Lesotho borehole project
Northcliff Rotary’s most recent project is an on-going initiative to provide communities and schools in Lesotho with clean drinking water. Run in conjunction with Ficksburg Rotary, the club has already completed the first borehole with a solar pump in Leribe and secured the construction of another five boreholes in the area.
The club’s role has been to organise sponsorship and, together with the Ficksburg club, facilitate the construction and maintenance of the boreholes. To this end, the committee has been responsible for research and due diligence on every aspect of the project – from suppliers to water experts.
Thanks to Rotary’s impeccable reputation, the club has had no trouble in getting relevant stakeholders on board, including Rand Water and a number of interested organisations and nongovernmental organisations. After all, every project needs partnerships to be successful and Rotary Northcliff is very proud to have played a central role in this important international outreach programme.
Saving the ridge
There is no more prominent landmark in Northcliff than the majestic ridge that towers over the area. This natural environment is filled with many species of flowers, birds and grasses – and the views are stunning. Unfortunately, the environmental health of the ridge is often far from ideal. Litter and irresponsible development have impacted on the integrity of the site. So, Northcliff Rotary decided to act!
Several clean-ups of the ridge were organised in conjunction with local schools. Then a long-term project plan was put into place that would establish a nature trail along the top of the ridge. By making this walking route accessible to the local community, it was hoped that the overall condition of the ridge could be improved through responsible use and monitoring.
It turned out to be a long haul! Several routes for the trail were proposed before a suitable layout was finalised. And it took months of negotiations with various authorities to get the necessary permissions and permits. Eventually, four years after the project was adopted, the new nature trail opened to great acclaim. It just goes to show how perseverance, commitment and hard work can pay off.
The wheelchair project is one of the most successful and long-running initiatives. It began in 1993 and is still going strong today. The original idea took hold after members realized that there was an urgent need for wheelchairs in the Johannesburg area.
The call for wheelchairs was sent out and Rushmoor Rotary in the United Kingdom took up the cause. Wheelchairs were collected from agencies such as the Red Cross and national health hospitals who had been storing old wheelchairs in depots across southern England. The first consignment of 56 wheelchairs arrived, courtesy of Swiss Air. Thereafter, wheelchairs were dispatched by sea.
When they arrive Northcliff Rotary collects the wheelchairs and distributes them countrywide through affiliated Rotary clubs in other districts. More than 22 000 wheelchairs have been provided to worthy recipients across South Africa, totally free of charge.
For more than ten years Federated Employers Mutual has been the only funder of this project. However, Sesego Cares recently joined the partnership. This achievement has given thousands of people the opportunity to become mobile, often for the first time in their lives.
Schools and crèches
One of Rotary’s stated goals is to utilise the skills and experience of members to improve the lives of others. Luckily, the membership of Northcliff Club has included highly-skilled individuals with knowledge of engineering and construction. Consequently, the club has helped to build or improve several schools and crèches across the region.
For example, in 1976 a talk by an expert on urban slums prompted the chairman of the vocational committee to remark that, ‘on our doorstep lives one of our most deprived communities, the Western Coloured Township’. Now called Westbury, this impoverished location was in desperate need of a day crèche and Northcliff Rotary took up the challenge. Soon a building committee had been formed as well as a dedicated fundraising team. An illustrated brochure was then produced to help raise the R40 000 needed for construction.
Meanwhile the legal aspects of the project were becoming complicated and it took a personal visit to the Mayor of Johannesburg to secure a suitable site from the city. Eventually the final plans were approved by the council and sufficient money had been raised – including a substantial R500 contribution from the local Westbury community – It was time to build!
As the general supervisors of the project, Rotary Northcliff was responsible for its success. To make sure nothing went wrong, the club secured the services of a reputable builder and members also contributed their time and expertise to render the job on time and under budget. Rotary Anns and other volunteers helped collect and assemble furniture for the crèche, and the completed Hamilton Memorial Crèche was finally handed over to the community in October 1978.
And this was just one of the outreach projects. In the years that followed, Northcliff also facilitated donations and contributed expertise to help build, expand and develop education facilities in Soweto and beyond. Libraries were established at the M’dabane and Moosi High Schools in Soweto. A science laboratory was also erected at the M’dane High School. In Westbury the club advised both the local primary and secondary school about management committees and parents’ associations. Members were always hands-on when site maintenance was required.
All this work was genuinely appreciated by the local communities. It is a testament to the dedication of the Northcliff Rotary members that none of the schools that the club helped build were damaged during the 1976 Soweto riots or during the unrest that followed.
In the 1980s, after following a lead from Operation Hunger, Northcliff Rotary decided to become part of their adopt-a-village campaign. The club’s chosen project was Nebo School, located in a village about 60kms north of Groblersdal. After consulting with the local chiefs and education authorities, over four years members visited the site many times to supervise construction – often pitching-in themselves to ensure that the project stayed on track.
The club also bought a brick-making machine and taught the locals how to produce bricks for the school. When completed the village had a brand-new school, complete with a football field, basketball court and a borehole – the first in the area. Every person who worked on Nebo still remembers the project with fondness and is very proud to have played even a small role in the vital work of rural development and the upgrading of local communities.
Finally, in the early 1990s the club undertook another major educational project – the Harvey Cohen School for Mentally Handicapped in Eldorado Park. After identifying that the institution needed more space, the club approached the Anglo-American Chairman’s Fund to secure money for the construction of three new classrooms. Work space was also created for mothers of children where they could sew and knit to earn a living. The Anns supplied the sewing machines. A carpentry workshop to help the local community develop skills was also built later.
Berrario hall and clinic
As part of Northcliff Rotary’s commitment to the local community, the club supported the idea of building a recreation centre at Berrario. To help convince the municipality that this type of facility was much needed, Northcliff Rotary conducted a comprehensive survey of people living in the area -going from house-to-house with a questionnaire to determine the wishes of the community.
This intensive interaction with the community was gratifying for Rotarians and members of the public alike. And thanks to the overwhelming support demonstrated in the questionnaires, the municipality was convinced. Soon a community hall was built and the community was further uplifted when the site was later improved with the addition of a medical clinic.
Medical wireless communication project
This project began with an address by Chief Lucas Mangope of the former Bophuthatswana in which he mentioned that three isolated clinics in his territory had no means of communication with the main hospital in Kuruman. Northcliff Rotary leapt into action and John Collett, a member with a telecommunications background, immediately drew up plans for an ambitious wireless network to connect the clinics.
With a plan in place, fund raising began in earnest and the Medicall project was honored with the coveted Iona Trophy for Best International Project at the District Conference in 1975. Finally, a challenging implementation in the field and several teething problems later, a functional wireless system was handed over in 1977.
The project was such a success, that the Durban Club launched a similar scheme in KwaZulu-Natal. The first three stations were set up with the help of an experienced representative from Northcliff. Later, the Durban Club expanded the system to include around 20 stations, thus providing the rural areas of their province with an invaluable communication network.