some excellent speakers including Geoff Mackey and Steve Brown ex captain of GB wheelchair rugby team and now Countryfile presenter.

Wessex Youth Education classrooms.

Margaret Gilmour, the president of Frome, has written to let me know that the whole fleet of 9 Wessex Youth Education classrooms need refurbishment at a cost for each classroom of £12000. The educational units (In effect fully equipped caravans) move around our district working with local schools in educating children between the ages of 3 and 13. Using electronic and visual equipment they explain the importance of looking after your body in healthy eating, lifestyle and the drawbacks in abuse of alcohol and drugs (age related materials are of course applied). Wiltshire clubs have already agreed to fund one classroom and the Frome Club is hoping with the help of clubs in the district to do the same. For more information contact Margaret or visit

Best wishes, Dennis

DG’s Blog 9 March 2020


I know that it is on everyone’s mind, what should we do about it and our events. RGBI has set up a page with the latest advice. In this respect, the Rotary GB&I Support Centre recommends that Rotarians, clubs and districts within GB&I follow the guidance of the Department of Health & Social Care and Public Health England announcements made on the website and the World Health Organisation. The website is updated at 2.00pm daily. The website gives information for the public on the outbreak of coronavirus, including the current situation in the UK and information about the virus and its symptoms. See

Should we cancel our meetings and events?

Currently the advice is for most people to continue to go to work, school and other public places. District and club leaders are encouraged to use their discretion when it comes to club and district meetings and events, and Rotary programs and activities. If the guidance from or the World Health Organisation discourage or prohibit gathering or traveling because of the risk of spreading COVID-19, follow their recommendations.

A poem by Spike Milligan.


With all the doom and gloom about this caught my eye on FaceBook and thought you might like it.

Rotaract week.

March 9-16 is World Rotaract week

Water and sanitation month.

March is the month when Rotary International focuses on Water & Sanitation – one of our core six areas of focus.

Young Voices.

This is a version of the Youth Speaks competition for those aged between 4-10 and is run by the Clubs of Ilminster and Langport & Somerton. This year over one hundred students took part from 9 schools with the top four in Years R-2 and Years 3-5 coming together for the final last Tuesday at Greenfylde First School, Ilminster. Each entrant was given a 2-minute window and discouraged from using notes, support material or costumes to speak about “People who have inspired me”. The young man who won the junior group spoke about Rowan Atkinson and made everyone laugh and the young lady who won the senior group spoke about Freda Kahlo, the Mexican artist who was a polio survivor. A fantastic evening.

Best wishes, Dennis

DGs Blog 2 March 2020

Governing Council.

I cannot believe how quickly this year is going. Yesterday I attended the Rotary in Great Britain & Ireland (RGBI) penultimate Governing Council (GC) meeting of the year at Alcester. The GC is made up of the 26 District Governors and the RGBI Executive and makes decisions that affects all of us and it was this group that started the changes three years ago. Despite the loss of membership over recent years there are still 42,000 of us in these islands doing fantastic work for our communities. Amongst the business there were two presentations about projects that our clubs may be interested in adopting.

Wrap Up – this is a project in association with Hands on London, where coats are collected and recycled to the needy via local charities. You can find out more from

Rotary Leadership & Management Programme. This is a course, in association with the Institute of Leadership & Management, that enables young people, without other qualifications, to attain a GNVQ level 2. More details from Tom Cowling (


The RGBI Disaster Recovery Trust is open for donations to help with the rebuilding following the floods. See The Australian Bushfire and Philippines Volcano appeals are also still open.

Volunteer Expo 1-3 May NEC Birmingham.

This is our attempt to update the tired RIBI Conference to make it more relevant to today’s world and to attract a wider audience with a view to growing Rotary. There is a great line up of speakers and many exhibitors from the voluntary sector. The good news is that not only are the tickets free but so is the parking, so why not give it a go? You could even volunteer to be a steward – details due out soon. The programme is now available at


Last week I had a warm welcome from The Island and Royal Manor of Portland. Here are some more photos from this year’s RYLA.

District Forum.

