Saturday, 15 March 2014

Rotary Pic n Mix

Some months ago in was asked to prepare a speech on the topic of Pic n Mix.  This particular Club Charter celebration being held on world chocolate day. I thought that what I came up with was worthy of a sharing with a wider audience so here goes

As Rotarians we sometimes have to remind ourselves of the Areas of Focus we have within our community activities – on this occasion let me do that with a twist, or should that be a Curly Whirly or a Twirl?   We have 6 areas of focus to pick from and we often mix them together to provide all that a community needs

Peace is at the heart of what Rotary aims to bring to the world.
The founders of many of our well loved Chocolate brands were of course Quakers, Messrs Rowntree, Fry and Cadbury. And Chocolate can affect people in many different ways like this story from the Berlin Airlift  Suddenly, out of the mist came a parachute with a fresh Hershey chocolate bar from America. It took me a week to eat that candy bar. I hid it day and night. The chocolate was wonderful, but it wasn't the chocolate that was most important. What it meant was that someone in America cared. That parachute was something more important than candy. It represented hope. Hope that someday we would be free. Without hope the soul dies.” 

Our second area of focus is Health & Wellbeing
I’m told that good dark Chocolate is  packed full of good stuff like alkaloids, theobromine and phenethylamine. .  An April 2001 review of recent studies indicates that high dark chocolate consumption can decrease your risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke by as much as 30 percent.  
But you really have to be a fan of raw unrefined chocolate and not to forget that many of these studies were paid for by Mars….

I’m not sure what would be said about eating chocolate at the various Health Mela (Fairs) I have now attended. Rotary is taking part in these events not as a practitioner but as a catalyst for community activity and awareness raising.

Third is Water and Sanitation
If you had to name a crop that was absolutely essential to human survival you probably wouldn’t say cocoa. But the crop that’s the main raw ingredient in chocolate is one we should all be paying close attention to.  In September 2011 scientists produced a report on the likely impact of climate change on the cocoa plantations of Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire – that’s where more than half the world’s cocoa comes from, produced mainly by smallholders with few alternatives for earning a living. - only dentists would be happy about the news that rising temperatures were going to take a big bite out of chocolate production. That’s unless, a new report makes clear, a series of measures is introduced. These range from the development of hardier cocoa varieties, to improved agronomy, to investments in irrigation infrastructure. 

So our Sand Dams projects may be critical to the future livelihood of many rural farmers, and we already know this  … but also critical to the availability and affordability of chocolate for future generations, well for some that may spur on some action.

Next is Maternal and Child Health
Chocolate as an aphrodisiac?  Probably not,  but to the Mayas, cocoa pods symbolized life and fertility.
To us in moderation OK, but how much of our children’s health is affected by chocolate and other sugary candies is open to question …

Our 5th area of focus is Basic Education and Literacy
One of our areas of focus is aimed at helping literacy and education, helping people read and understand the wrappers.  

Numeracy can be supported by Buttons and Smarties - we’ve all done the one for you two for me trick 
Adverts could of course be educational tools, any one care to discuss the following? 
Yorkie;   its not for girls
Cadburys Eat More Milk;   1.5 pts in every bar?
Kit Kat;   2 hours steady nourishment
Penguin;   P' P'  Pick up a penguin

And of course jokes
I heard a rumour that Cadbury is bringing out an oriental chocolate bar. Could be a Chinese Wispa."    Voted the best Joke at the Edinburgh Fringe 

And finally Community and Economic Development
Fair Trade is something that has been encouraged by consumers and of course seen as a good sales pitch.  It only started in earnest in the mid 90’s with Green and Blacks Mayan Gold.   But for us it is something that we almost take for granted – our 4-Way test doesn’t allow us to forget the need to make sure that everything we think do or say is beneficial to all.

The Divine brand is 45% owned by the growers themselves, something we are helping to develop with our microfinance support of the Coffee Growers in Ethiopia

So Pick & Mix – where did the idea, exemplified in Woollies come from?  

Who can forget standing in Woolies... plastic scoop in hand... wondering which of the colourful sweets to add to our paper bag? Or watching in horror as the urchin in front picked his nose and then proceeded to make his selections without the use of the scoop. You'd be amazed at some of the things that used to be seen in the clear perspex tubs (or maybe you wouldn't!)

So maybe it's just as well that this particular institution is pretty well a thing of the past... and that it has been replaced by the hygienic pick and mix of online sweetshops.

For me the best chocolate bar has to be Old Jamaica, apparently no longer supplied to UK stores.  What was yours?

I’ve taken us through a quick insight into the Pick & Mix of Rotary activity.  And I haven’t even mentioned POLIO’s something we have stuck at since 1985.  Just after the launch of Wispa, Boost Coconut has come and gone even Inspirations failed to make it past 1998.

But we’ll continue to close the gap on Polio won’t we ?     

