Where are you from?
I am from Stanwell, very close to Heathrow airport. Now I live in Langley.
What do you do for a living?
I work at as a Nursery Manager in a nursery situated inside a hospital. I have been with the same company for 17 years. I am also the SENCO of the nursery.
What do you do for fun?
I enjoy reading when I get the chance! Watching movies and football (Arsenal Fan), spending time with our children and doing things as a family.
Can you tell us something we might not know about you?
I have broken a fair few bones in my time my leg twice, right arm 8 times and left arm 7 times! I have damaged both knees all as a result of playing football - oh and maybe a drunken girlie weekend which resulted in me ending up in hospital with a broken ankle!!
Where did you last holiday?
My last holiday was to America, we went over for three weeks as my sister-in-law gave birth to baby James! It was a lovely holiday, not only did our daughter turn three, we met our nephew and Matt and I got engaged!
What's your favourite film/book?
My favourite film is Notting Hill; I love the story and its very easy watching! I love to read so I have many favourite books, I love to read anything by James Patterson and Lee Childs, but also Jane Austin!
Why did you join Rotary?
I joined rotary as James and Matthew went out one night and the next day Matt said we were going to a meeting! It’s also a great way to meet new people.
What have you enjoyed most at rotary so far?
I loved helping raise money for Children in Need at Heathrow airport. I got to work with other Rotarians and I met Pudsey Bear!!! I was his guide for 4 hours which was fun!
Which rotary events are you looking forward to?
I am looking forward to helping raise money for children in need again this year
Describe Rotary in three words?
I would describe Rotary as being FUN, CHARITABLE and opening my eyes!
This film tells the story of a young man, Robin Cavendish, who contracted polio in 1958. It was produced by his son, who was born two months after his father became ill.
I almost feel guilty for saying it – but in the first part of this film I actually envied the two main characters. They clearly loved each other very much, and were spending time in Kenya shortly after their marriage. The scenery was incredible, and they obviously had a very privileged life. Somehow I felt these golden days had a dreamlike quality, as though they were not quite real.
Things then came crashing down. Frighteningly quickly polio transformed a fit, healthy, carefree man into a paralysed bed ridden invalid. He could only breathe with a mechanical respirator, in hospital, and was not expected to live more than a few months. The story follows the family as they start to try to cope with this sudden tragedy.
At first Robin felt he should be allowed to die as his wife was young and “could start again”. She refused! Over the next few months, she showed incredible courage and determination – especially if one remembers that they had a tiny baby at the time. This culminated when, after a year, they made the joint decision that he should leave the hospital together with his breathing machine. This was unheard of then and went against their medical advice. Luckily a friend was able to invent a respirator built into a wheelchair – releasing Robin from the captivity of a bed. He could then travel and advocate for other disabled people to have the same machines.
So what impact did this film have on me?
I had no conception of the ferocious speed with which polio can attack a perfectly healthy person. Unlike many people in the developing world, I am lucky enough never to have seen a case of polio. This film brought to life the dreadful effects of polio in a way that facts and figures have never done for me.
It did not shy away from showing the difficulties and dangers of Robin’s condition – such as when the plug for his machine was accidentally pulled out, and the severe bleeding after years of being on a respirator. We saw some of the despair and fears they experienced over the years. Even his decision to choose the time of his own death was portrayed.
I was inspired by the example of the Cavendish family, and their friends, in developing the portable breathing apparatus, and campaigning firstly for this to be more widely available, and then more generally for the rights of disabled people. The couple, and later their young son, showed extraordinary bravery and strength over many years.
“Breathe” reminded me why Rotary’s commitment to the End Polio Now campaign is so crucial. There is a quotation that says “If you think one person cannot make a difference, try spending a night with a mosquito!” This film showed exactly how two remarkable people did make a real difference – and how we in Rotary are doing the same every time we support the fight to end this terrible disease.
The Rotary Foundation is the source of funding for our District and Global Grant Projects, providing clubs with funding for their local and global projects, just like our Nepal School project. All of this is only possible because we, as Rotarians, recognise the need to ensure that The Rotary Foundation has the resources required to fund these important activities.
The best way of funding of The Rotary Foundation is to become a Sustaining Member by signing up to make a personal donation.
Who is a Sustaining Member?
Anyone who donates as an individual donor US$100 or more per year to RFUK for the benefit of the Annual Fund of The Rotary Foundation is automatically recognised as a Rotary Foundation Sustaining Member.
The Annual Fund
Contributions to this fund provide essential funding for the Foundation’s cultural, humanitarian and educational programmes.
Why become a Sustaining Member?
