Category Archives: Governor’s Blog

DG Blog 9th November 2020

The Colour Purple

I was saddened to learn of a return to even harsher restrictions which are with us for November, but at least just before this second lockdown we were able to celebrate World Polio Day.

Like many of you, I spent the morning on my hands and knees pushing crocus bulbs into holes dug by my Rotary colleague Terry Rowcliffe. The photograph made the Somerset County Gazette and there was other publicity gained for Rotary re polio including a slot on BBC Radio Somerset for AG Bruce Bailey. I cannot stress enough the importance of improving public awareness of the great things we do in order to grow Rotary, and allow others to share the same experiences that we have had in being part of our great organisation. 

 Rotary Global Hub

There is a new initiative to grow Rotary called Gobal Hub. It’s designed to take account of our changing world, and indeed our changing Rotary world, and to complement our existing traditional club format. I’d urge you to register for the 3-district presentation on the Hub by our General Secretary Amanda Watkin taking place this Thursday 12th. The link is set out below.

 You are invited to a Zoom meeting.
When: Nov 12, 2020 07:00 PM London

Register in advance for this meeting:

However, I realise that membership retention is just as challenging as growing Rotary in these difficult times so click here for a list of potential activities/ideas that clubs around the country have been employing to keep their meetings stimulated. Why not try something different?

 On the matter of stimulating club meetings, there is a growing list of speakers on the public pages of our district website which also includes a link to a similar list on the RGBI website.

District Conference – in pursuit of the positives

On the matter of our already-postponed District Conference, I’m sure you will not be surprised to hear that we have had to abandon our plans for the event at Taunton School. Even if we happen to be outside a lockdown period by our planned date next year, we are doubtful that many will have the appetite to be at large gatherings, or indeed it may not be permitted. I am gutted, because the conference committee had put so much time and effort into crafting an event that was innovative and different. Well, it’s certainly going to be that now!

As with most other events of any kind, our conference will now be delivered to you in the virtual world.  However, in the spirit of looking for positives at the moment, there could be some unexpected advantages to this – more of you across the district should be able to attend; you’ll have a ‘pick n mix’ of sessions from which to choose; and as we still hope to focus on recruitment to Rotary and showcase our work, it should be easier for your non-Rotarian friends and family to dip into Rotary life for a day via the conference. So – more on this as soon as we firm up some details.

Stay safe

‘Stay safe’ has become a new norm in our signing-off now, hasn’t it? Naturally, I am urging you all to please keep safe during these difficult times. Incidentally, I have had some PPE given to me – including face masks and overalls.

Happy to post it out to any clubs which feel they can make use of it – perhaps for homeless people, or volunteers on projects (a charity helping homeless people and the YMCA have already benefitted from some of the PPE here in my local area.)


Rory O’Donnell

District Governor

DG Blog 28th September 2020

This coming Friday Speak out – on social media

Another opportunity to join in our tripartite meetings – our District in tandem with Districts1100 and 1150.  These have been hugely successful and are ‘must see’s! Previously, we have focused on crowdfunding and building relationships with the press, and the feedback has been extremely positive.

This time, we will focus on social media.  I, for one, know I could improve my skills in this area. Perhaps by the end of my year as DG (which is increasingly looking like it will be conducted virtually in its entirety!) I will be able to claim competence?

Please note that you do need to register in advance – we have to do our best to ensure ‘zoom bombers’ don’t disrupt the meetings. Always delighted to welcome guests to these meetings, but unfortunately people with other than good intentions have been trying to access and disrupt. If only these people used their time and IT skills to better effect!

You are invited to a Zoom meeting.
When: Oct 2, 2020 06:30 PM London

Register in advance for this meeting:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Speak Out at Meetings

Club speakers for Zoom meetings – please share with Penny Underwood details of entertaining speakers of whom you know, so that we can include them on the District website list.

Now more than ever, there is a need – and an opportunity – to engage with a diverse range of speakers for our virtual meetings.

District Forum last Saturday

I’m thrilled to say that this was a successful event with 93 attendees and some powerful content, not least the personal message from Habib Saba, President Rotary Club of Beirut Cosmopolitan.   

Also the vote to release a further tranche of £10,000 from District Reserves to match-fund donations to worthy causes.

One of the main themes of the event was Growing Rotary, and membership chair and DGN Ric Canham presented on different club models and the Rotary Hub – on that subject watch this space.   He also appealed to clubs to share their ideas and experiences with their AGs so that we can pool them and share the best practices with you all.

Rotary supports local causes to the tune of £40,000

As mentioned above, Rotary District 1200 has released another huge £10,000 to local Rotary clubs to support worthy community initiatives.

