2006 – 2007 Maureen Boost
Membership: 33-31 My Year as President of Rotary Club of Kowloon North 2006 – 2007 I was honoured to be chosen as VP in 2004 as I was still a fairly new member and realized that I was on the route to become the President in a few years time. The months passed quickly as I arranged the speakers under the Presidency of PP Ian and became PE during that of PP Howard. I was in fact often taking the role of president during that time, as PP Howard had frequently to spend time away from Hong Kong. Before the year started, I was able to attend my first Rotary International Convention in Copenhagen. PP Bill and PE Angela also attended and we enjoyed the feeling of what seemed like a Rotary invasion of this fairly small capitol city. Wherever we went, we saw Rotarians wearing their badges. It really felt like you were part of the worldwide organization. This feeling is always there when you visit Rotary Clubs in other cities – you can always be sure of a warm welcome. I strongly recommend making a point of doing a make-up whenever you are in a new city. You get some great recommendations for sightseeing, shopping and more from the “insiders”. Then finally July came around and my first meeting as the actual President. I was acutely aware that I was the first female president of the Club and that perhaps for some of the long-term members, this was a little difficult to deal with. But the awkwardness for me was broken when PP Michael, who sadly passed away later in the Rotary Year, came over and gave me a hug, saying that this was the first Club President that he had hugged. Not long before taking up the role of President, I had spent the weekend as a Slum Survivor out at the Tuen Mun headquarters of Cross Roads, the charity which was set up by Malcolm and Sally Begbie to recycle goods from Hong Kong to the rest of the world. On Friday evening, I journeyed over there after work to discover that together with three other survivors, “my family”, I would have to build the house that we would sleep in that night – and that it should be ready in about three hours when the food for our evening meal would be arriving! We surveyed the pile of building materials available to us and the other three “families” and I wondered if I would be crouching between three sheets of corrugated plastic, hoping it would not rain. But luckily one of my “family” members was both more ambitious and skilled in building and so he set to with four corner posts and the rest of us dragged over various materials for the walls and roof. We very quickly hammered it all together and soon had a very smart looking shack, which withstood typhoons and black rain storms to be the short term home of several future teams of survivors. Needless to say we were voted the best builders! After our simple meal served on leaves and eaten with our hands, we were glad to retire to our shack for the night, but very pleased when ‘ a delivery of aid” at 1 am meant that we had some simple mattresses to supplement the plastic bags we were sleeping on. Next morning, it was time for role play – we were a family making paper bags for sale to local shops. This is an activity common in the shanty towns around many Indian cities. Each 10 minute session of bag making represented a week in the life of the group and various “hardships” were randomly given to groups as well as opportunities for improvement – if we could afford the money after paying rent, (yes for the shack), and food. It was strange the way everyone became totally immersed in the activity, strong emotions coming to the fore at times. Over the next day and a half, we took part in several other eye and mind opening activities including developed world versus developing world football, road building, and scrounging for food out of rubbish bins. We were all glad when the whistle went and it was time for a wash, a barbeque and a very welcome drink! The paper bag economy role play had deeply affected me and I decided that I would do a re-run of this as the first fund-raising activity of the year. So September saw six Kowloon North “families” starting out their lives as paper bag producers in the hall of the Mariner’s Club. The role of one the fussy shop owners who were only willing to purchase well-made bags was played by PP Ramesh, who almost made one member cry when their bags were rejected, while another was surprised when he became angry – as I said, this game drives the emotions. For those short of cash after a round, there was always the possibility of a loan from moneylender PP Gilbert, but failure to pay back at the end of the next resulted in eviction from your home and having to move under the bridge whilst still being harassed to pay up. The evening was a success and raised $30,000 for Cross Roads. October brought us a boat trip to Lamma and a visit to the ever popular Pigeon restaurant, which has sadly closed down since those days. The MTR boat courtesyof PP David was an excellent venue for some singing and dancing on the way home. Halloween means witches, so to support Christina Noble Fund, Rtn Pauline and I donned our black frocks and hiked from Discovery bay to Mui Wo. November saw RCKN at the races supporting three legged donkeys (well at least I was) running around Shatin. No-one lost their shirt, and one or two members went home quite happy. Our Christmas was dimmed a little by the passing away of one of the brothers of our members PP Gary and PP Michael, so a quiet gathering at the Holiday Inn was attended by most members. Other events in the year included bowling at the HK Club, visit to Christian Action in Chung King Mansions, a BBQ night following a visit to the film archives and joining the centennial walk on the MacLehose Trail. A visit to The Rotary Schools in Guangxi was arranged and a group accompanied by several volunteer optometrists carried out vision screening at a number of primary schools. This was accompanied by screening for carriage of antibiotic–resistant pneumococci by the children, an activity never to be forgotten by PP Ian.
I am pleased that the vision screening trips have continued almost every year since that time and I am immensely grateful to the many volunteers who have accompanied us up the rugged roads to visit the children. My year also saw the beginning of the visits to the PALs – people affected by leprosy – in Guangxi. Over a few years we have helped make their homes a little more “liveable’. Over the year, we had a succession of interesting speakers invited by Rtn Pauline. I would like to thank my Board – Angela, Secretary David W, Treasurer David B, Service Director Ramesh, Fellowship Director Bruce, Sgt-at Arms Nic and everyone else at the Club for their support during my year. Maureen Boost President 2006/07