Sustaining members are crucial to the Foundation. If every club member contributes $100 every year, we could double our efforts to help needy people worldwide and support the continued growth of programmes.
Want to know more?
Simply click on this link to download the information leaflet and standing order form: Become a Sustaining Member
Smith’s Coffee House is a family business which prides itself on their distinctive passion for tea and coffee roasting. They started off as a small local roaster in Mill Hill, operating out of a family-run grocery store serving the local Londoners, since 1936. Today, they operate a much larger factory in Hemel Hempstead, complete with state-of-the-art training and tasting facilities. They also supply coffee across the UK and Ireland, Central and Eastern Europe and the Far East.
Our club members had the unique privilege and opportunity of being invited to a private guided tour of this thriving Coffee House, by the owner himself. After receiving a rather warm and inviting ‘latte’ welcome, we were escorted on a fascinating tour of the Coffee House, factory and museum.
We certainly felt well informed after watching the video on the ‘Life of a Coffee Bean’, from the time they’re picked, planted and processed. What a fascinating journey!
Once inside the factory, we savoured the wonderful aroma of freshly roasted ground coffee beans. We definitely came away feeling rather enlightened on the various types of coffee including the complex roasting and blending processes. Our tour ended with a visit to the museum, where we had the opportunity to view some antiquated coffee machines and equipment.
Smiths Coffee House is definitely worth a visit…a massive thank you to the owner for inviting us and showing us around this impressive coffee house.
The Rotary Club of Maidenhead Bridge invited town residents to pick up some health tips and information alongside their shopping this weekend. Over 80 people took us up on our offer, receiving blood pressure checks, cholesterol checks, diabetes checks as well as advice on exercise, healthy eating and mental health.
We took over a unit in the Nicholson Shopping Centre from 10am to offer advice and information on getting fit, eating healthily, the effects of high cholesterol and how to manage it, diabetes, and the risks of high blood pressure – all completely free of charge with no obligations.
Neil Gow, event organiser, commented “After having their blood pressure checked 19 people were advised to visit their GP within a month and two were advised to visit their GP within a week. This proves that these events really do potentially reduce ill-health and perhaps save lives.”
Having teamed up with Hearth UK to offer free cholesterol checks and blood sugar tests; the team gave advice on how to lower cholesterol levels and avoid contracting diabetes, which is an increasing healthcare concern. Of those who were tested 10 were advised to make changes to their diet immediately and two were given advice on medication to manage high cholesterol and told to speak to their GP for further investigation.
The team were also joined by staff from The Magnet Leisure Centre who were on hand to talk to people about healthy eating and the importance of exercise to maintain a healthy weight and promote healthy hearts.
For the first time this year advice was also on offer regarding mental health. Rotarian Victoria Williams, a therapeutic coach, spoke to people about mental well-being, tips on reliving stress and anxiety and signposted visitors to organisations that can provide additional support.
Another new feature of the event was an onsite consultation on good posture from Laura Rigby from Berkshire Health Clinic. Laura not only gave advice to the public, but more than a few Rotarians who took advantage of the superb service Laura was providing.
The Health Awareness Day, Fit for February, is just one of the many local community based activities carried out by the Rotary Club of Maidenhead Bridge, alongside a free Easter family fun day in Grenfell Park and a close working relationship with FoodShare helping to feed the hungry in Maidenhead and the immediate area.
Bouncing around in the tractor, I narrowly escaped unconsciousness as my head threatened impact with the metal frame holding up the canopy ‘protecting’ us from the elements. I exchanged smiles with my fellow Rotarians, belying the discomfort and fear we were feeling. What had led us to this situation and was it all worth it?
Exactly 5 years previously, I had trekked to Everest Base Camp, raising money for RP Fighting Blindness. It was a profound experience in a wonderful country – the beautiful Himalayan mountain range, the rich culture and the humbleness and welcome of the Nepalese people. Following the news of the devastating 2015 earthquake, Maidenhead Bridge Rotary Club (MBRC) members (many of whom also had personal connections to Nepal) were committed to finding a sustainable project to help in some small way.
The power of Rotary
Our club connected with Faringdon Rotary (FRC), who already had links with Kopundol Rotary (KRC) in Kathmandu. I joined Gordon and Bjorn from FRC on a trip to Nepal in October 2017. Maheswor from KRC, who has been leading on school reconstruction projects, is also a tour operator and pulled together a packed programme for our 2 week stay.
We received a warm welcome at the KRC meeting. It began formally with a silence for peace and a recap of the Rotary 4 way test: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned? The club membership consists mainly of male professionals. One member commented that they were surprised to see a lady Rotarian!
