Monday, 16 May 2011
What if? New bike = healthier lifestyle
This is the story of what Rotary is about. Taking a big idea and planning to make it happen. It is a story of making a difference for new generations and it is a story of Rotarians working collaboratively together across Rotary clubs.
In May 2009 the 2010-2011 conference for District 9980 was being planned and the initial focus was on who would be the inspirational speakers. I believed that as the theme of the conference was “Show your True Colours” we needed to make sure this was evident in what we highlighted. An idea of having Rotary in Action as part of the conference programme suggested and the idea of making a difference for 100 children and their families was born.
The plan to give 100 local 8/9 year olds a new bike and support them to develop a healthier lifestyle was developed.
Where to start? The first thing was to look at the finances and see if it was possible. The costs were explored and it became clear that the whole project would be close to $20,000. Using $5000 from the conference budget was the first funding (this was an approximate cost of a speaker, flights etc). The five Invercargill Rotary Clubs were approached and asked to support the idea and put up $2000 each and the District was approached for a DSG for each club for $1000 each.
A committee made up of members from the five Invercargill Rotary clubs was set up and each club was given the responsibility for one aspect of the project. These included:
· Sourcing the bikes, transporting them to Invercargill, organising storage, planning working bees to assemble the bikes, sourcing expert help
· Developing packs to go with the bikes which included bike helmets, padlocks, safety vests, safety instructions
· Developing criteria for choosing children, liaising with local Invercargill schools, choosing children, contacting parents
· Organising transport of bikes to the Velodrome on the day of the conference, organising parents and children transport to the Velodrome, managing transport for the conference attendees
· Planning the refurbishment of a local Cycle Park to fit in with the District Community Day. The purpose of this was to provide a safe place where the children could ride their bikes at minimal cost
A member of the conference committee PHF Louise Pagan was the chair of this committee and she was the liaison between these groups and the conference committee. Her major responsibility was to keep the project on track, to plan the presentation at conference and to plan publicity to support this idea. Her choice was inspired. She managed this project superbly and followed through with making the dream a possibility.
And so the project blossomed and grew like a well cultivated flower.
Picture this. The conference attendees had been told there was a mystery speaker on the Saturday afternoon. As the afternoon progressed attendees were taken from the conference venue, loaded on to buses and transported to the Velodrome. The Velodrome was also packed with 100 children and their parents and families. Races by local riders and an introductory speech by the CEO of the Velodrome started the session and then 100 children’s names were called and they were asked to come to the centre of the Velodrome. As they did this 100 Rotarians wheeled out green bikes with the back packs and wheeled them up to the children. Children took the bikes and then they were told the bikes were theirs. It was a very emotional moment for all.
It is intended that the five Rotary Clubs develop an on-going programme of involvement with these children and others by carrying out sessions at the refurbished bike park and on the bike tracks around Invercargill.
A letter from one parent whose child was chosen says it all:
“We were excited and humbled to receive the letter telling us that our daughter Maryanne (Mae) had been selected to receive a new bike. Of course, we try hard to raise our children with a social conscience. We are a family of limited means but it’s in our DNA to do what we can for other people before ourselves. It makes us very proud that Mae is growing with this same sense of generosity of spirit. The presentation couldn’t come at a better time. 14 May is just two weeks before her 9th birthday, which was going to be a very quiet day this year. Her existing bicycle has seen better days. It’s older than she is; a bit too small, a bit rusted, one of her tyres has a persistent leak and the brakes aren’t flash. We haven’t been able to afford to have it repaired so she hasn’t been able to ride it for some time. She would be beyond excited to know that she’s going to have a new one, but as we haven’t told her, we’re just going to be excited for her. We would also love for you to pass on to Rotary, that we are overwhelmed by their kindness. I’m almost in tears writing this. I know that this is the way Rotary operates, but this gift for Mae means so much in what has been a very difficult year for our family; I just can’t express it in words. I’m quite sure that for many of the other families of these 100 children, this is going to be a monumental blessing too.”Submitted by: DG9980 Trish Boyle.