Welcome to Harpenden Village Rotary Club

ZOOM KEEPS CLUB IN BUSINESS

While the Government’s coronavirus road map is still in place we are holding meetings by video-conferencing on Zoom only.

Break-out sessions, where groups of four or five members are placed in ‘rooms,’ are proving popular as they enhance the social side of meetings.

We’ve had the usual measure of speaker meetings with some speakers showing videos supporting their talks.

We’re not sitting on our hands, either. Committees and other groups are meeting via Zoom so it’s almost ‘business as usual.’ But what we’ll be able to tackle and achieve in 2020-21 is still difficult to assess in these uncertain times.

As our immediate past-president commented when the impact of the pandemic first hit us:  ‘Rotarians are positive people. They see problems as obstacles to overcome – and usually succeed.’

AFRICA FREE OF POLIO – But Campaign Continues

Rotary’s campaign to rid the world of the debilitating disease polio reached another milestone last year when the World Health Organisation certified Africa as wild-polio free.

Rotary clubs and volunteers around the world have fundraised, campaigned and worked tirelessly for more than 30 years to reach this landmark.

Our club has contributed every year since we were chartered in 1988. In the past five years alone our donations to the End Polio Now campaign have totalled more than £10,000. Our contribution in 2019 earned us a Rotary award. But the task of achieving a polio-free world goes on, as the virus still circulates in parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Speaking Across the Divide

The talk ended. The President called for questions. But for a full two minutes there was no response. We were all still trying to absorb what we had heard from two speakers who could not be more different: the daughter of Holocaust survivors and the grandson of an SS officer.

Neomie Lopian related harrowing tales of her own and her parents’ experiences as Jews living in German-occupied France. She quoted from her father’s graphic book, The Long Night.

British-born Derek Niemann, a writer and author, decided his German ancestry was a subject worth exploring. His discovery that his grandfather was an SS officer and had used slave labour for Nazi purposes in nine concentration camps made him realise how easy it was for basic human failings to lead us into terrible actions.

Neither speaker resorted to drama in relating their stories nor in their answers to the many questions that ultimately came in a rush. Their calm delivery underlined how they had come to realise that they shared the same goal: to inform people of the perils of extremism and the ways reconciliation and peace, coupled with international understanding of past atrocities, can be fostered.

Since 2018 they have talked at schools, universities and synagogues, and given presentations to the Cabinet and other government departments. This was their first talk to a Rotary Club and drew our largest audience of members and guests for a Zoom meeting. 

A FUTURE IN OUR HANDS

The talk given by Professor Ed Hill, chief executive of the National Oceanography Centre (NOC), was enlightening.

He spoke not of the five named oceans but of the single ocean, constantly snaking its way through five basins with climes from hot to cold, covering 71% of our planet’s surface and circulating 97% of its water.

The ocean is the largest reservoir of CO2 while half the oxygen we breath is produced by marine plankton. 91% of world trade travels by water. Evidence enough of the ocean’s importance to life and livelihoods.

With mankind and global warming putting pressure on the ocean we need organisations like the NOC, using the latest technology – like the deep-water AI explorer pictured here – to assess the threats and hopefully find solutions.

Professor Hill was far from despondent. He saw the international action now being taken as crucial: it should ensure there was enough time in which to understand the problems and manage the ocean’s future.