Instead of a speaker at this Thursday’s meeting, we had DVD of a speech given at the PETS conference by Dean Rohrs of Vancouver, an incoming vice-president of Rotary International. She told of being born into a white family in South Africa where she took for granted her position of privilege. Then her parents were sent to the Belgian Congo, as it was then, to supervise refugees fleeing violence. She was 15, and because she was literate, and available, she was given the job of recording the numbers of refugees who came off planes. Mostly, she said, she stood there with a clipboard and counted the number of men, of women, of children.

            Until the day when she greeted a planeload of 50 nuns, who had all been raped and had their hands cut off. When the door opened, she said, she felt overwhelmed by "the fear, the smell, the pain..." And she wondered, "How can one human do that to another human?"

            When she went back to South Africa, she joined the African National Congress, to lobby against apartheid -- a privileged white South African speaking out about the injustices being done by her own people. She was brought up in the Dutch Reformed Church, which taught that all races other than white were doomed, intended by God to be inferior and subservient. As a protester, she was arrested, thrown into the Women's prison. For two weeks. She spoke of iron bars, no light, concrete floors. And she realized that if the authorities were treating her this way, a white South African, what were they doing to black prisoners?

            "Fear came rushing in," she said.

            Years later, she went back to Constitution Hill, now a tourist attraction, and saw it as a symbol of change -- a fortress built on, and by, apartheid, in a society where a black person could receive 50 lashes, just for failing to carry the proper identification documents with him.

            She became convinced that no matter what our birth, every individual must have equal opportunity.

            And Rotary makes it possible, she insisted.

            She told about going to one of the black townships, where a 15-year-old girl came up to her and thrust her baby into Dean's arms, insisting, "Take it, please, take it."

            Fortunately, there were social workers with the group. They explained that in that culture it was believed that if a man had sex with a virgin under 15 years old, he couldn't get AIDS. But of course the girl can. And this one did. The girl – her name was Elizabeth -- had AIDS. Her baby had AIDS. They were both going to die. She had no education, no job. The only hope for her baby was to have someone from outside the country take it.

            But the social workers were able to get help for Elizabeth. She has now graduated from school. Her AIDS is controlled by medication. Her daughter is in school.

            Rotary has built five schools there.

            When the last Rotary team visited, the seven-year-old school children put on a play. They told each other, "Put on a condom."

            She told about visiting a friend. Her friend was a veterinarian; her husband a doctor; they had side-by-side offices. Two men walked into the doctor's office and shot him. Dead. To steal about $20.

            When the police had finished doing their forensics, they said, "It's no longer a crime scene. You can clean it up." So who's going to do that? His widow couldn't. So Dean did. She was on her hands and knees, scrubbing up blood off the floor, off the desk, off the walls. And she recalled, "I was so filled with hatred..."

            But she realized, on the plane back to North America, that she couldn't live with that kind of hatred. She realized that she had to find a way to let that scar heal, and realized that the people who committed the murder were also scarred. "We have to make sure that these scars are excised, or healed, or are never formed in the first place," she said. She hoped Rotary was up to it.

            Acts of cruelty and disrespect grow out of cruelty and disrespect in society, she said. We have almost stamped out the polio virus; now we have to stamp out cruelty and disrespect.

            The DVD ran about 15 minutes overtime. Not one person got up and left. Not one person protested that the meeting had run past closing time. And when the DVD ended, they broke into applause. For a DVD...!

            Anyone who didn’t get to see the DVD last Thursday can borrow it from past-prez Judy Guido.

 

            Instead of a speaker at this Thursday’s meeting, we had DVD of a speech given at the PETS conference by Dean Rohrs of Vancouver, an incoming vice-president of Rotary International. She told of being born into a white family in South Africa where she took for granted her position of privilege. Then her parents were sent to the Belgian Congo, as it was then, to supervise refugees fleeing violence. She was 15, and because she was literate, and available, she was given the job of recording the numbers of refugees who came off planes. Mostly, she said, she stood there with a clipboard and counted the number of men, of women, of children.

            Until the day when she greeted a planeload of 50 nuns, who had all been raped and had their hands cut off. When the door opened, she said, she felt overwhelmed by "the fear, the smell, the pain..." And she wondered, "How can one human do that to another human?"

            When she went back to South Africa, she joined the African National Congress, to lobby against apartheid -- a privileged white South African speaking out about the injustices being done by her own people. She was brought up in the Dutch Reformed Church, which taught that all races other than white were doomed, intended by God to be inferior and subservient. As a protester, she was arrested, thrown into the Women's prison. For two weeks. She spoke of iron bars, no light, concrete floors. And she realized that if the authorities were treating her this way, a white South African, what were they doing to black prisoners?

            "Fear came rushing in," she said.

            Years later, she went back to Constitution Hill, now a tourist attraction, and saw it as a symbol of change -- a fortress built on, and by, apartheid, in a society where a black person could receive 50 lashes, just for failing to carry the proper identification documents with him.

            She became convinced that no matter what our birth, every individual must have equal opportunity.

            And Rotary makes it possible, she insisted.

            She told about going to one of the black townships, where a 15-year-old girl came up to her and thrust her baby into Dean's arms, insisting, "Take it, please, take it."

            Fortunately, there were social workers with the group. They explained that in that culture it was believed that if a man had sex with a virgin under 15 years old, he couldn't get AIDS. But of course the girl can. And this one did. The girl – her name was Elizabeth -- had AIDS. Her baby had AIDS. They were both going to die. She had no education, no job. The only hope for her baby was to have someone from outside the country take it.

            But the social workers were able to get help for Elizabeth. She has now graduated from school. Her AIDS is controlled by medication. Her daughter is in school.

            Rotary has built five schools there.

            When the last Rotary team visited, the seven-year-old school children put on a play. They told each other, "Put on a condom."

            She told about visiting a friend. Her friend was a veterinarian; her husband a doctor; they had side-by-side offices. Two men walked into the doctor's office and shot him. Dead. To steal about $20.

            When the police had finished doing their forensics, they said, "It's no longer a crime scene. You can clean it up." So who's going to do that? His widow couldn't. So Dean did. She was on her hands and knees, scrubbing up blood off the floor, off the desk, off the walls. And she recalled, "I was so filled with hatred..."

            But she realized, on the plane back to North America, that she couldn't live with that kind of hatred. She realized that she had to find a way to let that scar heal, and realized that the people who committed the murder were also scarred. "We have to make sure that these scars are excised, or healed, or are never formed in the first place," she said. She hoped Rotary was up to it.

            Acts of cruelty and disrespect grow out of cruelty and disrespect in society, she said. We have almost stamped out the polio virus; now we have to stamp out cruelty and disrespect.

            The DVD ran about 15 minutes overtime. Not one person got up and left. Not one person protested that the meeting had run past closing time. And when the DVD ended, they broke into applause. For a DVD...!

            Anyone who didn’t get to see the DVD last Thursday can borrow it from past-prez Judy Guido.