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Wendy Betteridge was asked to share her reflections during her membership of the Club

Having prepared some images to recall the past pictorially, it was a shame that there was no data show available on the night. However, the images are recorded here. 

Reflecting on 30 years’ membership of Plimmerton Rotary has brought me immense pleasure. I recalled events that happened long ago and each one evoked a warm memory, not only of the event itself, but also of the people I’d been lucky enough to work closely with. Now that so many of you have also reflected on your memories and shared them for the archives, I’ve been moved by what our club stands for and how special our memories are.  

My Rotary journey began towards the end of 1992, when then President, Randall Shaw – a good friend - asked me if I’d speak to the Club. And I did. Soon afterwards, he asked whether I’d allow my name to go forward to be considered for membership. 

We need to understand that Rotary International was a very different animal then. Much water flowed under the bridge between 1950, when the Council of Legislation enacted the deletion of the word ‘male’ from the Standard Rotary Club Constitution, to 1989 when the same Council voted to admit women into Rotary clubs worldwide. This was a watershed moment in the history of Rotary that was contentious in many clubs around the world at the time – and still may be in some. 

Randall told me that the Plimmerton Board had asked members to vote on the issue, and that seven members were opposed to anything so radical happening in their club (not on MY patch!). In fact, at least one member said that if a woman was inducted, he would resign. Was I prepared to face this if I was invited? With some temerity that I didn’t really feel, I said I was and Randall admitted that he was one of the seven dissenters, and he would be very heavily fined by the Sergeant of the day as I would be inducted during his year!

And so, on 11 February 1993, I became the first woman member of Plimmerton Rotary. The most remarkable thing happened in the following weeks when six members made themselves known to me as ‘one of the seven’ and said they had been premature in objecting. It was very humbling. One, of course, did resign but we won’t mention any names!

It goes without saying that I have been privileged to be part of such an unique group of dedicated people, and given many great opportunities to serve. 

y first task was to take the role of Secretary from Ross Garner – a hard act to follow – when Gwyn was President. I was lucky enough to serve with two Treasurers who became close friends and were a complete joy to work with – Alan Roberts and Noel Evans - both of whom have since sadly died. It was great to visit Alan and Dianne in Sussex when Alan spent several years working in the UK. 

And when Noel died recently. I was honoured when Meryll asked me to lead his funeral service. He’d played his double bass at my 70th birthday party in my garden and was always a great mentor and friend.

While I was Secretary, the club adopted a software programme called ClubMate. It was more use for Treasurers than for Secretaries but I was given the task of inputting all the members’ details, which the programme computed at a glacial speed. Frankly it was a nightmare. I was at my wits end, trying to get everything done with my fledgling training consultancy business, running the farm and the household, looking after the four children and keeping up to date with Rotary business. I’d been given the Viewpoint slot during this time, and I remember the moment when I found myself writing a poem while I waited for the programme to confirm an input. I had just started when Alan rang me, and said, ‘Hello possum’, what are you up to?” “I’m writing a poem”, I said innocently, to which he replied, “I wish I had time to write poetry!”

This was my poem which I delivered whilst juggling three balls! It was called ‘Women in Rotary’.

For the women holding office
It can be hard, you see,
To juggle all the myriad tasks -
(I'm speaking personally)

There's still the house to clean and shine
The meals to cook and clear
The shopping, often dead at night,
(There's no more butter, dear)

The garden to be dug and pruned
The lawns mowed frequently
The stock to move, the dogs to train
And all with urgency. 

And into this array of tasks
Career and clients squeeze
Calls to make, workshops to run
Meetings – what a breeze

But still there's more, there's mail to sort
There's ClubMate to instal
Records to keep, minutes to send
Quick, lest I drop a ball

We hold the babe, we stir the soup
We kick wolves from the door
This juggling ability
Can sometimes be a bore

I know the work-load borne by men
Needs competence and grit
The difference I'm outlining, is
No wives at home!  We're it!

A memory that still tears at my heart was when I was International Director in David Knight’s year. Our committee wanted passionately to support funding for the Hamlin Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia. 

I project managed an evening with Labels Unlimited at the Police College, which some of you will remember, and we raised $6,000. Unfortunately, my year ended before we could finalise the project and the next committee had other good ideas. It never happened. This may be one of the drawbacks of a complete changing of the guard.

It was late in Brian Emery’s year when he asked me if I’d consider being nominated for President. I admit I was speechless. It took a lot of thought, and I accepted with plenty of trepidation. 

A few years later, as is the practice in our Club, I followed Ted Nation with his vision that we should be Cathedral Builders and we worked closely together with a view to taking each President’s ideas through to the future so that good ideas didn’t die a natural death with the changeover. 

I absolutely loved my year as President in 2000-2001. Among other things, we ran a Silent Auction and raised $18,500 for the Fred Hollows Foundation. We donated a pony called Henry to Riding for the Disabled, as well as a computer and a printer.

