Typhoon York

My Dear Rotarians and friends, in particular my Action Presidents,

For those in Hong Kong, I hope you are spending this unexpected morning and probably the whole day profitably. At least, you deserve a good rest. If you tell me what you did, there would be sufficient material for my next two or three letters.

First, anticipating Typhoon York. I had planned to do a section of the Island Trail last Sunday, 12 September, for two reasons. First, I had not done any walking for over two weeks; and secondly, I would be walking with a potential member. Membership development has been high on my agenda. I got up too late, and when I did, I found it too hot and humid, and besides, I had yet to plough through some unanswered and more unopened letters. So I did not go. I was saddened to learn later that evening and during the week of the casualties in the trails. My thoughts went to the families of those trailwalkers. Last night, Dipo and I were walking down the escalators of Two Exchange Square after a very enjoyable visit to the meeting of Rotary Club of Bayview Sunshine. It was about 9:30p.m. Typhoon signal No. 3 was up, but we both agreed that it could be a direct hit which would bring chaos and damages. Well, it sure did. I wish we were wrong, and I think I speak for Dipo. Nevertheless, it gave me unexpected time for writing you this letter, just like the last time when severe tropical storm Sam struck. But unlike Sam, York has already littered our city with untold disruption and possibly human sufferings. My colleagues at Home Affairs Department must be extremely busy now. May God bless them.

Actually, I had planned to send you a letter at least a week earlier, ahead of 9 September 1999 when the much feared and widely hyped 9999 glitch would strike us. I thought I’d better email you the message before some of our communication systems broke down and so on. Well, the high risk day came and went, blissfully and uneventfully. A senior official from Information Technology and Broadcasting Bureau cautioned afterwards against complacency and urged Hong Kong, in particular the business community, not to relax, but to continue with their preparation for the big day, which by the way, will be a General Holiday. Frankly, I don’t know what the hype has been all about. In the lead up to 9999, many Y2K experts had predicted that it would be a non-event, but had advised us to use the occasion as a rehearsal. Indeed, a lot can be said about rehearsals or preparation for the future in general and for any one particular event that matters to an individual in particular. Life is a series of continuing rehearsals, such that one is always preparing oneself for the future and what it may bring. Thus, today, we prepare ourselves for tomorrow and this year, we prepare ourselves for the next year, and so on. Those among us who prepare themselves well would normally emerge with better results in life.

The Earth has not exactly been kind to its dominant species these days. As Rotarians in District 3450 are still raising funds for the relief of the earthquake victims in Turkey – and I am impressed by the generosity of some clubs and members – we learn of the death toll from the earthquake in Athens and the damage it could cause to ancient treasures. And this week, we have more than 3 million evacuated from Florida and adjacent states, the program being billed as the largest ever evacuation in peace time. If that is not sufficient bad news, turn to the human sufferings inflicted by fellow human beings in East Timor and the delay in intervention on the part of the international community and UN peace-keeping force, which in turn must have inflicted more unnecessary deaths and human sufferings.

During his official visits to clubs, DG Dipo Sani was often asked why Rotarians need to contribute to The Rotary Foundation. Well, the answer is simple. The Rotary Foundation supports the efforts of Rotary International to achieve world understanding and peace through international humanitarian educational, and cultural exchange programs. The few examples I just cited are not all, but they are indicative that we are not yet there, as far as the mission and vision of Rotary is concerned. I therefore urge you to find time to attend the District Rotary Foundation Seminar to be held at Holiday Inn Golden Mile Hotel this Saturday, 18 September 1999. Regional Rotary Foundation Coordinator PDG John Cheah will come specifically for the Seminar to give you the most up to date facts and figures. From home, we have PDGs Y K Cheng, Raymond Wong, Jason Yeung , Anthony Hung and others, all very good value, in particular District Rotary Foundation Chairman Y K Cheng.

Back to East Timor, I had a copy message from DG Dipo as I was writing this. DG Dipo received an appeal for help from his fellow DG Mark Wong from Indonesia (D-3400). It was a gentle, but obvious urgent cry for help. If you have tears, be prepare to shed them now. This is what Mark said.