In spring, individual grants of £250 were being awarded to match-fund club donations to worthy projects which focused on Covid-19 related issues. Consequently nearly £20,000 had gone to help relevant projects in this period.

We realised that, with the ongoing situation affecting our communities and their health and wellbeing, it would be appropriate to keep that vital support for local initiatives going.   

Examples of community initiatives to have benefitted include food banks, family support services, a school making PPE, community response team, carers’ groups, and arts and crafts materials for a homeless hostelry.

So in total, Rotary will have benefited the area to the tune of almost £40,000, and I’m very proud of our ability to support others in need financially, as well as delivering practical help in any instances.

And finally…

I asked for a caption to the photos from the Young Photographer competition.

Thank you, Jackie Henderson, from Yeovil Club, who suggested using Boris Johnson’s mantra of, ‘Hands, Face, Space’. A prize is on its way to you! 


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.

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 

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!

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

The best laid plans of mice and men….

Becoming a Rotary District Governor is a 2 -year journey of preparation, but who could have imagined that the destination for the 2020/21 incumbents would be so different?

I had planned to start my year off with a bang – straight into our District 1200 conference, the day after a joint Rotary and Inner Wheel handover which seemed to me to make perfect sense. Our conference committee had worked tirelessly to create a truly innovative conference programme for one day as opposed to a weekend, whereby we would proactively focus on non-Rotarians as well as Rotarians attending, with a parallel programme of fascinating and fun activities aimed at families – to encourage those who may not normally think of coming along. The best laid plans, and all that…!

Rotary Opens Opportunities 

However, as we are all adapting to a new pace and rhythm of life, some aspects of my year as DG do remain as planned. The overarching international theme for 2020/21 is ‘Rotary Opens Opportunities’, and it’s going to be the challenge for me – and indeed for every Rotarian – to spot the opportunities which this coronavirus pandemic has afforded us. The obvious one is the way we can hold meetings.


Adapting to a Virtual World 

Most of us are adapting to the virtual world (and some with an impressive grasp of new technology – though I only wish I could count myself in that group!) with meetings on platforms such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams, and what this means is that clubs can, in the future, consider holding some of their regular meetings in this way. Whilst not every club or Rotarian may wish to do this, it does mean that we may attract new members who haven’t joined previously because they didn’t actually want to attend regular meetings with meals, etc. It is also the case that we are able to broaden our range of available speakers from an enormous pool of international sources, (and with no associated travel and subsistence costs!) and affords us the ability to invite many more non-Rotarians to zoom into our meetings if the topic is of interest to them.

And indeed, the fact that so many in our communities, and in Rotary, have pulled out all the stops to support others in these strange times, means that there may well be a pool of people who have discovered they enjoy volunteering, and may wish to join Rotary to maintain that sense of purpose, of fellowship, and of achievement. Again, an opportunity for us to showcase our incredible altruistic activities, and invite others to join us. I can’t do it alone – and you can all play your part in making the all important contacts.

District Conference Plans – Caring for our World

Returning to our District Conference plans – well, we’ve postponed to Saturday, April 17th next year, so please do put that date in your diaries and come along to what we hope will still be an interest-filled and rewarding day, with speakers such as Eddie the Eagle and Simeon Moore having confirmed their availability for this new date.

And what if we are all in lockdown again, you may well ask? Let’s hope and pray that is not the case, but if it is, then we will return to our online world and deliver a virtual conference – because life goes on, because many ‘Plan Bs’ and indeed ‘Plan Cs’ may need to be implemented, and because my objective is that we will see positive outcomes in District 1200 in this year. Challenges abound for all of us, but I’m determined that we will major on the silver lining and not the dark clouds of the pandemic!

Rory O’Donnell 

DG’s Blog 29 June 2020.

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.”

Humanitarian Service.

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

DG’s Blog 22 June 2020

Virtual Convention.

Over 54,000 people registered for the 2020 Virtual Convention which started on Saturday and continues this week with various breakout groups. Further breakout groups will continue into July. To register visit There is also a link to register for Taipei in 2021 at a discounted price.

Brit Valley Tea Party.

Who says that fund raising is difficult in the current circumstances? Yesterday, Lindsey Luxton and Brit Valley proved that it is possible by running a Zoom Blooming Tea Party for Marie Curie. Attendee and the club aimed to get 100 people online to share a cup of tea and piece of cake.

Dissolution of Calne.

It is with sadness that I report the dissolution of Calne Rotary Club. Calne was a daughter club of Chippenham and was formed on 30 September 1980 so would have celebrated 40 years later in this calendar year. Declining membership and age had caught up with the club and it was finding difficulty in finding officers and people to run its projects. I am pleased to say that a majority of the remaining members and the club projects have been welcomed to the Chippenham club which has undertaken to support the projects and the Calne community.


Best wishes – Dennis

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