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Charity in times of covid-19: A conversation with the Rotary Club of Gaborone

Charity in times of covid-19: A conversation with the Rotary Club of Gaborone
August 12
18:31 2020

The covid-19 pandemic has since exposed inequalities among societies, and it threatens to exacerbate the gap between the rich and poor. The possibility that covid-19 could push half a billion people into poverty means the work of civil society organisations has only become more crucial as the world is calling for a global socio-economic transformation – a new social contract. To get highlights on doing charity in times of covid-19, GP caught up with Casmir Jongman, the immediate past President of the Rotary Club of Gaborone. Jongman shares on their work in the new normal.

GP: How has covid-19 affected your work process and what measures did you take to mitigate?

Jongman: Covid-19 affected our plans for the Rotary year 2019-2020. As a service organization, we rely on various fund-raising events, such as our Golf Day, and Gala Diner. Unfortunately, these events were cancelled this year, as was the Maitseng airshow, where our club raises funds by arranging the parking. Our weekly meetings for business and fellowship were also affected.

GP: Since lockdown was lifted the Rotary Club of Gaborone has been travelling within and without its zone, donating blankets, why such as undertaking, risking your health as a club?

Jongman: The Rotary encourages us to provide service above self. This is what drives us to provide a service, which is coming from our willingness to assist those less fortunate than ourselves. We always try to bring in blankets to be distributed to deserving recipients before the winter starts. The blankets could not arrive early this year due to the pandemic and the travel restrictions. They only arrived in Botswana just after the lockdown was lifted and we had to distribute them quickly. Travelling during the pandemic could, but we had to do a service. We have since accepted that Covid-19 will not just disappear and therefore we should learn to live with it.

GP: What safety measures did you take to ensure you are not infected and do not infect the blanket recipients?

Jongman: In order to avoid the risks associated with Covid-19, we ensured adherence to social distancing, we frequently sanitized and when we arrived at the destination we washed our hands with soap and water. Each of the Rotarians attending the distributions ensured that their masks were properly fitted.

GP: How many villages have you visited so far, and how many blankets have you donated in total?

Jongman: The blankets were donated to residents of Mogobane, Mmankgodi, Mochudi, Sese and Diphuduhudu. We also donated to Botswana Retired Nurses Society in Tlokweng, SOS Village, House 14 in Tlokweng and Bakgatla Bolokang Matshelo in Mochudi. In total 500 blankets were donated.

GP: The covid-19 pandemic has dwindled economies and left many jobless, how can civil society organisations succeed in encouraging socio-economic transformation?

Jongman: The only way a civil society organization can accomplish its mandate, is when those who have money are willing to dig into their pockets and assist. Partnering with overseas organisations, as we do in Rotary, could be helpful, as these organisations often have money reserved for aid. There is also need for governments to create an environment where people would be willing to give out to the needy. Taxes must be looked into, and those who donate should be taxed less.

GP: How is your 2020 donation experience different from the past years?

Jongman: The 2020 donation experience is different in that it is done at a time where many other things are needed in the society.  During the blanket distribution we realised the serious need for food donations, and thus the need for more funds.

Rotary is not a charity organization but a service organization. However, we have learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic that no matter how you could be disabled, locked down, or movement restricted, you still need to eat. We should look at working on projects that ensure food security for the communities that we assist. We should consider things like gardens, orchards, chicken farms and backyard fishing as Rotary projects.

GP: There are those who believe that the corona virus is here to stay for a while, what new normal can you advise other civil society organisations to adopt in order to fulfil their mandates?

Jongman: They should keep following health protocols, behave reasonably, eat healthy, exercise well, and avoid overcrowding. Wherever possible they should meet and do their planning remotely. They should only meet when they need to implement a project.

GP: As a club, what can Botswana expect from you this year, what other projects do you have in the pipeline?

Jongman: We have applied for global grants to fund several projects. These include importing some 300 wheelchairs from the UK, a water and sanitation project at Mabule village, a container of schoolbooks for Ghanzi district primary schools and a program to enable the teachers to best teach reading to these young students.

We will also undertake our annual donate-a-can project, in association with Spar and Pick’nPay, where we collect non-perishable food from shoppers at these stores. We then distribute the food hampers to the orphanage centres within the greater Gaborone area. In partnership with several other organisations, we are also planning to assist the Pula Sports/Futsal Park grounds in Bontleng where the young can meet and play their sports.  Another activity we are planning is the setting up two satellite clubs; one at Palapye and the other at Jwaneng.


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