“Dear Governors 2000: By now, you must have read about the multiple humanitarian tragedies in Indonesia…Aceh, Ambon and now East Timor. Rotarians in D-3400 have been working quietly to provide the much needed relief, but our resources are limited; more so because the economic crisis that befell us in 1997 is still with us. Now that there is sufficient international attention (on East Timor), I urge you to help us to accomplish more through your generous contributions to enable us to obtain the badly needed supplies to prevent hunger and disease. Your club can either send directly to us or via The Rotary Foundation. My account details are as follows :

Mark Wong Rotary District 3400

Account No. 1005-611878

Pan Indonesia Bank Senayan Main Branch Jalan Jend Sudiman, Jarkarta Indonesia

Thank you in advance for your favourable responses. With Best Regards. Mark Wong.”

This is a cry from a gentle Rotarian. I urge you not to let his plea unanswered. I believe DG Dipo would soon act to garner support and donations from the District. We would certainly discuss this at our Continuity Meeting tomorrow.

From Rotary Foundation and East Timor, I go back to membership development. End of last month, DG Dipo had two seminars organized, one in Macau and one in Hong Kong, on 26 and 27 respectively. Taking the two together, we had some 560 attended, which is close to a third of the district membership. Indeed, both seminars were very good, made very much better by Past RI Director Richard King whose humour, jokes, singing, generosity and above all, Rotary information, are simply superb and can rival the best in the category. PP Amy Ho gave a good account of what transpired in the September Issue of the DG Newsletter. Read it. By the way, I have just heard through the Governors 2000 circuit that Richard King has been nominated RI President for 2001-2002 to succeed RI President-elect Frank Devlyn. The appointment, if confirmed, would mean that District 3450 will have another friend and staunch supporter of our causes at Evanston, and that can only be good.

Still on Rotary Foundation, we have just completed this year’s interviews for Rotary Foundation Scholarship. Alex Lau (Kowloon Golden Mile) is Committee Chairman and he received a lot of help from Foundation Chairman PDG Y K Cheng and the Continuity Trio, namely IPDG Anthony, DG Dipo and myself, PP N V Balasubramanian (Kowloon), PP Joseph Kwan (Kowloon Golden Mile), PE Victoria Tang (Queensway) and a returned Scholar Linda Choy who has since joined the Financial Secretary’s Office. We have also invited a representative from Government’s Student Financial Assistance Agency to advise on how the Scholarship Program can be made more open and available for more people who would benefit from it. From 37 applications, 17 were short-listed for more detailed examination, out of which 9 were selected to attend before the Committee last Saturday, 11 September. The short-listed candidates are all achievers, at least academically. Among them were four Oxbridge graduates and a Ph.D. final. We selected five and an additional one as reserve. DG Dipo said afterwards that he was thoroughly thrilled by the high standards displayed by some of the candidates, which made him feel more confident about Hong Kong’s future. It was the first time DG Dipo got involved in the program, and he was impressed by the dedication and seriousness of the Rotarians involved. The successful candidates have already been informed and host councilors allocated to each.

Meanwhile, work on the Group Study Exchange has started, with PP Jones Wong handling the USA exchange and PP Kay Lau, the exchange with China. Already, I have lined up a district for exchange in my year. This will be an extremely attractive program, and I will not say more than that for the time being. Suffice it to say that we would start work early, to ensure that we would have good candidates.

Before I sign off, I would like to respond to the comments from readers to the last issue. I am glad that it reached more people than the first one. I had requests for the founding issue, and I have tried to email it to the readers concerned, but I probably forgot to do so in a few cases. Please accept my apologies if you are one of them. Please send me an email to jog my memory, and I would deal with it immediately.

I find the comments very positive, helpful and encouraging. One or two Presidents-elect suggested that the letters would enable them to get to know their future DG better. Well, my objective is to get to know you better, and I think I can only achieve that if you continue to give me feedback. More importantly, the letters are not solely intended for PEs, notwithstanding that they are important, very important readers. The problem is, I don’t have all their email addresses. I am planning to post these letters on the District web page. One reader quipped that it was all (or a lot of) home affairs. Well, I would like to believe that friends share that sort of thing between them, and I hope you would share some of your thoughts or part of you with me and other readers.

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