Volume 09 Issue 03

Dear Fellow Rotarians,

with so much going on and so little time to look back, please find an exciting double feature of the Sampan to revisit everythings we can’t afford to forget from the happenings of late February 2009.

The new Sampan has 2 Sections in 5 parts:

Ad hoc conclusion of the 6-Club Project
Bill Benter honoured as Contributing Member by Alliance for Smiles
Lunch Meeting – 20 February 2009 Prof Peter Swann – Diabetes and the Eye
Lunch Meeting – 27 February 2009 Prof Maureen Boost – The Potatoe in History
The Announcements

Yours in Rotary,

Sampan Vice Editor

Part 1 February 20th

1. The Strange Surprising & Most Remarkable ad hoc conclusion of the 6-Club Project

As everyone is aware, it took the world some billion years to arrive at today – and see in what imperfect state it yet is! This in mind, it was history in the making quite at big bang speed when Rotary, always first to the rescue and always the nimble paragon of the afflicted, today provided yet another occasion for universal cheer by taking a giant step forward with one of RCKN’s most ambitious endeavors: The 6-Club Project.

As it happened, a decision was made during the Presidency of Ian Petersen in 2004/2005 at the celebration of the Club’s 40th Anniversary in May 2005 to engage in a project involving the Rotary Club of Kowloon North (RCKN), its four sister clubs (namely, 1. the Rotary Clubs of Taipei North, Taiwan, District 3520, 2. Jurong Town, Singapore,  District 3310, 3. Ama, Nagoya, Japan, District 2760 and 4. Mandaluyong, Manila, Phillipines, District 3800) and the Rotary Club of Macau, in our own District 3450.
All six clubs immediately made donations at that time with the aim to rebuild school facilities in Guanxi Province where RCKN, as the initiating and coordinating club of this new Anniver­sary project, had already established relationships and rebuilt several schools in cooperation with the Rotary Club of Macau.

However, and in a way as a good indicator of things improving in China, over the years since then RCKN was, in spite of its best efforts, unable to find a suitable school where it felt that the money raised would be put to good use. It also became clear that the need for help from outside to rebuild schools in Guanxi had reduced owing to the local government having started to devote more resources to education and schools building in the area. Moreover, after the Sichuan earthquake and the collapse of many schools in that province, various authorities throughout China were taking separate steps to improve schools to avoid other such tradegies.
Therefore, RCKN started to look for worthwhile alternative use of the funds raised and has been doing so ever since to a degree that matters of vision and eyesight have become quite a focal point of their service projects, their luncheons (see below) and their membership recruitment criteria.

However, as he who dilligently straineth his eyes will finally espy what he’s been looking for, RCKN has recently found a new project that aims to help rehabilitate 1,000 victims, including 150 children, disabled by the Sichuan earthquake in partnership with Handicap International (HI for better Rotarian lingo) as the implementation agency (see http://www.handicap-international.org)

This important project has a total cost of US$ 29,275.

Of this, about 40% will be contributed from the six clubs, with yours RCKN being the largest contributor and the driving force of a DDF grant application from our District 3450 and a matching grant one from Rotary International’s TRF to make up the balance. We are hopeful of succeeding in these applications with our District already being very supportive. In view of the great need for rehabilitiation of the disabled people concerned, RCKN hopes to get this project, which will last about two years, under way as soon as possible this year.

Denouement on February 20th
Jumping on the opportunity of the 20 February visit to our club’s lunch meeting of both the current President of our sister Rotary Club of Taipei North, Simon Lin, and PP Matt Hsu of the same club – he the President in 2004/05 and the organizer of Taipei North’s original donation towards the six club project – our President David and PP Ian introduced the new project proposal to them.

Rotarians set to alleviate the misery of Sichuan Earthquake victims

Taipei North were delighted to hear news of the project. They immediately gave their support to it by including a further donation in addition to their original one which was quickly and expertly stashed away on the spot into the „Rotary-Section“ of Treasurer Ian’s time-honoured purse: a great outcome of cold calling which, in the beaming words of our silver-tongued man himself  „truly demonstrates how Rotary can work internationally across borders to help improve people’s lives“.

Subsequently, our President David Wright went to brief RC of Macau and approach our DG, our District TRF Chairman and our District Grants Committee Chairman, wright the day after at the District Conference held in Macau on 21 and 22 February, where he immersed himself in the exciting atmosphere, joined by his wife Mary and fellow Rotarians Bruce, Angela, Emba and Akanksha.
Response from the other sister cubs has been enthusiastic and both President David and PP Ian are now vigorously following up to get this project off the ground at even bigger bang speed: expect to read more about it soon.

