Meeting of 6/9/16: ‘African Impact – Zimbabwe’

SRC Minutes LogoMeeting at Quigley’s Restaurant
593 Columbia Turnpike
East Greenbush, NY
June 9, 2016

Members Attending (17): Terry Brewer, Debbie Rodriguez, Murray Forth, Pat Bailey, Bill Dowd, Jim Leyhane, Jim Butterworth, Peter Brown, Debbie Brown, David Taylor, Ray Hannan, Ron Annis, Monika Annis, Geoff Brewer, Julius Frankel, Roberto Martinez, Charlie Foote.

Guests (3): Ethan Brown, Don Harris, Janet Harris.

PROGRAM: “African Impact – Zimbabwe”

Ethan 1
Ethan Brown shares anecdotes of some Zimbabwean children he worked with.

Debbie Brown introduced her grandson Ethan Brown, a senior at Poughkeepsie Day School, who just returned from a volunteer stint in the African nation of Zimbabwe.

Ethan, who in the fall will head for the Finger Lakes to attend Hobart College, volunteered through the African Impact organization as part of his school’s required public service component. (Public service is nothing new to Ethan, who earlier started a student chapter of Habitat for Humanity.)

African Impact is a non-profit organization that creates and oversees internships and gap-year positions for efforts in 13 African countries in conservation, education, and community improvements.

Ethan 2
Ethan talks of lions and learning.

Ethan showed photos of some of the adults and children he met and worked with in preschools, an older-adult home, and an orphanage residence and school. He noted that although the average lifespan in the impoverished country is about 60 years, one of the home residents he met was a 103-year-old woman.

His main work was in the area of Victoria Falls, a city of about 35,000 people on the northern border where the nations of Zimbabwe and Zambia meet. (The falls themselves are a UNESCO World Heritage site. While neither the highest nor the widest waterfalls in the world, they are classified as the largest and constitute the world’s largest sheet of falling water. Victoria Falls is roughly twice the height of Niagara Falls.)

Ethan said the program stressed a daily plan for activities, rather than simply going to a site and asking what was needed. Efforts ranged from literacy education to outdoor projects to constructive playtime to interpersonal exchanges, all made somewhat difficult by the fact that although English is one of Zimbabwe’s official languages, few of the children spoke it very much.

The preschools where he volunteered ranged from fairly large classes to one more rural school that had only 6 to 8 children attending because of transportation problems. At the orphanage, many of the children living there had simply been abandoned by their mothers, sometimes as infants. In at least one case a mother came across the nearby border with Zambia, surreptitiously dropped off her two children, and went back across the border to her home country, leaving no way to trace her.

Ethan said Zimbabwe is among the world’s poorest. Unemployment is at the 85% level, and people rely heavily on growing their own food. He showed photos of some of the successful gardens, including one sponsored by a program that tries to keep people suffering from HIV infection or actual AIDS involved in the community. HIV is perhaps the greatest health problem throughout sub-Saharan Africa,

Ethan and other volunteers from several countries also participated in an animal census effort conducted by ALERT: African Lion & Environmental Research Trust. That group also runs a lion conservation program that rescues orphaned lion cubs, raises them for 18 months to 2 years, and conditions them for successful reintegration into the wild.

In addition to the work efforts, the volunteers did have time for some relaxation. Ethan, who readily confessed to “an insane fear of heights,” showed a video of his tandem jump with another volunteer on a 123-foot zip-line free fall. It did not cure his aversion to heights, he noted.

If you missed this presentation and would like to see the PowerPoint version, go to our Program Presentation Archive.

zim map
Arrow points to the nation of Zimbabwe.


WOODCRAFTS EVENT — A reminder that the Northville Rotary Club has scheduled its annual “Woodworking & Fine Arts Weekend” extravaganza for July 15-17. Details, including a list of craftspeople and artisans whose work will be on display and for sale, are on  our website. Click here.

Screen shot 2016-06-10 at 1.31.34 PMTHANK-YOU NOTES — The club received notes of gratitude for (1.) our support of the Capital Region BOCES program’s New Visions team that recently won the Northeast Regional championship in the national civics competition called “We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution” (click here for details), and (2.) from the Ronald McDonald House in Albany for the efforts of a team of club members who prepared dinner for 40 clients at the family support complex. They were Bill Dowd, April Dowd, Roberto Martinez, Debbie Rodriguez, Debbie Brown, Peter Brown, and Mike Dewey.

WEBSITE UPDATES — Webmaster Bill Dowd reported that our newly-revamped website now has a simpler URL — — and stressed that we remember to use “.org” rather than “.com” which would take visitors to the old, outdated site. He also noted that the “Member Contact Data” page has been completed and put in a password-protected mode, with the password having been emailed to all members.

Screen shot 2016-06-01 at 11.45.49 AMSUMMER CASUAL SCHEDULE — Only two Thursdays remain open for summer events, July 28 and August 4. (Note: After the meeting, Dean Calamaras claimed the July 28 date, inviting the first 25 people who make reservations to a cookout.). … Debbie Brown said she had spoken with members of the Kinderhook-TriVillage Club about our planned outing to see the August 25 performance of “The Addams Family” at the MacHaydn Theatre, and urged them to join us to make it a large Rotary night. … Jim Leyhane, who will co-host two of the summer cookouts, stressed the need for anyone planning to attend any events to let the hosts know of their intentions (including how many guests) because the increased size of our membership may tend to make attendance larger than we are used to. … Charlie Foote said he is working on getting details for us about a large food truck festival in Columbia County this summer, and is looking into coordinating a weekend group trip — perhaps by bus — to the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome. Details to come on both efforts.

Screen shot 2016-06-10 at 1.36.07 PMSPECIAL DESIGNATION NIGHTS — We have just three Thursday meetings remaining in the 2015-16 Rotary Year before we go into our “summer casual” mode. Each has a special designation: On June 16, we’ll hold a “Scholar Recognition Night.” In addition to a talk by Jim Butterworth on student leadership, we have invited the three seniors from Maple Hill, Columbia, and Rensselaer high schools to whom we’ll award $1,000 scholarships to attend along with parents and school administrators. On June 23, “Induction Night,” we will formally welcome Becky Raymond, Phil Kellerman, and Julius Frankel as our 43rd, 44th, and 45th members. District Governor Milan Jackson and 2017-8 DG-elect Fred Daniels are scheduled to attend. On June 30, we will hold our annual “Presidential Changeover,” at which Terry Brewer will pass the gavel to Debbie Rodriguez, and the recently-elected (and in some cases re-elected) board members will take office. That event will be held at the Forth residence in East Greenbush.

GOOD OF ROTARY — Roberto Martinez expressed thanks to Jim Leyhane for arranging the June 5 driver instruction course that will help attendees get a discount on auto insurance. It was well attended by Rotarians and others.

DUES ARE DUE — Please get your 2016-17 dues to Treasurer Murray Forth no later than June 30. The new fiscal year begins July 1.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s