Never underestimate the power of one’s dream, thought, idea, vision or a programme as it can have profound impact on the community or at the pan-India level, said RI President Shekhar Mehta at the golden jubilee celebrations of RC Madras Midtown, RID 3232.
To illustrate his point, he recalled his visit to the wedding of PRIP Kalyan Banerjee’s son 15 years ago in Vapi, a small town in Gujarat, which totally changed his mindset.
As he was wondering at the reason for holding the marriage at a Rotary school, “I saw one of the best manicured lawns at this school, a project of RC Vapi which had 54 members then. The town with 200,000 people had no school, so they started a primary school, and got it elevated into secondary school, which now has over 2,000 students. For higher education, a college was started back then. Now, this small town has seven colleges including a medical college with a 200-bed state-of-the-art hospital, all run by RC Vapi.”
That visit to Vapi, “I consider a pilgrimage,” said Mehta. Paediatric heart surgeries were taken up for the first time by RC Calcutta Mahanagar, his home club, with much hesitation, though the then president was a heart surgeon, as they were entering into uncharted waters. “We completed the year with 100 free heart surgeries against the target of 66 surgeries. This project then became our district’s flagship project, and I was personally involved in 2,500 surgeries, and now at the all-India level, clubs have done over 20,000 surgeries on poor children in the last 10 years.”
Only failures beget success
Honda Motors founder-chairman Soichiro Honda, Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan, American inventor Thomas Alva Edison, and US President Abraham Lincoln achieved the pinnacle of success after experiencing a series of failures in their life, he said. “A ship is safe in the harbour, but you have to take it to the high seas for it to live its life.” He urged the club to take up one single programme on a mega scale with a grand vision so that it can later be scaled up to the national level. Project Shelter Kits was pioneered by him to provide relief to disaster victims as it has 52 essential items such as tarpaulins, bedsheets, cooking and eating utensils, and other utility articles for a family to restart their life. It’s a sort of ghar wapsi kit, he said. Now shelter kits are being distributed wherever disaster strikes in India. “Reaching 50 years is a time for celebration indeed for a club, but it is also an occasion to introspect and rededicate ourselves for the cause of service,” he said. “It is a big gift to touch and change lives. Rotary has to keep the wheel rolling for humanity to thrive. We have the power and magic to serve to change lives,” he added.
Put together a committee of senior Rotarians to reassess the club’s priorities and chalk out a plan of action in the decades ahead, said RI Director A S Ventakesh. “You have to formulate a strategy for the next 10 years and avoid the sense of complacency that may creep in,” he said. The club has not touched even 10 per cent of its potential, hence “go for big targets like building a new hospital, school or setting up a vocational centre that can house 1,000 girls,” he advised.
Listing some of the milestone projects, club president Vikram Jindal said 1,400 sanitary pads were given to students at the Corporation Girls School, Choolaimedu; MHM sessions are being held at five schools, and 600 girls will be given sanitary pads for which a hygiene cupboard will be gifted to the schools; 100 boats with motors and nets were given to tsunami-hit fishermen at three villages in Kancheepuram district; two toilet blocks were renovated at the Corporation Boys School, Nungambakkam, which has an Interact club too; and funds were given for providing TV sets to Sri Lankan children for their education.
The club has taken up a ‘no plastic’ campaign at Kodai hills in partnership with RC Kodaikanal and is providing financial aid to nursing students at the Van Allen Hospital there.
Empowering women by giving them vocational training is one of their key initiatives, said Jindal. “Every month we want to empower 100 women by providing them training in home-made products such as chocolate, cloth and paper bags, manure and pickle making,” he said. For TRF giving, the club had set the bar at $100,000 — $50,000 as a golden jubilee Endowment Fund and the balance for the GG project of setting up a five-machine dialysis unit at the Ayyappan Seva Samajam in Arakamedu village, Tiruvallur district. The club is a partner for a global grant to procure a mobile mammography clinic for which it will contribute ₹3 lakh and provide cancer care.
Go Green project
In partnership with the Indian Maritime University, the club is into a mega greening mission with a target to plant 50,000 saplings in and around Chennai. “We are creating a Miyawaki forest over 40 acres allotted to us at the IMU campus where we will plant over 2 lakh trees in the next three years,” said Jindal. The club runs two Orange Vision Centres at Tiruttani and Karnodai (Red Hills) and three more will come up this year at Santhome, Ponneri and Minjur.
District Rotary Foundation chairman M Ambalavanan and Ann Geetha were felicitated by Mehta for becoming AKS members. Recalling his stint as club president in 2016–17, Ambalavanan said completing three GG projects brought “pride and prestige to the club”. “From there on, we are able to get global donors and TRF funds for our projects. This cemented my conviction and strengthened my resolve to give more to the Foundation. Rotary has brought transformational changes in society, and transcendental changes in ourselves. We can feel the magic,” he said.
RC Madras president Mohan Raman said his club will be setting up a tailoring centre jointly with RC Madras Midtown. “The staff at our centres at Selaiyur and Rotary Nagar, Triplicane, will train the instructors at the newly set-up vocational centre. We will donate sewing machines worth ₹2.5 lakh for the project.” A coffee table book Touching lives, a Madras Midtown journey curated by past president Usha Kumar was released by Mehta. Event chair Jaishankar Unithan also spoke.
Pictures by V Muthukumaran