Tony Lees Rotary meetings on Cunard's Queen Eleizabeth

HAVING spent a few weeks in Australia visiting my son and his family, I boarded the Cunard liner Queen Elizabeth in Brisbane for the journey home back to Southampton, the second half of a world cruise (69 nights), the journey of a lifetime.
On board the ship, there were many things to do, games to play, lectures etc. An Englishman, originally from Ipswich, but now living in North Island, New Zealand travelling to the UK for a holiday asked the Purser’s Office if he could book a private room to endeavour to gather any Rotarians on board together that might enjoy a meeting. His wish was granted, and a splendid room was reserved.
Each evening we received a timetable of the events for the next day – timing from dawn to dusk. This was how the meeting was advertised and at the appointed time, 14 Rotarians gathered for a meeting. We introduced ourselves and described our Clubs. All together there were 12 men and two ladies from Australia, USA (Atlanta, Georgia), Canada, South Africa, UK (Sussex, Derbyshire, West Midlands and Scotland) and the instigator, Ken from New Zealand, who was elected Chair/Governor).
We spoke about our clubs and had a general chat about our main fund raising initiatives. We also discussed our concerns and it was most interesting to find that recruitment of younger members was the main concern, and that recruitment overall was a concern. Many had Corporate Membership and many were interested in our Friends of Rotary Scheme.
After each leg of the journey, passengers disembarked and new passengers joined the ship, and so there was often a slight change to the membership of the Rotary meetings. It was decided that we would meet each fortnight and would hold a lunch meeting from time to time. There was no special menu, just what was to be served that day, but tables were arranged and reserved together.
I spoke about our fund-raising efforts and the causes that we supported both locally and internationally. Particular interest was shown in our Christmas Sleigh, Morrison’s lottery and our Boot, Craft and Produce Fairs.
One Australian told us about their ‘Men’s Sheds’. This is the name given to the provision of a place for men (retired, widowed, lonely, isolated etc.) to meet on a regular basis (weekly or bi-weekly) in the locality with refreshments and possibility of introducing crafts, books, speakers, games or otherwise socialising. This was based on the theory that men don’t meet in the same way as their ladies will – coffee mornings etc. In Sydney, this had proved to be very successful and met a great need in the community.
After one of the Rotary lunches, one Rotarian Richard, a Doctor (GP), from Prince Edward Island, Canada spoke about his involvement – hands on – in a polio project in Nigeria. For several years he, with his club, had been involved in fund raising to provide clean water, set up good sanitation and run health programmes. They had visited Nigeria and realised how desperate was the need for polio inoculations as the disease was still active in some regions of the country.
With other doctors and the support of other clubs in Canada, they set about raising funds to buy the vaccine and pay for some equipment. They worked with Nigerian Rotarians who did the networking for the sanitation and health programmes. Encouraged by their clubs the doctors set about a rigorous 3-year fund raising programme. They had the advantage of access to a fleet of vintage cars which they used to hold car shows and rallies coupled with their fund-raising efforts. Once they had reached their target, they received a grant to match their funds.
They went as a team to join Nigerian Rotarians and set about working through the network inoculating children. By the time that they had completed their schedule, it was estimated that they had inoculated 7 million children. Sadly, the fundamentalist Muslims spread a rumour that the inoculations would render the children sterile and so the project was not as successful as it might otherwise have been. How frustrating but what a great programme that grew out of the idea of three Canadian GPs. It was fascinating to hear from the GP, Richard, who had been at the ‘coal face’ of the project.
Another speaker, David, an Englishman now living in Switzerland spoke to us about his career in the world of diamonds. He began as an apprentice in Hatton Garden and travelled the world in the business. He attended night school and then college overseas as well as a period of work at the mines in Kimberly, South Africa. He ended up as a senior buyer and expert valuer for De Beer diamond company. Unfortunately, he didn’t have any free samples.
The last lunch meeting was held on the ship once we left Tenerife as we had only a few sea days back to Southampton.
The meetings were really interesting and the fellowship great, and they really brought home to you what is meant when we say that Rotary is a worldwide organisation.

posted: Tuesday, 16 May 2017

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