FRC spoke of partnerships, projects and presentations. I winged a short and sweet introduction on our club culture and what had brought MBRC to Nepal. I gave the President a gift from our club – a desk block with photographs of iconic places in Maidenhead, including the Brunel Bridge.
Demographics and formalities aside all 3 clubs were able to demonstrate that we are working towards the same goal. I can honestly say that by the end of the 2 weeks a strong bond formed between the clubs and friendships were forged.
Our trip coincided with Tihar – the Festival of Lights. A profusion of colour, candles, lights, music and dancing emanated from every corner of the city. Dogs are celebrated on one of the days and garlands adorned their necks as they slept in the warm smoggy streets of Kathmandu.
We were invited into Maheswor’s home and enjoyed a traditional Newari meal. We sat on the floor and ate with our hands. The ceremony culminated in blessings from Maheswor’s wife. Rotaract performed traditional songs and dances, before dragging the unsuspecting audience to partake in the revelries – much to my embarrassment as I don’t seem to have been gifted with a sense of rhythm!
Bhai Tika falls on the last day of the Tihar festival - the celebration of brothers - I sent mine a simple text message, as I reflected on the symbolic importance of the day.
HORAC Children's Home
We met Tej, the Director of HORAC Children's Home in the gardens of the Summit Hotel (our home for a week) on the day we arrived. I hadn’t even had the chance to unpack my mosquito repellent and was consequently bitten all over! Tej, an orphan himself, now runs the home with compassion, dedication and a strong vision for the future. He explained that the 32 children have come from Western Nepal and have been orphaned by war, disaster or given up by their families. London RC and Faringdon RC currently provide annual grants supporting with education.
Later in the week, we visited the home and were treated to performances of singing and dancing by the talented children. It was evident how hard they had worked and they took pride in showing us around the home. We met with Tej again and I asked about non-financial support. We will be discussing ways we might be able to help via our ‘Pimp my Community’ scheme. Watch this space. More information on HORAC can be found here: www.horac.org
Habitat for Humanity Site visit
In 2012 a team from Faringdon Rotary were part of a Humanity for Habitat project. Bjorn and I travelled to the site in Dhulikel to see how the houses built had fared after the earthquake. The results were shocking, with only 2 or 3 of the 40 houses remaining. Bjorn is following up with Habitat.
Opening of Shree Tara School
Faringdon RC was a major donor in 2015/16 for the reconstruction of the main classroom block, which had been badly damaged in the earthquake. We were greeted by the teachers and children with garlands and prayer scarves. I was whisked away by some children to see their classrooms and I wrote my name and Namaste (greetings) somewhat illegibly on the white board. They all wanted individual photographs with me, for which the Kopundol RC President’s daughter kindly obliged. I wasn’t AWOL for too long as I managed to catch up with the others in time for the formal presentations.
Visit to Shree Ratna School
We visited Shree Ratna School, which was undergoing reconstruction and had been supported by the Winchester Nepalese Community. A new computer lab funded by ‘My Nepal’ had been installed. A proposal for equipping a science lab has now been received but we have decided to concentrate our efforts on one project – Saurpani.
Saurpani Primary School
So back to that tractor…….. Saurpani is high in the Gorkha hills and for many the journey would be insurmountable. We began by car and then transferred to a 4 wheel drive truck as we negotiated off road. There came a point where we had to abandon the vehicles and trek on foot. As I panted and sweated up the hill, I thought back to 5 years earlier when I last trekked in Nepal and realised that to maintain the same level of fitness, you actually need to continue exercising!
After about an hour or so, we came across a man with a tractor. After some negotiating by our Nepalese hosts, we found 4 of us, plus driver, squeezed into the front section, with others standing behind on the trailer. I am pleased to say we eventually reached our destination.
Two lines of children greeted us, pressing small marigold flowers into our hands, which we clasped together saying Namaste (also thank you). We surveyed the school and met with the school management team. Two buildings were completely destroyed in the earthquake. The school has 160 students, although 200 before the earthquake – many have moved out to the city centres for their education. There were a number of temporary learning classrooms that had been erected by social organisations. One building was being rebuilt with government funding and the school are now requesting funding for a 3 room building. At a recent club meeting, we agreed to put £1000, already raised and being held by KRC, towards this project.
Exploring the spiritual
My guide book said if you ask a Nepalese person if they are Hindu or Buddhist they will answer ‘yes’ and this was proved correct when we asked one of our drivers that very question. Both religions appeared to sit comfortably alongside each other.
In Lumbini we visited Buddha’s birthplace and in Kathmandu visited the Buddhist Stupa at Budnanath (now completely refurbished after the earthquake, with money coming from the Buddhist community). We had an audience with a monk at a monastery, having been advised by our guide that the monks sitting outside Buddha’s birthplace were “fake monks” – attempting to get money from unsuspecting tourists.
