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Rotary and Children’s Book Network (CBN)

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From the very first day, CBN has enjoyed a close and warm association with Rotary both in South Africa and overseas.

Richard Parson, recipient of the Paul Harris Award and member of Rotary Cape of Good Hope, saw early on that we needed advice with matters such as a constitution, a board and a bank account. Already critically ill with cancer, he still took the time and patience to steer us through the processes of registering as an NPO, registering with the tax authorities for tax exemption and setting up the good governance he was renowned for. We miss him sadly. Rotary Cape of Good Hope assisted us with start-up funding and Richard also helped us financially in his personal capacity. He attended many workshops and much enjoyed the company of the children.

Richard also steered us in the direction of Rotary Newlands and three of their members took us on as a project in his memory. Roy Zazeraj (also a Paul Harris recipient) was our chair for five years and introduced us to the Newlands club, with whom we had a close relationship and from whom we received much needed funding as we expanded our reach from the Cape Peninsula to rural Clanwilliam in the Cederberg Mountains.

During this time, CBN grew substantially but our goal remained the same. To bring books to children and children to books. Contact with Rotary Skellefteå
in northern Sweden (Lesley Beake and co-founder Sindiwe Magona on a reading and book promotion visit to Sweden), we established excellent relations with the club, welcoming some of their members in South Africa and hosting a visit by Swedish teenagers who worked with youngsters in Red Hill informal settlement near Simon’s Town.

Rotary Skellefteå donated funding – most spectacularly in a sponsored solo flight from North Cape Norway to Cape Point South Africa. The plane was welcomed with song and joy by children from Red Hill informal settlement. A large-format (and also large!) cheque was handed over and a 17-year-old boy from Red hill was given a flight in the plane the next day. Such happiness!

CBN moved to the Overberg region in 2015 and have established a thriving connection with the community in Stanford. We work closely with Stanford Rotary, particularly during lockdown, and they have funded part of our Book Club programme. Springfontein Winery have also sponsored us and supported us with a special wine marked on our behalf in Germany. Through Springfontein, we met Rotary Rotweil who have recently been our strongest financial donors. Over the past few years, several members from Rotweil have visited CBN reading workshops in Stanford (more than ten guests, some of them for a second visit), and we maintain a close relationship with individual members and with the club as a whole.

It is true to say that, without Rotary, CBN could not have reached as many children with the joy of books. We have an excellent monitoring and evaluation structure, so we can report that during lockdown we had 11 000 interactions with children through our printed outreach programme when workshops were not possible.

Those are the stats. The truth of it is that the love of books is something that is beyond price and immeasurable on any graph. CBN works because of the passion we, and our friends and supporters in Rotary bring to this task.

How do we know it works? We see it in the eyes of the children.

Thank you, Rotary – Rotary everywhere!

Lesley Beake (Director) and the CBN team