Suspending its Friday morning breakfast meeting and switching to Zoom meetings had an unanticipated benefit for the Rotary Club of St. Albert.
“One really nice part of having online meetings is that we have been joined by visiting Rotarians, former Rotarians who have moved away, and some of our former inbound and outbound exchange students and their families,” writes club president Ann Ramsden. “Our theme that ‘Rotary Connects the World’ is alive and well on Friday mornings in St. Albert.”
While the pandemic disrupted the club’s plans for a 30th anniversary celebration scheduled for March, it prompted Rotarians to find new ways to serve in their community in the face of COVID-19.
“At the beginning of the Rotary year, we established a committee to look for a 30th anniversary project,” Ann says. “In February, we had no clear frontrunner and in April we decided to change the focus and formed a task force to look at what the club could do in the community in response to COVID-19. We are aware of not only the immediate needs in our community, but we are all looking at longer-terms needs that are going to arise due to the effect of COVID-19 and the recession that will follow.
“Members of our club are volunteering at the local food bank as they look at different ways to distribute the increasing number of food hampers.”
Virtual Pints for Polio
Knowing that the campaign to end polio now must continue despite the current COVID-19 pandemic, Rotarians in Dawson Creek have organized a virtual fundraiser which Rotarians across the District are invited to attend. The virtual Pints for Polio event will be held Wednesday evening, May 20, between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m. MDT.
The virtual pub will feature performers from Newfoundland and Los Angeles.
“I’m excited about doing this,” says Rotarian Shirley Viens. “Music connects us and inspires us, especially during times like we are in right now.”
Attendance is limited to 100, so early advanced registration is recommended.
Global Grant scholar will complete studies from home
COVID-19 meant Rotary Global Scholar Kassia Fardoe had to make a decision. Would she remain in England, where she was enrolled in the London School of Economics, or would she return to Edmonton?
“LSE had said that anyone who wanted to was absolutely OK to go, and that they would be moving things online,” Kassia says. “Even exams were guaranteed to be done in a way that would be accessible to everyone, no matter where they were in the world.”
After discussions with her parents, several Rotarians and her school, Kassia decided she would return home. The initial response of the British government also factored into her decision.
“While I was there, [British Prime Minister] Boris Johnson began discussing doing pretty much nothing and aiming for a herd immunity strategy,” Kassia says. “Since I have come home, they have reversed on that strategy and did implement a proper lockdown, but it did scare me a bit that the UK government seemed to be all over the place in terms of what they were doing.”
The approximately 750 students living in the residence where Kassia stayed while in London represented close to 100 countries.
“Goodenough College was founded after World War II, initially as a thank you to Commonwealth countries. At first, only students from Commonwealth countries were allowed to live in the building but now anybody can stay there,” Kassia says. “Over the years, they have had students from every country in the world, although the vast majority are students from Commonwealth countries and from the U.S.
“With the Rotary Global Grant scholars, all the Canadians chose to go and all the Americans chose to stay,” Kassia says. “It makes me thankful to be a citizen of Canada. I felt that Canada was best equipped to deal with this situations, while Americans felt very much the opposite, and this was before the U.S. is in the situation it is today.”
Back in Canada, Kassia has just completed her final exams, which wrapped up her course work and she will now be working to complete a dissertation.
“This program is made up of three-quarters course work and the last quarter will be one big written project.”
For that part of her program, she will be looking at the flaws in conservation humanitarianism.
“Neocolonialism and a colonialism framework of humanitarianism and mission projects and conservationism has been criticized for a very long time,” Kassia say. “You have seen that now there is a rise in people speaking out against unsustainable volun-tourism, for example.
“This is something that Rotary does a very good job at, because much of what Rotary takes on is very, very sustainable because clubs take on different areas that they work on for a very long time.”
If circumstances permit, Kassia hopes to be able to return to London. “England is starting to open up a little. We will see how things go,” she says. “If I could go back for the late summer or whatever, I would like to go back for a while.”
Virtual cooking, a virtual walk in Yellowknife
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rotary Club of Yellowknife True North is finding ways to remain connected with its community and raise funds to support projects.
The club is hosting virtual cooking classes with Chef Ajay Chauhan, which Rotarian Cameron Twa says, “have been quite successful.”
The Rotarians and non-Rotarians who attended the class on April 19 learned to make vegan butter chicken. A month later, on May 9, hara bhara, green vegetarian kebab on a burger bun with fresh mint chutney, was on the menu.
Participants were asked to preregister, after which they were sent a shopping list and advance preparation instructors. They were also asked to contribute toward a True North community project.
“At the moment, we are working on building a bridge to the historic Black Bay Cemetery,” Cameron says.
“It is likely we will do more sessions, with a goal of eventually integrating an in-person component, as well,” he says.
Information on future classes will be announced to Rotarians across the District through the CONNECTIONS newsletter.
Another pandemic-related challenge was how to hold a five kilometre walk during a pandemic. Well, if you are the Rotary Club of Yellowknife True North, you make it a virtual event.
“This year, with social distancing a thing we could not host a traditional event. So we improvised to a virtual format,” says Cameron.
“This was a huge event for community. Two hundred and eighty people signed up and that’s 1.4 per cent of Yellowknife’s population.
“There was no set distance, route or starting line. The starting line was virtual, through a zoom meeting,” says Cameron. “Ensuring people stayed distant and still were social was the tricky part. We encouraged people to wave, cheer and say hi to anyone out there, because it was likely they were part of the event.
“So that we were not doing an event for the sake of doing an event, we came up with an innovative theme — helping small business coffee shops,” Cameron says.
“All the coffee shops we helped are open, but their business models had to radically change. Bringing in revenue is difficult but they are finding ways. This could be through delivery, through catering or through partnerships with local grocery stores to sell beans.
“Our biggest concern was that the staff who normally get tips because of the social side of a coffee shop experience were being hurt financially.”
Walkers raised $620 for each four coffee shops in gift cards and the rest in tips.