On June 29, in the delightful garden setting of Barbacoa Restaurant, Rotary Club Estoi Palace International (RCEPI) changed Presidents for the coming Rotary Year of 2021-22.
Outgoing President Uwe Jonsson handed over the chain of office to incoming President Shirley Dunne. The handover was the first time club members had been together for an official meeting in over a year and it was a pleasure to be together with various guests, albeit appropriately socially distanced.
President Uwe reflected on the challenges caused by Covid restrictions during his year. Fundraising had been much more difficult but fortunately our annual Charity Golf Day had been able to take place in a reduced format and on-line projects included a Cat Show, Photography Competition and the ongoing Happy Bears fundraiser which effectively is sponsoring a child. The Club had continued to support the Food Bank distributions in Estoi Casa do Povo, plus provide additional food supplies to families of pupils at Estoi School who were in dire straits. RCEPI also arranged presents for the Christmas parties at Estoi and Moncarapacho Casas do Povo. Dictionaries and merit certificates were given to pupils at the Estoi School.
Medical equipment has been donated to Faro Hospital and the Algarve Oncology Association. RCEPI joined forces with some other Algarve Rotary Clubs to provide refrigerators for ReFood in Faro, Almancil and Algoz and a wheelchair to the Association for Multiple Sclerosis. A student from Estoi was also assister with her university fees and a donation was given to ACCA for their Back to School initiative.
Meanwhile, a donation of €550 was made to help an important environmental project to Save the Seahorses in the Ria Formosa.
Internationally support was provided to 15 pupils in Guatemala to benefit from a scholarship to allow them to continue their education. Funds were also sent to help provide water sterilising tablets to Mozambique following cholera outbreaks after flooding there. A virtual bike ride raised €700 to send to the End Polio Now fund which will be matched 2 to 1 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, so effectively €2,100 towards this disease eradication programme.
David Thomas, CEO of Safe Communities, was a guest of honour at the handover. RCEPI presented him with a Paul Harris award to recognise the contribution he has made to the community in setting up his organisation and particularly the immense efforts made to provide updated information as quickly as possible during the Covid pandemic. This Rotary award is recognition for great service to the community. The Club also made a donation to Safe Communities to say thank you for all its hard work. Awards were also made to other Club members recognising their contribution during the Rotary year.
Incoming President Shirley also reflected on the challenges ahead but hopes to be able to reinstate the Clubs normal fundraisers, Quiz Nights, Fashion Shows, White Night etc., Covid permitting. Rotarians are people of action who purpose is to serve the local community and RCEPI will continue to do that in the coming Rotary year.
Meanwhile, a group from Almancil International Rotary Club (AIRC) met for the hand-over to a new Club President last week, meeting face to face at last and strictly following Covid rules. Rotary Presidents generally serve for one year and the Presidency changes in June or July each year depending on the club.
For the last year President Uschi Kuhn has valiantly presided over meetings on Zoom. These meetings were often joined by Rotarians from many different parts of the world which was a new and enjoyable experience. She and members of her team organised 32 speakers participating on Zoom and again some of these were from other countries.
During Uschi’s year as President more than €30,000 was raised from members, public donations and events which included a golf tournament and a virtual dog show and quiz nights; on Zoom of course.
It was decided that the main beneficiaries would be organisations providing food to families who so desperately needed help and other organisations which help people in difficulties during the current Covid situation.
In addition, Rotary International requested that each club adopt an environmental project and for their part AIRC decided to support a project in collaboration with the Centre of Marine Sciences (CCMAR) located at the University of the Algarve and the Institute for Nature Conservation and Forests (ICNF), both supported by the Government of the Portuguese Republic.
These organisations are currently working on projects to protect the dwindling seahorse population in the Ria Formosa by the creation of two protected marine conservation areas. In 2001 the Ria Formosa had the largest population of seahorses in the world but since then the numbers have fallen by 96%.
Uschi reported that during the past year eight new members joined the club, bringing the total membership to 43, which makes AIRC the Rotary Club with the second largest membership in mainland Portugal. Uschi concluded her year by thanking her team and all the members who worked hard to make her year a success despite the trials and tribulations of the current situation. Finally she handed over to new President for the coming Rotary year Volker Biebesheimer and wished him and his new team every success.