The next District Forum is on Saturday 21 March at Stanchester Academy Stoke sub Hamdon TA14 6UG with coffee from 9:30. The programme will start at 10 am and the draft agenda is

• Welcome and District Business
• District Conference 2020 – Rory O’Donnell (video)
• Young Carers – Alison Adlam – Chair of Friends of Somerset Young Carers
• Parish Notices
• The Frome Town approach to membership – Karl Waldeck
• Ken Robertshaw – our Foundation
• Coffee Break and meet the speakers
• Breakout Sessions

We had a really good forum back in November and I encourage you to join in the fun.

Best wishes, Dennis

DGs Blog 24 February 2020

Youth Speaks.

Four intermediate teams and three senior teams competed in a tightly fought competition in the District Final of Youth Speaks on Saturday 22nd February at the Kings of Wessex School in Cheddar.  The intermediate teams from Churchill Academy and Melksham Oak School and the senior teams from Melksham and Sexey’s School will represent District 1200 at the Regional Finals at Exmouth College on Saturday 21st March. Well done to Rachel Davies and Graham Baskerville for organising and thanks to Rita Sanders (Melksham) and Adrian Foster (Chippenham) for standing in for me to present the prizes.

Flood Relief.

More heavy rain and flooding has impacted communities nationwide following storms Ciara and Dennis. Our Emergency Volunteer Action Group has contacted all the RIBI Districts offering help and support in setting up similar groups in other Districts. For details on how clubs, districts and members can donate to the Rotary GB&I Disaster Recovery Trust and how to apply for funding to help communities recover please see the news item on the Rotary Website

Polio – Italian Tour.

For several years Ancona Conero Club has run a tour called ‘Hidden Masterpieces’, aimed at raising funds for the Polioplus – End Polio now project. This is a guided tour of splendid cities, villages, monuments, works of art of the Marche Region in Italy. It takes place in May and costs Euros 990. If you are interested, I have more details.



All last week I was expecting to hear that the RYLA being held in the middle of Dartmoor would be called off but all the delegates arrived despite Storm Dennis and Jill and I enjoyed their welcome and debating skills on Wednesday evening. Well done to John Mander for organising yet again this year.

Luton North.

On Saturday Jill and I went back to my old club Luton North who were celebrating their 50th Charter anniversary. It was great to meet many old friends. RGBI President Donna Wallbank and DG Mary Whitehead were amongst the visitors and the highlight of the evening was the presentation of a 2 ruby PHF to Paul Denton following the successful project to raise $1 million for equipment for the new Mercy Ship.


Last week I visited Dorchester Casterbridge a very active club with many interesting projects including water and sanitation projects in Nepal and various projects for a special needs school in Kenya. It was also pointed out that Rotarians booking Riviera Travel cruises are entitled to 10% of their booking being donated to their clubs.

RIFE to Peru.

Our team have arrived in District 4455 in Southern Peru.

Best wishes, Dennis

DG’s Blog February 17

High Sheriff Community Awards.

Last Sunday Wells Cathedral saw 600 hardy unsung heroes and supporters congregate to Celebrate Somerset Volunteering, kindly hosted by the Dean and Chapter at Wells Cathedral. High Sheriff of Somerset, Johnnie Halliday, took the opportunity to recognise individuals from organisations that he has met during his year by presenting High Sheriff Community Awards. One of these was to our own Peter Renshaw from Taunton Rotary, for his multiple services to volunteering and fundraising via Rotary Taunton, Somerset Pride of Youth Awards, and for League of Friends Musgrove Park Hospital. Well done Peter.

Cycle the length of the Pakistan/Afghanistan border to end polio.

Peter Castell the president of Weston-super-Mare has accepted the challenge from Marian Barber, their international project leader, to cycle the length of the Pakistan Border a distance of 1240 miles in a final push to eradicate Polio.

Peter says “I researched the route, It will take me from Weston s Mare through Coventry, Berwick on Tweed, Perth to Inverness and returning via Fort William, Kendal, Wem, Hereford and home according to Google is a distance of 1244 miles although in practice I will probably do at least a 100 miles more. I will be asking Rotary clubs in the places I will be stopping for help with accommodation. Which I am sure will broaden my horizons. The Journey will take 20 days which includes a day off in Inverness. I have set up a Just Giving page to help with fundraising and on the ride will be posting on my Facebook page.” Please support him by going to

Rotary Day 23 February.