And we won a significant Achievement Award for the Porirua Skateboard Park which was initiated by Kaye Fitzpatrick and her team and built by Ted and his team. We had a friendship exchange with Feilding Rotary – and much more.

For the life of me, I can’t remember when we hosted the GSE team from South Africa but I do remember the long walk up to Boulder Hill at the very top of our farm in Pauatahanui. 

You’ll recognize the faces of good and old friends, some of whom are no longer with us.

One lasting memory was when Graham Kelly, former Mana MP and High Commissioner to Canada, launched the e-Learning Porirua Trust to bridge the digital divide within the city. He valued Plimmerton’s contribution to the community and wanted a close relationship with us. He invited me to join the Trust Board and I served on it for the next 20 years. Several members like Allan Nichols, Graham Craig, Jim and Shirley Dearsly initially helped with the training and we know that we changed the lives of more than 2,000 digitally challenged participants when we helped them to become computer literate. It was exciting to receive a Westpac Porirua Business Award in 2015. 

Following my year as president, District Governor Judy Bain asked me to become one of her Assistant Governors and that was a fun year. DG Alan Birrell invited me to take on a second year but I had received a much more compelling request from DG John Cole to join the District Training Committee – right up my professional street – a Committee, he emphasized, traditionally made up entirely of Past District Governors. No pressure there!

Having experienced President-Elect training personally, I gently suggested that I’d be very interested in writing a new training programme for the District as I felt that changes could be made. John agreed, appointing me as the District Training Convenor, a position I held for the following five years. It was a real privilege to work with wonderful past and incoming District Governors. 

District commitments continued in 2010, when Graeme Blick, Debbie Noon and I talked about offering Plimmerton’s services to take over the organization of RYLA which was held at Silverstream at that time. In the event, half way through the first year, Graeme received a higher calling as a future District Governor and Debbie left the club, so I ended up managing the ‘Blue Team’ of wonderful former Rylarians on my own for the next three years. 

It was a fabulous experience and it was exciting to increase the numbers of participants and, although it wasn’t the intention, to hand over the 3-year commitment to Hutt City with a healthy bank balance. 

Another long-lasting memory was when I came up with the idea of organizing a Teardrop campaign. I managed to persuade DG Bob Smith to get the District to sponsor 50 teardrops – a wonderful marketing tool for clubs – so that we could offer two for the price of one to the first 50 clubs who ordered. Orders flooded in and we sold just under 100 teardrops to 44 of 9940’s 59 clubs as well as to clubs in other districts as far afield as Christchurch, Hokitika, Tauranga, Rotorua, and Remuera to name a few. I couldn’t have achieved it without the help of several Rotarians who rolled up their sleeves to fulfil the orders and courier teardrops all over the country – these wonderful guys – the two Petes and Richard - and also Tim Beere who produced the art work. 

We’d priced very carefully and sold each teardrop for under $150 but we hadn’t anticipated a very favourable change in the exchange rate during 2012 and we swelled the club’s coffers by the amazing and unexpected sum of $17,000! Bit embarrassing that! The icing on the cake was when Nick accepted the District 9940 Public Image Award at the 2012 District Conference.

In 2015 I came up with the idea of creating leadership awards for primary students in Porirua. It was Porirua City’s 50th anniversary that year so the timing seemed perfect. The Rotary International theme was ‘Be a Gift to the World’ which spoke to me about what our young people of Porirua bring to the community table.

I floated the idea with Mayor Nick Leggett and he was immediately supportive. I visited five primary schools in various parts of the city to make sure this would be something they would value for their students and they gave us lots of good advice about how to market the initiative. We decided to honour two students, nominated by the principals and staff from each of the 32 Porirua primary schools.

The first year, Nick was there in his Mayoral robes to present certificates to 64 proud students! We have continued to run this event, most recently at Elim Church, where supporter numbers have swelled to about 400, who include politicians, Councillors, community leaders, principals, parents, whanau, friends and supporters. Its popularity in the community continues to grow and I wish Colin and his team all the best with running it for the ninth time this August, when I will be at a wedding in England. 

Finally, I must say how much I’ve enjoyed editing the weekly newsletter for the past ten years. I confess that it can be hard to attend every week in order to record what happens at the meeting, but members like Mike Doig are unfailingly generous with their contributions, and I even get the occasional word of thanks from someone who has enjoyed a particular edition. (they’re always welcome!) Added to that, our Communications team, currently headed by Phillip Reidy, are a joy to work with. 

To conclude, I can only say that the past thirty years in the Club have been very memorable and provided extraordinary opportunities to serve. I’ve met and enjoyed exceptional people who have been generous with their time, their wisdom, their advice, and their friendship. I’d say to any member who has perhaps only joined the club recently, whatever your contribution, Rotary will give back in abundance. 


Reflections from Wendy Betteridge - 23 May 2023

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