Rotary Club of Plympton
27th January - I Bought A Zoo - Ben Mee
"I bought a zoo!" so said Ben Mee of Dartmoor Zoological Park when he opened his recent talk to the Rotary Club of Plympton, going on to explain that the past four years have been a bit surreal looking back.
Ben told the club that the family had just been looking for a new home for their mother when details of a 13 room house with 30 acres of land were received. There was one other thing to note in the agents details, the house also came with 200 wild animals as an add-on.
Previously working as a journalist and living in the south of France, Ben and his family fell in love with the area straight away and after several months of negotiations and despite having no previous experience in running a zoo, the family became the new owners.
They certainly had a baptism of fire as on the 4th day as the owners of the park, one of the big cats escaped. In a wonderful storytelling style, Ben told the club members how the parks' jaguar had waited 8 years for the chance and took it when a junior keeper made a mistake in not closing the door properly. He went on to say how the cat was found in the tiger enclosure trying to pick a fight with the tigers.
Since then, adrenalin levels have dipped slightly but with some great support from local businesses, quite a comprehensive renovation programme has taken place making the park an important part of the local community.
Following the purchase, Ben wrote a book "We Bought a Zoo", which details the purchase of the park, the death of his wife and the ongoing trials and tribulations in renovating the park. Such has been its success, a film is being made with Matt Damon starring as Ben and is due out in December. Although they won't receive a lot financially from the film, it is hoped that it will generate a great deal of interest and boost visitor numbers.
Although a lot of Bens time is spent dealing with accountants, lawyers and bankers, he said it is all worth while when he gets comments from visitors who have had a good time there. Indeed many find it a soothing experience and therapeutic.
What seemed like a mad idea at first, as told by Ben, proved to be a great tale and we thank Ben for giving such a great talk.
2nd December - You Are the Judge
The various club members who are JPs put the rest of the club in their shoes with a fun evening where the club members became judges for the evening. GUILTY!!!!
25th November Anil Koshti - Nuclear Regulator
Anil talked about his work as a nuclear regulator and how he sees the future going for nuclear power.
18th November Chris Highnam - Sail for Heroes
Chris is a member of the Otter Valley Rotary Club and recently undertook a sailing event from Plymouth to London in aid of Help for Heores and the British Legion.
21st October - Under the Weather The Science of Climate Change
95 Rotarians and guests recently attended the first "cluster" meeting of the Plymouth area Rotary Clubs on the 21st October. Members (and their guests) of clubs such as Plymouth Mayflower, Saltash, Plymouth Drake, Tavistock, Saltram, Plymouth, Roborough and Yelverton attended the event hosted by the Rotary Club of Plympton at the Borringdon Park Golf Club where not one but two fantastic speakers entertained the audience with a talk entitled "Under the Weather the Science of Climate Change", which followed a great three course meal.
Professor Iain Stewart, known to many from his BBC television shows on geology and climate change started the proceedings on the "Science of Climate Change" showing some conclusive evidence that although an element of Global Warming occurs naturally, a lot has to do with the greenhouse gases we have been producing. Using statistical data, he showed that cities such as Las Vegas, Tucson and Phoenix in the USA may not have enough water come the next decade, and that the Hoover Dam might not have enough water to generate electricity in years to come.
Iain also touched upon Greenland and the North Pole explaining about the effects of global warming in this part of the world, which led nicely to the second of the evenings speakers, explorer Antony Jinman. Earlier this year, Antony trekked to the North Pole as well as taking a group of graduate students to Baffin Island, where along the way, valuable data was gathered for the University of Plymouth. As well as showing some truly amazing photos from the North Pole trek, Antony also showed photos from past expeditions to Baffin Island which clearly show the effects of global warming. In a strange twist of fate however, he also told everyone that although the use of carbon fuels have had a large effect on this area, the inhabitants of this region of the world, due to global warming, are now looking to start mining for these very fuels due to the lack of ice for so long in the year allowing such work to be done. He also remarked that the fewer months of ice have also opened up new markets for the Inuit people namely tourism, with more people than ever before visiting the region.
Antony went on to explain a little about his next big adventure the International Scott Centenary Expedition in 2012 as well as explaining about his Education Through Expeditions organisation which aims to help students in schools, colleges and universities find out more about parts of the world they may know very little about as well as interacting with scientists and explorers around the world.
7th October - Rtn David Dutson - Life Straws
Fresh water is something we take for granted in the UK, but as the Rotary Club of Plympton were told recently, this is not the case around the world. Every 15 seconds, somewhere in the world, a child dies as a consequence of drinking dirty water. To put into context, this equates to the population of Greater Manchester in one year.
David Dutson, the president of the Rotary Club of Brynmawr (pictured above) was down in Plymouth recently for his district conference and came to the club to tell them about his clubs' water project "Life Straws" a portable water filter.