The packaging may change from time to time but “Doing Good” in the world is what we have been doing for 100 years and let’s hope we have many more to come.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Sustainable Communities – Rotary District 1190 Conference March 2014

The theme of our District Conference in March 2014 was sustainable communities

The following is a précis of the talk I gave, as District Governor, during the Conference in which I noted a number of key issues facing our communities and what we as Rotarians are, or could, or should be doing about them.

One of the nations to join Rotary in recent years is Kiribati with a Club on Kiritimati or “Christmas Island” as many of you may remember it.  I remember it well as my father was out there in the mid 50’s building airfields.  This country is no longer worrying about the effects of bomb testing but, along with many other low lying countries this series of Atolls is concerned about the sustainability of life on the island as sea levels rise.

Political Sustainability is challenging many of the countries which Clubs in our District have been supporting in recent years.  In recent months I have been particularly thinking of the Ukraine and Mali.

Closer to home  we are being challenged on issues of unemployment, particularly amongst young people, health issues, particularly in some of our more deprived areas and this year I suspect that the issue of Climate Change and the impact on our communities will really start to hit home across the whole country. 

Sustainable Communities - this concept will take on many different meanings for each of us and I want to take a little of your time to explore what this concept might mean for Rotarians like ourselves

We pride ourselves in being for our Communities and we provide that Community Service on a Global scale.  But do we really know what our communities expect or need from us?

When was the last time you asked your local Parish, Town or County Councillors what support they might like from you?

I was at a meeting with the Rt Hon Francis Maude recently as he met staff and students at Heathlands, a centre for those with disabilities, where we are considering developing Rotaract Club.  It is clear from the national Agenda that the government continues to pursue that, whilst the Big Society may have been re-badged, the concept of self help is still very much in the forefront of their thinking.   Whether you agree or not with the reasons behind the move to this more localised agenda, it is likely to be with us for a long time to come.

Matthew Fox a Catholic Priest noted in his book Creativity that
“We are not consumers.   For most of humanity’s existence, we were makers, not consumers: we made our clothes, shelter, and education, we hunted and gathered our food.

We are not addicts. “I propose that most addictions come from our surrendering our real powers, that is, our powers of creativity.”

We are not passive couch potatoes either. “It is not the essence of humans to be passive.
We are players.
We are actors on many stages….
We are curious, we are yearning to wonder, we are longing to be amazed… to be excited, to be enthusiastic, to be expressive.                      In short to be alive.”

We are also not cogs in a machine. To be so would be to give up our personal freedoms so as to not upset The Machine, whatever that machine is.

Creativity keeps us creating the life we wish to live and advancing humanity’s purpose as well.” 

This definition of who we are has much to offer active Rotarians as we both individually and as an organisation can 
·         Act as catalysts for change
·         Explore innovative ways of engaging with our communities
·         Support those communities who are in need practically and financially
·         Use our vocational and life skills to inform and advise

So what are we doing ?
There are a number of initiatives being considered at the moment at a national level.  One you might have hard of is the Prince of Wales’s “Step up to Serve” Programme, I’m pleased to be able to report that …..
“Rotary International in Great Britain & Ireland (RIBI) pledges to support Step Up To Serve by generating hundreds of opportunities for young people to transform communities and their lives with the creation of 125 new Interact clubs and 300 new Rotakids clubs by 2020. This will be achieved by working with schools and community groups. RIBI will celebrate the inspirational successes of young people with the annual RIBI Young Citizen Awards, in association with the BBC News Channel. The five awards showcase and celebrate the positive citizenship and important responsibilities assumed by many young people under the age of 25 in these islands. “
This one of RIBI’s recently best kept secrets, - and we in District 1190 have already contributed well to this target with our wonderful Rotakids Clubs

Our Foundation Global Grant Bid to support First Responders with Defibrillators and training equipment also encourages the development of Health Melas or Fairs.  Encouraging people in our most disadvantaged areas to take more direct interest in their own Health & Well Being.

During and in the aftermath of the 2005 and 2009 floods we saw a great need, as our colleagues in the South of England have done this year, to support our communities through direct Community Emergency Support.  But whilst we will always lend a hand, it is best to be prepared in advance of any need occurring. 

As a result of taking active roles in these areas of activity & situations we prove that we really are For Communities.  In addition we continue to support our young people, promote community development and arrange fundraising activities

I know from travelling around the District in the last 8 months that Rotarians in District 1190 really are at the heart of our communities.  We are helping make them sustainable as ……
·         We see differently: Our multidisciplinary perspective helps us see challenges in unique ways.
·         We think differently: We apply leadership and expertise to social issues—and find unique solutions.
·         We act responsibly: Our passion and perseverance create lasting change.
·         We make a difference at home and around the world: Our members can be found in your community and across the globe.

There is still much we can do to develop even more positive relationships within our communities and I will continue to help you do just that in the months and years to come.