Action lady

Joelle SerleFrom day one, since her induction, new Rotary Hout Bay Club president Joelle Searle has been hard at work bringing “the personal touch” into community relationships. Each club in Rotary world wide, of which there are 33,000, has seven avenues of service and one of the most important is known simply as “Community Services”.

In this case Joelle has appointed “Butch” Liebenberg, a long serving Rotary Hout Bay member, to lead her team.   Joelle, being a “hands on” lady, works closely with each of the seven service leaders in the club.

Joelle has been associated with the Hout Bay community for years and has a long history as an ardent deep sea angler, estate agent and kind and gentle friend to many in the valley.     She succeeded Hans Kuhn as president of Rotary Hout Bay and her team also includes Alison Rice as Secretary and Denise Hopkins as Treasurer.

Icy cold

Within a few days of her induction as this year’s Hout Bay Rotary Club president,  Joelle was “out there” organizing blankets for the poor during a freezing drop in temperatures which had invaded the entire Peninsula.    The cold spell was particularly troubling for the Hout Bay township settlement area called Imizamo Yethu, known to locals as “IY”, where some 30,000 people currently reside mostly in temporary shelters and shacks.

To add more problems to the housing crisis, some 4,000 of these IY residents have had to be housed in temporary tin shacks nearby as a result of terrible fires in the area razing hundreds of homes.

For weeks earlier, Rotarian Peter Dutton of Rotary Hout Bay and his wife Bernadette had been working with dozens of others in Hout Bay, Hout Bay NGOs and Hout Bay businesses supplying clothing, kitchen gear, bedding and anything that would help the fire survivors who had absolutely nothing left.

Fire damage

Not a saucepan to heat water, no clothing and not even a bed to sleep. Fire is a terrible thing.   But the Hout Bay community from all areas in the valley bonded as one and the entire community came together to bring food and clothing for the needy, many of whom who had lost everything.    It was a great human story of community friendship reported widely in both the international and local media.

But then a further diasastrous turn of events took place. A “cold front” arrived in Hout Bay with snow in the nearby mountains.     In the rush in the weeks before to supply temporary shelter and a roof over the heads of the 4,000 homeless from the fires, proper electricity supply to each shelter had not been a possibility and water borne sewerage facilities out of the question.   With little in the way of service facilities until any new housing was ready, the “big freeze” turned out to be times of “big trouble” with unrest and street confrontation.

When this died down and peace returned to Hout Bay the cruel results were still evident.   No electricity, no warmth in the temporay shelter area and therefore illness as well.    As if all of this was not bad enough, then the heavens opened and the rain came pouring down. Mothers with children were living in desperate conditions, and still are.

Whose fault was the unrest?   Does it matter?  All that Rotary knows is that under these circumstances what is needed is warmth and kindness. There’s nothing like a simple blanket as a wrap-around when you have nothing – just to keep warm and wait for daybreak, in the hope that tomorrow is better.

Leadership by example

Rotary does not interest itself in the events surrounding the violence but just follows its own creed of helping where it can in cases of human suffering.  In the cold and confusion of an event such as this there are always the “little ones”, the ordinary folk, the non-players who are left to fend for themselves. The work goes on and Rotary Club of Hout Bay is proud that the club, led by our new president Joelle, responded so timeously.

Joelle Searle said in her first note to all members of the club, “As I take my first tentative steps into my year of presidency, I know that I will make it thanks to a very competent club board as well as all Rotary Hout Bay club members, our District 9350 leaders and the Rotary fellowship worldwide.  During the coming year we must look at more ways to combat these terrible fires and the destruction they cause amongst the very poor.”


Rotary Club of Hout Bay wishes to thank all members of Rotary Club of Kirstenbosch, a nearby Rotary club in Cape Town who had earlier come to the assistance of the fire victims with this wonderful supply of the blankets pictured.  It is was our priviledge to be able to distribute these to a specific needy target section of the community, instead of just a usual hand out.

Thank you Kirstenbosch Rotary and a warm thank you from President Joelle, plus the thanks of the many of the less priviledged in Hout Bay.                                          Rotary indeed can make a difference.

Rotary making a difference