The world’s first service club was founded on 23 February 1905 when lawyer Paul Harris and three friends met in a small office in downtown Chicago. These men wanted to rekindle in the turn-of-the- century city the spirit of friendliness they had known in their home towns. What are you doing to celebrate 115 years?

Rotary Friendship Exchange.

There are still places available in the D1200 team going to Canada from 25th May until 5th June. If you are interested contact Brian Murray.


Stuart Gilbert is starting a Rotaract Club in Chippenham. If you would like to know more on how to start your own please contact him.


I am very pleased to report that Rupert Cox is starting a new satellite club, Somerton District. Look out for further details.

Midsomer Norton & Radstock and Downside School Charity concert.

An uplifting evening to raise money for local charities. Rotakids President Evie was there with her collecting box!


Best wishes, Dennis

DG’s Blog 10 February 2020

Volunteer Expo 1-3 May NEC Birmingham.

Volunteer Expo is the new, national event to harness the power of volunteering. Kicking off in May 2020, Volunteer Expo will connect, educate and inspire volunteers, organisations and charities to change lives and take action in their communities. For visitors who are keen to volunteer, or already do so, there will be the opportunity to network with peers, develop your personal skills and turn your passion for change into action. Watch the 2 minute video at
Entry to the three-day Volunteer Expo is completely free and tickets are available now.
The first draft programme in now online see


Skittles Marathon.

Yeovil are running a skittles marathon on 15 May in aid of Children’s Hospice South West. See more details at

Rotary Peace Scholarships.

The 2021 Rotary Peace Fellowship application is now available, and your help is needed in finding the next cohort of global peace and development leaders. See the request for applications at

Mercy Ships.

Photo: Mercy Ships; Aerial photos of the Africa Mercy sailing into Tenerife in July 2013

The Mercy Ships $1 million Global Grant target has been reached. Mary Whitehead, DG 1260 has written “I am thrilled to be able to let you know that the Mercy Ships $1 million Global Grant target has been reached! The Inspiration in 2018-19 and Connections made across the world in 2019-20 have led to the opening of Opportunities for the new ship and those who will receive treatment in 2020-21 and beyond. Our thanks to every District, Club and individual who made this possible.”


This last week I enjoyed visits to Wellington and Brue Valley, two very different clubs. Wellington was chartered in 1954 and Brue Valley in 2010 both performing valuable work for their communities. Wellington has a live ferret racing event coming up and Brue Valley will be celebrating 10 years of service on 28 November.

Best wishes

DG’s Blog 3 February 2020

District Young Chef.

Well done to Jane Gibbs for organising the District final of the Young Chef competition at Maiden Beech Academy, Crewkerne on Saturday. Six contestants cooked for four available places in the Regional final to be held in Waterlooville on 28 March. A big thank you to the judges, Carol Chalmers, Christopher Harrison and Kevin Smokcum. The contestants from Dorchester Casterbridge, Frome, Devizes and Yeovil will represent our District in the Regional final.

Rotary International Vice President Elect.

Congratulations to Johrita Solari who was officially announced as Rotary International Vice President Elect.


Environment – reusable cups.

One of the initiatives discussed this year was the use of reusable cups and we did encourage delegates to bring their own at the last Forum. Paula Winchcombe, President of Devizes has suggested organising the supply of these to include the Rotary Logo to be sold to members and the public at large. If you would like to be involved with this initiative, please contact her.

Update on Hurricane Dorian.

A Donor Conference in Bahamas was hosted by The Government of the Bahamas and the UNDP was a success. Some information that came from the conference is as follows:
• 1.7 million metric tons of debris need to be dealt with
• 29,472 persons were affected
• Of the $3.4 billion in damages, 87% was in Abaco and 13% in Grand Bahama and 91%
affected the private sector while 9% in the public sector
• The country lost 18% of the GDP due to Hurricane Dorian
• Still 70 confirmed dead but hundreds still missing
• Priority list of projects is drafted and should be released soon
• They have spent $4.5 million on dome houses to get residents a temporary place to
stay. Still months from being finished.
• They need $26 million for the schools
• Estimated pledges to be between $1.5 and $2.0 billion

Best wishes


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