I was incredibly saddened to see the earthquake damage in Kathmandu. Reconstruction is slow with much of the funding in Durbar Square coming from the US and China. Tourists that had filled the market 5 years ago remained elusive. However, we were told that tourism is beginning to pick up again from this year.
The roads and infrastructure have also paid the price, which exacerbates the already dangerous driving conditions that I remembered. Cars, motorbikes and people vie for position – undertaking, overtaking, swerving to avoid damage in the roads, whilst invariably speaking on mobile phones. We experienced a few near misses with a small child and a dog running out in front of the car; road rage and minor altercations.
Pollution is prevalent not only in the cities but I even saw piles of plastic bottles and other rubbish in Chitwan National Park. Given the big task that Nepal has ahead in rebuilding, I fear that environmental issues are at the bottom of the agenda. But amongst the rubble, the pollution, the congestion – there lies a beautiful country with the resilient Nepalese people at its heart.
Village tours – voyeurism?
I battled with the concept of village tours and their sustainability. We walked through a Gurung village and also visited a Tibetan refugee camp. The benefits feel more in favour of the tourist rather than the villagers. Taking photos feels invasive but usually comes at an expected price. I asked our guide what the villagers think of the tours and how it benefits them – he couldn’t really give me a satisfactory explanation. It of course benefits the tour guides which in some way is helping the economy. I certainly felt more informed about other people’s ways of life and where there was more interaction with the villagers it felt less intrusive. However, this interaction has to be managed carefully and I feel that is where a responsible tour guide should educate the visitors prior to a visit and any programmes/tours devised in consultation with the community.
Elephant riding ethics
Whilst I am on my soap box – another ethical dilemma presented itself on our trip – to ride an elephant at Chitwan National Park or not. I had read before I went that many tour operators are banning elephant rides from their tours due to the inhumane ways in which they are treated. The flipside is that they bring in money. I decided to go ahead with the ride in order to make my own informed view.
I witnessed first-hand the elephants chained up – a baby elephant struggling to reach its mother for milk and another rocking back and forward, clearly distressed. We crammed 4 people into a contraption which sat on the elephants back and the mahout sat on the elephant’s neck. The neck is the place where you should sit on an elephant but the back causes stress. I was on an elephant with 3 strangers, who moved about every time there was wildlife to photograph. One alleged advantage of riding an elephant is that you are more likely to come across a tiger as it would not be disturbed by an elephant but would be by a jeep. However the time of day and the short routes taken negate any chances of spotting the rare Bengal tiger.
My conclusion is that I would not do this again – it felt more like a ride for the sake of an elephant ride rather than to enhance a wildlife experience. Some tour operators now allow rides in Chitwan National Park because of the economic benefits that bring in conservation money for other endangered species, such as the tiger. If rides are to continue, I believe much more needs to be done to ensure the elephants are treated in a humane manner. Alternative activities and revenue streams could also be looked into.
I feel very privileged to have spent such an incredible time in Nepal with great companions. We were immersed in the culture and realities of living. A memorable experience.
I will be joining FRC on 24th January at their meeting, where Gordon and Bjorn will be doing a presentation to their club. FRC will join us at our meeting on Sunday 4th February where we will give another talk.
A group of us are partaking in the Langley and Iver Rotary Moonraker Challenge in March to help raise more funds for the Saurpani Primary School project. If you would like to sponsor the team, please get in touch.
In answer to my earlier question – ‘was it worth it?’ If we can raise the necessary funds then I would say that the answer is most definitely yes.
And what a bath that was! As the lyrics go, ..a-splishin' and a-splashin', reelin' with the feelin' movin' and a-groovin' rockin' and a-rollin', yeah, yeah.. That pretty much sums up my experience at the Annual
Swimarathon that took place at the Magnet Leisure Centre in
Maidenhead on the 6th of January.
The atmosphere was electrifying, the smell of the chlorine, the calm water and the sound of flip-flops; an all, too familiar setting; flashbacks from when I was in my early teens, when I used to swim for the Kyrenia Nautical Club.
I must admit, I did not pace myself on my first 2 lengths (1 circuit) which meant that it took me a while to get my heart rate back in check, but we made good progress at the end. With Lisa on the helm it’s difficult not to perform, and perform we did, with 80 lengths between the 4 of us in 50 minutes.
We moved, we grooved, we rocked and we rolled and then we realised how unfit we are… Yet what a day, we had fun while at the same time aiding a philanthropic cause, raising more than £500.
This is a highly recommended event for all of you swimmers (or floaters) out there of all ages...so I hope to see more of you joining the team next year!
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.