If Rotary really wants to attract new members – and of course it does , desperately – it would do well to absorb the lesson evident to all of us who were at Bishops in Rondebosch, a couple of Sundays ago.
It was about 9 am when most Capetonians were heading for church or still in bed reading the papers. But at one of the school's cricket fields dozens of excited kids were being offloaded from buses and kombis, and being met by groups of teenagers wearing T-shirts with “Interact” and their school's name – San Souci, Herschel, Bishops and SACS.
Just to be out in the open and free to run around the tree-lined field was a huge thrill for the bussed in kids, many from institutions and homes, and for a while that is all they did.
Then they were handed brightly coloured T-shirts sporting “FUN FRENZY” logos, which they pulled on, and lined up in their colour-coded teams in front of the pavilion. Mike in hand, Paul de Groot, in his best Uncle Willy manner, explained to the teams what was about to happen and what they had to do.
Next the Interactors were leading off the teams to parts of the field, where soon the air was filled with the shouts of games underway: tug o' war, coconut shies, egg and spoon race, dunkin' doughnuts and so on.
Organiser James Robertson and his team of Claremont Rotaractors did the rounds, supervising, checking and ironing out hiccups. Claremont stalwarts had the braai going and the tantalising smell drifted from the terrace. In the pavilion Inner Wheelers were buttering rolls and filling lines of plates for the children's lunch.
At a command from Paul, the teams swopped games. And the fun continued. By lunch break the kids had built up an appetite to match the size of the giant hamburgers that the braai team had prepared.
In orderly fashion they trooped in to the Inner Wheelers pavilion and emerged with laden plates, picking up drink cans along the way. Then seated under the trees they munched happily away. Some came back for seconds – and thirds “for a friend who couldn't come”.
Soon the children were returning to their buses and the Interactors, Rotaractors, Inner Wheelers and Rotarians were packing up, cleaning up and generally calling it a day for another year.
For me the lesson for Rotary growth was not so much the value of cameraderie and communal effort, we do enough of that, but the enthusiastic input of our younger members of Rotary, the Interactors specially.
Somehow through all the homework, projects, assessments, exams that they are lumbered with these days – to say nothing of sport – these young people find time to devote to good causes. They are idealistic and motivated; Rotary has been wise to nurture them through its New Generations vision. They are our future.
And Claremont, thankfully, seems to be doing the right thing; but we must not take our foot off the pedal.
FOOTNOTE: A special tribute is due the teachers from the Interact schools, at least two of whom remained throughout – marking papers!