2. Alliance for Smiles bestows Contributing Founder Status on RCKN Member Bill Benter

It would probably take a small team of specially appointed historians to chronicle all the instances of Rotarian Bill Benter taking on a charitable cause singlehandedly (and we are sure our unassuming man would mind the intrusion) – however, whenever privy to yet another indication of his unending goodwill, the event should get a special, if incomplete mention under its own heading:

Stepping forth from the fairly large crowd of visitors today came Anita Stangl, one of the five founding members of the Aliance for Smiles. She had taken a detour to Hong Kong on her 17th field trip to China to thank Bill Benter for a generous donation made to her organization’s Indian expan­sion on behalf of RCKN.

As the Alliance had recently launched its first Asian operation outside China into Bangladesh, the Emblem of RCKN featured prominently on t-shirts advertising the venture all over Dhakar City – a very tiny one of which she now had brought along as a gift to the club – not quite, as obvious from the picture to the right, the size of that day’s acting President David Lindsay, but, as he noted, almost taylormade for our wiry present President who just in time took over after some delay.

She further awarded a special badge honouring Bill Benter with the status of “Contributing Founder”, an honorary title bestowed on those who fund AfS significantly and for which the deserving will be recognized in perpetuity in AfS literature and on their website http://www.allianceforsmiles.org.

3. Lunch Meeting – 20 February 2009 Prof Peter Swann – Diabetes and the Eye

We were then treated to a special edition of „Un Amour de Swann“. Professor Swann is an engaging repeat speaker at the club on all matters ophthalmologist who turned to his most colourful elaborating on visual defects brought about by diabetes, a follow-up on two previous introductions to general problems of the eye. In fact, the range of colours and patterns presented in his slides would have made an inspiring contribution to the home-improvement section of „House & Garden“.

Diabetes is a disease often unnoticed by its victims. It can affect all tissues of the human body and will, the longer someone is afflicted with it, with a certainty of 90% engender eye defects.

We were shown quite a variety of rotten eyes and their arteries, milky and red pupils, examples of glaucoma, trombosis and cataracts, some instances of sclerotic vessels in patient’s retinas after repeated and accelera­ted haemorrhages and an infestation with toxic fat, both of which disallow the bloodvessels oxygenation: People, keep an undiabetical eye on your blood sugar!

Once a region of the retina is barren, it proliferates new blodvessels which are so fragile that they easily burst, which in turn leads to scars which, in tightening and hardening the tissue, can and will lead to retinal detachment and is a blinding disease.

All this alone would have been, of course, of rather limited entertain­ment value had Professor Swann not added a variety of proven remedies into the general picture: Obviously perfora­tions by laserburns do help, but for the practical man at home, we learned, a sheet of gladwrap moisturized by saliva can also do the trick – or works in cases of paralysis caused by diabetes where the eye can’t close and is exposed to dryness (Professor Swann had the modesty to admit that why he hadn’t thought of this himself was something that he often thought about).

The impact of the speach was seen straight after the bestowal of a well deserved club-banner to our speaker, when, mellowed by compassion for the sufferings of the lesser fortunate, all acting and true presidents David waived a stiff fine imposed on sartorial Past President Howard earlier on for dressing up to the occasion a little more than usual: perched miserably on his chair with shades as thick as those Ray Milland wore in the Roger Corman feature „The Man With the X-Ray Eyes“ he had come across as trying to be too cool for Rotary (even though those in the ken, aware that the PPs Princess (PPP) had been in town, suspected that the need to cover his eyes came less from diabetes than from too much sugar…)

Part 2 February 27th

Lunch Meeting – 27 February 2009 Prof Maureen Boost – The Potatoe in History

After fellow Rotarian Steve Lai had regaled us mightily at the table with a detailed account of everything pertaining to his Chinese export of potatoe chips (not computer related hardware, mind), covering the growing of special breeds of potatoes there to the intricacies of customs-clearance procedures and quality control, we were fortuitously a particularly well prepared bunch to swallow our disappointment about the cancellation of the original presentation on Hamburg City (the speaker had to tag along with his boss to a business lunch and missed out on a club banner for his subserviency) and fully relish today’s surprise replacement improvisation: PP Maureen Boost had burnt the midnight oil preparing an Irish version of the „Attack of the Killer Tomatoes“, wowing us, this time not by freeing her hair from its otherwise tightly coiffed fashion, but by an account of „Potatoes and how they changed the world“.