Using filters, life straws remove 99% of bacteria and viruses found in dirty water preventing illness from dysentery, typhoid and cholera. As David explained, this product, which has been voted one of the inventions of the decade, shows Rotary in its best light with life straws having been sent to every country in the world. In the six years that the project has been running, 160,000 units have been distributed saving thousands of lives. David went on to say, "even if we can save just 1 life, we can change the world. For who knows who or what that person will go on to be?"
For more details on life straws please go to their website www.lifestraw.org.uk
30th September - Stu Clarke - Plymouth Street Pastors
Over the past couple of years, people out at night might have seen a group of people patrolling the streets of the city centre who have come to the aid of thousands of people. They are the Plymouth Street Pastors, who since 2008 have given up their time of a Saturday night to offer aid to those in need.
They are Christian careers who listen and respond and try to help the police keep the streets a safer place. Om a typical Saturday night in the city centre, they can walk up to 8½ miles but by doing this work, they release the police from various social issues so that they can handle crimes.
They have picked up over 15,000 bottles thus helping to eliminate possible weapons and causes of foot injuries and give out flip flops to ladies who have given up on their high heels for the night As Stu Clarke, the Plymouth co-ordinator remarked to the Rotary Club of Plympton, it would be interesting to see if Derriford Hospital has noted a decline in foot injuries of clubbers since they started. They also give out space blankets to help prevent hypothermia and Stu gave examples of where lives have undoubtedly been saved as a consequence.
Although as mentioned above, they are Christian careers, they do not preach, bible bash or promote the church in fact this is strictly forbidden as per their rule book. But 36 of Plymouth's churches have provided volunteers who by treating people with integrity and dignity try to make a positive difference to the lives of the people they encounter.
Stu revealed that in the areas they cover, crime has fallen by 11.4%, antisocial behaviour by 14.3% and criminal damage by 27% - is it a coincidence? Who knows, but from his talk to Plympton Rotarians, it certainly appears that the Street Pastors offer a valuable service to our community.
16th September - Jay Jonathan Lawrence - Faith and Football
Service Above Self is Rotary's motto, but as was proved by a recent talk to the Plympton Rotary Club, it also applies elsewhere.
Jay Lawrence, director of the Plymouth branch of "Faith and Football", together with Plymouth Argyle's Rory Fallon, spoke to the Rotary club about their efforts to engage with local children and help the local community.
They explained the origins of Faith and Football being formed in Portsmouth by Mick Mellows and Linvoy Primus in 2002 and how in 2008, Jay and Rory, together with Plymouth Albion player Wihan Neethling and James Noel from the Plymouth Raiders formed the Plymouth branch with a football league in Devonport.
Since then, as well as football, the group has joined forces with schools in Mutley, Prince Rock and Plymstock with the "extra-time" reading project.
Jay said "As Christians, we believe that the church needs to be visible within the community. We use football as our language in communicating God's love and our aim is to help transform and restore families and communities."
He explained some of the plans the group are hoping to introduce in Plymouth which have proved to be a success in the other branches around the country. These include initiatives such as "Team Talk" where once a week, 13-18 year olds will be able to play football for an hour before undertaking 45 minutes of life skills coaching. In Portsmouth where this has already begun, improvements have been seen in the lives of the children involved and consequently the estates from where they live.
The Business Enterprise scheme is another initiative being undertaken, engaging with children at Key Stage 3 in schools, encouraging groups of 4-5 children to run a business from scratch with profits going to an orphanage in India. Through this scheme, Jay also announced that he is hoping to be able to take a group to South Africa in a year or two to help rebuild a school in Cape Town.
Jay was joined at the talk by Rory Fallon. The Argyle striker spoke about his career in football and how as a youngster he had two dreams to be a professional footballer and to play in the World Cup which he did this summer. Rory also told the club that he believed God had given him a gift in football and he wanted to use it to help others, on and off the pitch. But he also explained that although he has always believed in God, he has not always felt worthy of being a Christian. Since being baptised in 2008 though he has changed his approach to life. This doesn't mean he is any less committed on the park though. Jay also mentioned how not many people know that Rory stayed behind after the New Zealand squad left the World Cup to visit an orphanage in South Africa.
Although the books used in the literacy projects are of biblical stories, they see Faith and Football as a way in which the church can engage with the local community without being seen as pushing religion. As Jay said, "kids will go to football but probably wouldn't go to church".
Jay and Rory demonstrated the great service this group is undertaking in a way not dissimilar to that which Rotary strives to do.
26th August (PARTNERS NIGHT) - D1290 Group Study Exchange Team - The Trip to Venezuela
Rotary's "Group Study Exchange" (GSE) program is a unique cultural and vocational exchange opportunity for businesspeople and professionals between the ages of 25 and 40 who are in the early stages of their careers.
Earlier this year, Rotary District 1290 (West Devon & Cornwall) sent such a team to District 4370 Venezuela, for just such an exchange visit. For four weeks, the team members experienced their host country's culture and institutions, observing how their vocations are practiced abroad, developing personal and professional relationships whilst exchanging ideas.
