One of the many benefits of being one of the 1.2 million Rotarians is that they are all entitled to visit any of the 32,000 clubs in the world.
Traditionally, many Rotarians take a banner from her or his own club as a gesture of this global fellowship.
Over the last 21 years, Novus member Jim Matthews has visited The Gambia 20 times and has previously taken banners to the Rotary Clubs of Banjul and Fajara.
In June 2016 a third Rotary Club was formed in The Gambia, so when he visited The Gambia in January 2017 he was keen to visit it. After his holiday, Jim reported to Novus members that The Gambia is now recovering from the political turmoil surrounding the exile of former president Yahya Jammeh and the succession of new President Adama Barrow.
Jim tried to attend the meeting of the Rotary Club of Banjul but found it had been cancelled because the hotel where the club meets was being used as the temporary HQ of the new President’s government team.
Two days later, with many Gambians still in neighbouring countries for fear of military action, Jim went to attend the Rotary Club of Fajara meeting, only to find that its meeting had been cancelled, too.
Undeterred, on the next day, the Saturday, Jim attended the new Rotary Club of Brusubi. There he found four members of the club, a Danish visitor from Belgium and a student whose education is being sponsored by a Rotarian from New York. The non-Rotarian visitor, Christian Jorgensen, was in The Gambia building a well with a solar-powered pump which will provide water, day and night, for several remote villages. Christian and his sisters had set up a charity to fund the work. Everyone present agreed that although Christian was not (yet) a Rotarian, he already had the heart of a Rotarian.
The members apologised that President Sapard Kalala was not able to be there, but accepted from Jim the banner of the Rotary Club of Leicester Novus.
The following Wednesday, Jim returned to the hotel where the Rotary Club of Banjul meets and found that instead of the new President’s ministers, there were several European visitors also keen to attend the Rotary meeting. Jim had previously met two on several previous occasions.
The guests chatted until District Governor Nominee Aki Allen arrived and told them the meeting was being held at the office of a member. With the hospitality so typical of worldwide Rotary, Aki summoned another member and the visitors were driven across town to the meeting.
There they all met President Sapard Kalala who presented banners from the Rotary Club of Brusubi to past president Fatou Bah, who was chairing the meeting for the Banjul Club, and all the visitors.
When Jim returned to the Novus club, he presented the banner to President Gemma Kiddy, along with the best wishes of all the Rotarians he had met in The Gambia, to which he hopes to return next year to again share Rotary fellowship and fun.