As part of its activities during the first two months of the year the Rotary Club held a very pleasant Burns Supper to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the bard’s birth.
In former times the club had held such suppers annually, but this had lapsed, and the evening was perhaps all the more enjoyable after such an interval. The president, John Telford, addressed the haggis in fine style, Peter Campbell gave a word-perfect rendition of Tam o’ Shanter from memory, John Boxwell proposed the Toast to the Lassies and Sylvija Crook gave a spirited reply.
Speakers during January and February included Michael Coutts who gave a fascinating talk about Dogs Against Drugs which included a short video film made at the Holmsgarth ferry terminal, showing how the dogs can detect passengers carrying drugs, and can indicate the culprits to their handler. On the quayside the dogs were able to indicate the presence of packets of drugs secreted on the goods trailers which arrive in Shetland on every ferry.
Member John Boxwell gave an excellent presentation of his recent cruise through the Panama Canal, before going on to Acapulco and Nicaragua, and two visiting Rotarians from Elgin demonstrated a project in Nepal which has been supported by several clubs in the Rotary district (North Scotland and the Islands).
The object is to provide safe clean drinking water by sinking deep wells in very remote villages, and also to improve their sanitation by education; this subject has until recently been very rudimentary, leading to a high infant mortality rate from gastro-enteritis and related illnesses.
Continuing the Shetland Rotarians’ commitment to encouraging local youth sports, this year the club has given £500 to junior table tennis clubs.
Many will now be familiar with the Shelterbox charity run by the Rotary movement, and members were notified recently that following the disastrous bush fires near Melbourne, Australia, more than 50 Shelterboxes have been delivered already to that area, with more to follow.
To round off the month, member Robin Sandison led his colleagues through a very interesting history of the Hjaltland Housing Association, of which he is director. From very small beginnings the association now has a most important role to play in the provision of affordable housing throughout the county, with over 100 units being built at the end of 2008 and another 100 at the advanced planning stage.