Changing lives with Rotary aid

Gosport Rotary president Ken Eckersley during the clubs Kids Out event at Paultons Park.

Gosport Rotary president Ken Eckersley during the clubs Kids Out event at Paultons Park.

The Tandem Men George Agate, left, and John Whybrow greeted by friends, family and members of Portsmouth North End Cycle Club just outside the city's ferry port. 
Picture: Habibur Rahman

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FROM running fairs to raising money for charity, Rotary clubs help their communities in a range of ways.

Throughout the year, members volunteer their time and effort into making a difference in their area and helping as many people as possible.

But the international organisation also helps people overseas by sending money or members to help with life-changing projects.

Recently, volunteers from the Gosport Rotary Club went to Albania with pupils and teachers from Bay House School.

The trip is something the club has been doing for many years with the students being a recent addition.

While in Albania, the pupils learned about the history of the country and saw the hard work Gosport Rotary has done in various communities.

One of the projects was run by member Adrian Edgar and his late wife Pam.

Adrian had started to visit Albania as part of the shoe box appeal which sends items to children in poor countries. The shoe boxes are filled with a variety of items from pencils and pens to paper, toys and other small gifts.

The club has been sending the shoe boxes out for more than five years and tens of thousands have been sent to the country.

Adrian’s dedication to the cause and the help he was willing to give saw the town of Librazhd name a street after him.

Adrian says: ‘I was very honoured and most surprised to have the road named after me.

‘After first delivering shoeboxes to the town, I just kept in touch and helped whenever I could when I wasn’t in charge of the shoeboxes any more by supplying equipment to the school.’

Along with his wife Pam, they also helped to improve facilities in a maternity ward in the same town thanks to the fundraising efforts of the Gosport club.

The work in Albania is just one example of the international work the rotary clubs in the area do.

In May, the Waterlooville Rotary Club collected £2,000 for victims following the devastating earthquake in Nepal. Members stood with buckets in the shopping precinct and president Ken Berry said he was stunned by the amount raised.

‘I never cease to be amazed by the generosity of the people in our town,’ he said.

‘We have had appeals like this before and the response has always been excellent, but this one beat all records.

‘We believe deeply in providing essential supplies rather than money and shelter boxes are a living example of this.’

The shelter boxes are another of the projects supported by Rotary.

The charity Shelterbox responds to natural disasters delivering emergency shelter and essential supplies to communities in need.

And it is this sort of help which members enjoy best about being a part of Rotary.

Gosport member Colin Davey, who is the chairman of international work at the club, joined after retiring and has always been keen on charity work.

The 71-year-old, from Alverstoke, says: ‘I have always done charity work because it is something I enjoy doing.

‘I enjoy helping others.

‘The one special thing about rotary is whatever is raised, it all goes to that project.

‘Nothing is spent on administration or volunteers which I think is very important.’

Colin enjoys taking part in the Michaelmas Fair (pictured on the front page)which is an event the club holds every year. It is one of their biggest fundraisers.

But another important aspect of the club is friendship.

Peter Hitchcock joined Gosport Rotary five years ago after his wife died.

The 68-year-old said the club gave him the chance to meet new people and socialise.

‘Rotary really helped me when I lost my wife,’ he says.

‘It gave me the chance to get out and about and the work they do keeps me busy.

‘There are so many people from different backgrounds and lines of work which makes it interesting.

‘It is great to be able to socialise with the members while helping the community and making a difference.’

As well as helping charities Rotary clubs like to help young people and do so by highlighting the good work they do and holding fun days out to theme parks.

Havant Rotary Club holds an awards evening every year to celebrate the good work of people.

This year, they thanked 16-year-old Emily Frost by awarding her the Derek Lamont Young Person of the Year Award.

Emily is head girl at Warblington School and was nominated by assistant head teacher Jane Fletcher for her fantastic work both in the school and the area.

She was presented with the prestigious award by rotary president Mike Sellis.

But the rotary clubs in the area also like to help hundreds of children.

For Gosport, one of their big events is at Christmas when they roll out their Father Christmas sleigh.

Throughout December, they travel the streets of the town inviting children to meet a member dressed as Father Christmas and get a picture in his sleigh.

They also work with the charity Kids Out. Through this charity, members of the clubs can take children out to do fun events from visiting theme parks or taking them to the zoo.

Gosport Rotary took about 2,000 disabled children to Paultons Park including pupils from Fareham-based Heathfields Special School.

Portsmouth and Southsea Rotary made a similar trip in 2012 taking 1,300 children from across Portsmouth to the Romsey theme park.

The club also organises the annual Dragon Boat Festival. The popular race pits teams against each other in rowing boats and raises thousands for charity every year.

Carol Jenkinson, from the Portsmouth and Southsea club, says: ‘For the members who organise the event we end the weekend on such a high, knowing we’ve been able to help so many people raise thousands of pounds for charities.

‘Last year was our 10th year and it’s grown and grown. It’s been absolutely great.’

And it is giving people in the community the opportunity to have fun and take part in new things which makes being a member of Rotary worthwhile.

Ray Drake, from Gosport, adds: ‘We try to give children and people in the community an opportunity.

‘Especially with young people, we want them to see something and have the confidence and the chance to give it a go. That is what rotary is all about.’

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