The Plympton Rotary Club sponsored one of the team members, Jenny Kumah, a producer at BBC Radio Devon who along with the rest of the team recently spoke to the Plympton Rotary Club about their time away.
They were led by Bodmin Rotarian, Martin Taylor, and the team members came from all corners of the district 3 of them working in different roles for the Devon & Cornwall Constabulary.
It was interesting to note their thoughts, Plympton Rotary having played hosts to the Venezuelan team back in May when the visiting team gave a great presentation on life back home in Venezuela.
In Sucre, the police department was probably the biggest, most organized and most technologically advanced they visited. For a population of 1.6 million people, they have just 960 Police - compared to Devon and Cornwall in which we have over 3500 Police staff for the same size population. The Police are chronically understaffed & underfunded
Although their hosts tried to dispel thoughts that the reputation of Venezuela and particularly Caracas as a violent and dangerous place, the team said that it was frightening to hear that in 2009 there were over 16,000 known murders in Venezuela, an average of 308 per week or 44 per day. These figures of course don't take into account other crimes such as kidnap, robbery and non lethal violence. The capital Caracas has a population of 5 million, which is roughly half that of London. London statistically has between 300 - 350 murders per year, in other words not even one a week. Caracas has anywhere between 150 -200 per week!!! Of equal alarm the club were told, only 5% of murders receive any form of investigation.
This could give the impression that the team just had negative thoughts about their time away but that is far from the truth. They also spoke about some of the characters they met as well as their observations on life there, how Venezuelans talk about politics with the same frequency that we talk about the weather - even if they have the most horrendous torrential rain that causes complete chaos on the roads. Some of the roads have holes the size of a pond but this does not stop the traffic or the kids going out to play on the roads. The team also spent time at some truly wonderful locations and noted how the country is full of potential.
Food and drink was a common thread between the two talks with paella being a favourite dish served up at one time, four times a day for four consecutive days!
As well as working hard, it was also noted how the Venezuelans partied hard too which meant a good time was had by all. The team returned with some very fond memories and many new friends.
August 19th Kirstie Brown - My Job Talk
Our newest member, Kirstie gave her "My Job" talk as well as giving the club a lesson in food technology.
29th July - Michelle Chapman - Living with Alopecia
Michelle Chapman was our latest speaker talking about living with Alopecia. Men's baldness is a form of this illness which affects the imune system but for women it can be devastating. Michelle has suffered from Alopecia since the age of 5 and spoke of the issues she has had to deal with which has led to her forming support groups to help others. She mentioned how the wigs she was given back then looked like dead rats but how today, many of us could walk pass someone and not know they were wearing a wig. Indeed, during her talk, Michelle wet "topless" - pulling her wig off - much to the surprise of many of those present who had assumed Michelle's hair had grown back.
22nd July - Emily Wood - Weather Forecasting
Spotlight weather presenter Emily Wood gave a fasinating talk on the problems of predicting the weather, explaining how the forecasts are made at the BBC as well as explaining a typical day in the life of a TV weather presenter
15th July - Antony Jinman
The 2010/11 Speaker programme for the Rotary Club of Plympton has kicked off in fantastic style with the bar being set very high for the speakers coming during the next 12 months.
Antony Jinman, from Wembury needs no introduction to many Plymouthians, having recently returned from an expedition to the Geographic North Pole. As the club were told, this expedition saw Antony and his two team mates ski and snow shoe (and sometimes swim) over 500 miles from Cape Discovery to the Geographic North Pole in just 51 days, collecting valuable scientific data for the University of Plymouth.
He explained about his beliefs for his trips Education, Inspiration, Community and Global Citizenship ideals not too dissimilar to Rotary and how he gets schools to interact whilst he is away often linking up with schools via his satellite phone to answer questions such as "what does the arctic smell like?"
Antony has set up a non-profit organsiation Education through Expeditions to help make science fun for schoolchildren.Showing some absolutely fantastic and breath-taking photos, Antony was able to show the terrain and conditions they encountered on their way to the pole. Imagine pulling a tyre over ground off the beaten track on Dartmoor and you start to imagine the terrain they trekked.
Antony went on to explain some of the dangers on his expeditons such as how to avoid frostbite, how to tell if a polar bears tracks are fresh and if they are, what to do if you encounter a polar bear.
Such was the response to Antony's talk, he was asked to carry on beyond his allotted time and used this to explain about his forthcoming trip to Baffin Island where he will lead a team to the Auyuittuq National Park The Land that Never Melts which past trips have shown is melting at an alarming rate He also told the club how in January 2012 he will lead the International Scott Centenary Expedition to Antarctica. This trip is to celebrate the centenary of Captain Scott's last expedition, commemorate the deaths of the Polar Party and to support the continuation of their work through the Scott Polar Research Institute.
Antony showed that although "nothing in life is easy, with hard work and determination, anything is possible". "Dare to dream, believe and you will succeed".
He left the club wanting more and we, the Plympton Rotary Club hope Antony will come back in the near future to tell more of his exploits and travels.