The first thing I have to do as my presidential year comes to an end is to congratulate all our members. This year our club has donated over £11,000 to charitable causes. That is far more than I could have hoped for and could not possibly have been achieved without a terrific team effort. This is a great club and you can all be really proud of yourselves. Give yourselves a round of applause.
Taking on the job of president can be a daunting task, but it is also an opportunity to set yourself personal goals and to challenge yourself to achieve more. Above all it gives you the chance to make a difference by contributing to projects or causes for which you have an affinity. Prostate cancer is a part of my personal history over the last decade and I have received amazing treatment. It has been good to have the opportunity to say thank you by raising money for Prostate Cancer UK which does so much to advance research, treatment and care for those similarly afflicted.
And last Easter, Linda and I visited South Africa and met a man who was clearly devoting himself to advancing the prospects of those in his community by providing employment, education and training.It has been a privilege to be able to give him a generous grant towards achieving his goals.These were my personal charities for my presidential year but with your own initiatives and efforts we have also raised money for Kids Out, St Jude’s School in Arusha, Children in Need, Shelter Box, Mary’s Meals, Epping Forest Food Bank and Voluntary Action Epping Forest, as well as supporting the elderly and vulnerable through carol singing, the Memory Café, and a lunch for the elderly.
At the beginning of my year there were two mountains which raised their heads in the distance – my attempt to walk the whole of the London Loop in sequence and an ambitious fund-raising concert starring my talented grandsons. I was not fully convinced that either could be achieved (and neither were our members, I suspect) so I began the year with trepidation. But there were many lesser peaks to be overcome. Here is a quick run through the highlights of my year, which of course is not over yet.
The first event we took part in this year was the Donkey Derby in Theydon Bois. Several of us dressed in clown costumes becoming human fruit machines. And our new member John Everett and his wife Alice were given a colourful introduction to Club activities. We had lots of fun, raised some money for Jubilee Lodge and strengthened the Club’s profile in the village.
In early August Linda and I held our braai, as the South Africans call a barbecue, a reception for members at Nevin Drive. Members entered into the spirit of the occasion and I wore the brightest shirt I have ever worn. The forecast was poor, but we were lucky and only needed to scamper for cover at the end of the afternoon. The food was great, as it always is when Linda is involved. August ended with Ann’s Bagel Brunch, raising valuable funds for St Jude’s School in Arusha.
On 5 September I started the London Loop from Cockfosters Station doing a couple of short warm-up sections before the official launch at Chigwell Station on 10 September. That was my first leg of over 10 miles, and I was fortunate to have John with me to keep me going and help find a suitable pub for lunch. We were honoured to have our District Governor, Tony, along for the first few miles. This was only the first of many times he has given us active support this year. Thank you, Tony – you’re a star!
In mid-October I completed the final leg of my London Loop just in time for the District Conference in Bournemouth. I managed to raise £1650 in sponsorship for Prostate Cancer UK. Thank to all those who gave support and encouragement. At conference I was very proud when Tony Sharma called me up on stage to talk about my journey. I hope this helped to raise our club profile.
November brought our second big fund raiser of the year with our Halloween Party. Members excelled themselves by their costumes and we all had a thoroughly gruesome time. I was really grateful to Elizabeth and Gordon Wood for letting us use their home and to Linda for masterminding the decorations and inspiring the 'revolting' menu. November is also Children in Need month and Janice Spindlow led a brilliant effort visiting schools collecting donations from primary children, raising not far short of £2000.
On 6th December we had our Christmas lunch and enjoyed a splendid meal together at the Olive Tree in Loughton. Then on 10 December our more musical members went to the Frank Foster Care Home, performing and leading carols. It is easy to forget how much our efforts are appreciated. The support the club provides for our elderly community is really valuable and I hope it won’t be too long before we can resume it. In January too we had a most successful Quiz night. Our thanks go to Hilary and Geoff for running it so efficiently.
In February we were able to help Christine and Trevor Johnson celebrate their Golden Wedding Anniversary. They put on a splendid party. The two of them are part of the backbone of Rotary in London and Christine has been at the forefront of our Roding Club from its foundation. Long may they flourish together.
March brought crunch time for my year as president. Would Brograss make it across and would we be able to get enough bums on seats to make the concert worthwhile. I felt as if I had been begging people to buy and sell tickets for months but only in the last couple of weeks did it become clear that we might have a real success on our hands. Rachel, Jim and the boys duly made it to the UK, worrying slightly that they might be spreading the virus and potentially killing off half the family. After two or three days performing at venues in the north, they came down in time to make a notable contribution to Youth Makes Music. Then came the Saturday night. The audience flooded in and filled the best part of the theatre at Forest School. Wanstead Upbeat got the show off a rousing start and then Tashi and Kaj showed us why they have become such successful ambassadors for American country music. Even grandpa didn’t make too much of an ass of himself. Thank you to all of you who sold tickets, made food, ran the refreshments and raised a serious amount of money for Zulu Birding.
Our final face to face meeting took place on March 3rd when the Covid-19 virus began to affect all our lives. However, we have adaped quickly and continue to meet via Zoom. This may well be the shape of things to come, improving links between Rotary Clubs across the world and inspiring us to carry the Rotary message to a wider audience.
And finally, let me thank everyone very sincerely for all the great support you have given me this. I could single out individuals, but actually, the reason we do so well as a club is that we all pile in and help. You’re a great bunch. And, in case I forget again, a huge thank you to Linda for all she has done this year. I couldn’t have done it without her. Friddy – all the very best for your year. I look forward to working with you.
If you would like to get to know us, text the President, Friddy Bishai, on 07764 662001 and she will send you a link to our meeting.