Grow Rotary to do more by increasing membership and taking up impactful projects with 4–5 clubs joining together, said RIPE Shekhar Mehta at the Valentine’s Day virtual event hosted by RC Banguio Summer Capital, RID 3790, the Philippines, in partnership with the Synergy Rotary Friendship Alliance.
Addressing a gathering of around 400 Rotary leaders from Asian countries, Mehta said, “dreams are made of crazy thoughts and ideas. What we couldn’t achieve in 17 years, we can do it in the next 17 months, that is, raising the membership to 1.3 million. Get back to your clubs with the message — ‘Each one, get one’; the target is really achievable.” Rotarians look for opportunities even during challenging times and in a way, “this pandemic is a gift to us to grow membership,” he said. While it took decades for developing vaccines for polio and Ebola, “we are able to come out with a Covid vaccine in just nine months.” In the pandemic times, clubs must engage their members through virtual meetings and we can even have hybrid clubs that hold both in-person and virtual meetings for their members, he said.
Having joined Rotary at 25, “I am really blessed to have been directly involved in 2,500 paediatric heart surgeries, while across India, Rotary clubs would have done around 20,000 surgeries for poor children.” he said, and highlighted his home club, RC Calcutta Mahanagar’s endeavour to take heart surgeries of three Afghan children, while another child in Africa is waiting for the same.
Global grants for providing artificial limbs, building gender-segregated toilets, literacy programmes, water and sanitation facilities in remote villages have brought dignity and self-respect to thousands of beneficiaries, he said. Through the Rotary India Literacy Mission, over 115 million children have now got daily access to Rotary’s audio visual programme. “Talks are on with the Nepal government to replicate a similar e-learning programme there,” Mehta said, and urged Rotarians take up such initiatives in South Asia. “An African country will be adopting our e learning programme with a pilot project soon for which I am in talks with their education minister,” he informed.
Empowering girl children
While the (net adjusted) enrolment ratio is 96 per cent at primary schools in India, by the time they reach Class 10, dropout rate touches 50 per cent, with girls being a majority. Replying to a delegate’s question on other ways to empower girls, Mehta said, “Rotary clubs can take up bridge courses, free tuitions to bring back girls who had dropped out of schools, donate bicycles, solar lanterns to facilitate their studies and even teach self-defence techniques.” Eco-friendly reusable sanitary napkins can be distributed to girls and a counselling helpline can be arranged for them, he suggested. With age relaxation for Rotaractors, “we may look at combined membership of both Rotary and Rotaract clubs in future,” he said.
While there will be no funding for Covid vaccination as decided by the RI board, “Rotary clubs can take up Covid advocacy and carry out support work by joining hands with local governments.” TRF Trustee Sang Koo Yun from Korea, RIDEs Mahesh Kotbagi, A S Venkatesh, DG Jesus Sama, RID 3790, PDG Rolando Villanueva, Philippines and PDGs from ASEAN districts were present at the meet.