Originally from South America, the potatoe played her most prominent role in Ireland, where after her introducion in the second half of the 16th century she serves as food, Colcannon, Boxty, vegetarian Coddle, specie, currency, building- and decoration material, fuel, lignite, earplugs, in soccer, polo, golf, pinball, pool, snooker, skittles, bowling, court ceremony and as a powerful concealed weapon up to this day.
However, the reliance on potatoes as a staple crop meant that the people of Ireland were vulnerable to poor potato harvests. Consequently several famines occurred throughout the 16th and 17th centuries. The first Great Famine of 1739, when Ireland had its highest population with 8.1 million people crowding about the island, was the result of extreme cold weather, but the Great Irish Famine of 1850 as exclusively featured in every novel, short story, article, newsflash and conversation of Irish origin, was caused by potato blight, Phytophthera infestans (and an oomycete, mark, not a fungus, and pronounced „feitofterror“ by Maureen). It spread easily throughout the Irish crop which was heavily dependent on a single variety, the Lumper. A scientist at heart and of profession, Maureen made a footnote of how to eradicate blight by using copper sulphate: here, the potatoe might be seen in yet another manifestation of its role in the world as the the Germans lost the war using up all their copper to build bombs rather than blight repellant. Another view of course is that the Germans don’t as a matter of their mental disposition adhere to the old adage to make love, not war – but that is probably another topic for another speaker…

In Ireland, however, nearly one million people died, the largest humanitarian desaster after the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Some three other million where left in dire destitute: As landlords were responsible for paying the rates of every tenant who paid less than £4 in yearly rent, landlords whose land was crowded with poorer tenants were faced with large bills; shockingly, they thus began clearing poor tenants recklessly from their abodes in the late 1840ies and burned down the roofs of their derisory cabins to obstruct squatters – with little redress and Rotary yet 60 years from being formed. There were some relief measures: Maureen mentioned in passing corn laws, poor houses, work relief (digging useless canals and roads to nowhere in particular) and the import of milion tons of grain by the British – who have always been blamed of colonialist exploitation of their neighbour – but the aid unfortunately did only reach the rich cities of the east and never the worst hit regions in the west and wasn’t very helpful anyway since the Irish in general didn’t know how to cook grain (this has improved somewhat, as one of the members present remembers enjoying a memorable wedding anniversary dining at L’Ecrivain in Dublin (www.lecrivain.com) at times better than today’s).
According to Maureen’s count, another three million emigrated to America, Canada and Liverpool – of which 40% died on their way and the rest was treated with disdain, were called „White Niggers“ and made the brunt of jokes – which, as Maureen menacingly hissed, still persist. Regrettably, Maureen didn’t light up her bleak account by incorporating a few of those for our better understanding.

Ireland’s population never recovered from these events before becomming a corporate tax haven in the first several years of the 21st century, which however was quite a Phyrric victory only as the enormous expat-packages lead to hyped property prices unaffordable to the locals and the global economic crisis swept away most of the jobs thus created by end of the decade. Well, so good so far for the potatoe.

While quite the defining fare of Irish fiction and therefore known to anyone of us who had ever taken a plane or a holiday, we were truly impressed with our PP Maureen’s erudition and intellectuality made obvious by her ability to actually remember any and arrange all the facts so neatly in just one night (to avoid snide remarks from the audiance she was quick to stress not being of Irish ancestry herself, which made the feat even more astounding). Look out for Frank McCourt, John Banville, Edna O’Brian, Colm Toibin, Bridget O’Connor, Colum McCann, Roddy Doyle, Patrick McCabe, Neil Jordan and Bernard MacLaverty: Maureen has outlined the entirety of their works and left us in a position to cherish the characteristics of each individual style unobstructed by dreary content from now on.

The Annunciations

Monday 23rd of March to Wednesday 25th of March 2009
Our Sister Club Taipei North Rotary Club 50th Charter Ceremony
As emphasized by President Simon on his visit to our Club on February 20th, events pleasing to all sexes have been arranged to make this a rewarding trip including a city tour, a golf tounament and a spa visit, whatever appeals to whom most. To truly honour the anniversary, banners this year are made of smooth white leather and will last for ever.

Saturday  14th  of  March 2009
Blind Wine Tasting Evening at the Wright Mansion
Quite a success when held for the first time in 2008 and always a life-improving opportunity in times when it pays to find out whether mindlessly overpriced is really going to render your candle-light-dinners unforgettable, President David Wright has opened his doors again for an in-inhibited and critical sampling of the drink called “wine” with ample occasion to whine and dine while sipping on the best and the worst of the regions vintage. For the venue and to enter yourselves and all the friends you can muster please get in touch with David at David_WRIGHT@swiresita.com

Saturday 18th of April 2009
District Assembly at Sha Tin

Saturday  16th  of  May 2009
Our annual Charity Ball: Pirates of the Caribbean
After lengthy propriety-discussions, the theme for our annual Charity Ball dispenses with all reference to loose women and tough guys as much as with the political complexities of the suggested “Pirates in the Rain Forest” – we will have all of this and twice as much as “Pirates of the Caribbean” in the the HKFC Restaurant on Saturday, 16th May 2009, so please lets have an Armada swarm in and fight it out for a successfull night!

Saturday 11th of July 2009
Rotary District Installation


That’s it for today, folks – we couldn’t even cover all but will try again soon,