Coping with Lockdown
By Walter Hill, St Andrews Rotary Club
Forty people meet once every week, and suddenly there’s a lockdown. Things have to go on, work has to continue, but how? This was the question being asked by organisations all over the world in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. There have been many innovative answers, each addressing a specific set of needs in particular circumstances. This is how the Rotary Club of St Andrews has responded.
The two fundamental strands of Rotary are Fellowship and Service; this provided the starting point for the strategy. Whilst both aspects had to proceed at pace the maintenance of Fellowship was the first priority, for that is the basis from which all else flows.
We all need structure to our lives, so in a time of social isolation the need to maintain weekly contact was the starting point. The first step was to use email to provide a link to a weekly video message. The tone was a combination of the serious and fun. Arrangements were also made to maintain telephone contact with members to ensure nobody was forgotten. The weekly bulletins became increasingly sophisticated, also a number of guest speakers provided recorded presentations with video, which were shared via YouTube. The limitation was that Club members were not meeting each other, while watching video was a rather solitary activity. However, as the weeks passed it became apparent that there was growing confidence among the membership in using video conferencing, which enabled meetings to be conducted “live” using Zoom. Around 40 members began to log in to these weekly meetings. Time was made available for a weekly “blether” in small groups before listening to a guest presenter. With the consent of participants it was possible to record the meetings and make them available to every member by an email link.
Service is the other important strand of Rotary. At the outset it was clear that immediate action was required to help our community. The newly formed Community Action St Andrews (CASA) was coordinating services in the town and its surroundings providing a channel for the Club to help. As a result, an immediate donation of £1000 was given to CASA.
This highlighted the fact that new ways would have to be devised to raise funds since the lockdown had resulted in the need to cancel all planned activities. A suggestion was made that members might want to donate the £10 they would otherwise have spent on their weekly lunch. The overwhelming response to this has so far raised over £5000 from members. This has enabled community support to continue while new fundraising activities are devised.
Meanwhile Zoom meetings have developed incorporating live and video presentations by guest speakers. The Club has enjoyed talks delivered by video from the USA, while our members have joined meetings both in the UK and abroad. This has emphasised the international nature of Rotary. One example was when members were able to join another local club, North Fife, during a talk from a former President of Rotary International from his home in the Bahamas.
An association has developed with a club in Tucson, Arizona, whose President has fond memories of his visit to St Andrews in 2019 to take part in our annual Rotary International Golf Week.
All this began during the Presidency of John Christie, whose skill, leadership, and vision have ensured that the Club remains strong, focused and effective. He said, “These are indeed interesting times. It is heartening to see how the Club has responded to the changed circumstances and embraced the technological opportunities to maintain and develop relationships externally as well as within the Club. I am particularly pleased that we are recruiting new members, even though we cannot meet face to face. This remains a developing situation. Already further advances are being made by our current President, Hamish Tait, since he took over at the beginning of July. The Rotary Club of St Andrews will continue to adapt in order better to serve our community in the months and years to come.”