Who, here, is not a better person because you are part of Rotary? Because of the opportunities it has given you to give back, to do service and fellowship? I think each one of us has a story with Rotary — things in our lives that are so special and important that we would have never experienced without Rotary,” said RI President Jennifer Jones, addressing Rotarians of RIDs 2981, 2982, 3000, 3231 and 3232 in Chennai as part of her India visit.
Calling service ‘the cornerstone of Rotary,’ she thanked them for the “good work you do in your communities and throughout the world. We are not only people of action but also people of purpose and influence.”
She recounted witnessing an open heart surgery at a hospital in Ma’an, Jordan, where she attended a district conference along with her husband Nick Krayacich.
Dressed in hospital greens she “stood without moving a muscle,” and watched Rtn Mark Turpentine perform the surgery. She leaned forward and saw the patient lying on the table covered from head to toe with a sheet and “only a square opening in the area where the doctor was operating. There was an anaesthetist and a nurse in the room. As he was stitching, every once in a while, he would take his hand underneath the patient’s heart, jiggle it and ask the anaesthetist to ‘warm it up a little’, then he would resume stitching. This jiggle-warming-stitching continued.
When he noticed Jones in the room, he invited her to take a closer look. “He introduced me to the patient, six-year-old Salma, a Syrian refugee. After the final stitch, he told the anaesthetist to ‘warm it up.’ And, at that moment, little Salma’s heart started to beat… I got to see her come back to life. That day I realised I am a better person because of Rotary.”
Talking about membership retention, she said that it is important to “make the members fall in love with Rotary. It shouldn’t be about ticking off numbers. We must make them feel welcome, and proud that they have an equal contribution to make in this organisation.”
DG Dr N Nandakumar, RID 3232, thanked the RI president “for inspiring us and reminding us about the care and comfort of our members. Truly Rotary has touched our lives and changed us for the better.”
Earlier Jones met Tamil Nadu chief minister M K Stalin and briefed him about Rotary’s polio eradication programmes and its various humanitarian initiatives being implemented across the state, including the mega hepatitis vaccination campaign launched by the district.
A rendezvous with Rotaractors
The RI president received a rousing welcome at the Ethiraj College in Chennai, where she met Rotaractors of RID 3232. “Your energy is electric! I was told this district is home to the largest number of Rotaractors — all of 29,000! And Ethiraj College has the biggest female Rotaract club. Nick and I had no idea what to expect till we walked in through the door and experienced your crazy energy… and I love it,” she said. She thanked DRR Goutham Raj and Meera Sharma, past president of RAC Madras Central, for “the incredible programme.”
Her theme Imagine Rotary, she said, is “powerful, because it gives you Rotaractors the opportunity to think about what you want for your community and our world.” Urging Rotaractors to dream big, she said, “with Rotaract you have a chance to become a better public speaker, understand how various governments work, develop leadership and professional skills, and have fun through service.”
Applauding them for their strong social media knowledge and presence, Jones said, “Rotaractors could finish designing a project in a month over quick chats on WhatsApp. Whereas Rotarians would form committees and take 3–6 months to complete the same project.”
Talking about DEI she said, “Diversity is our strength and Rotaract has already figured it out. Be it gender equity or diverse membership, you have led the way forward.” She was delighted to learn that the district’s Rotaract membership has 50 per cent women. “The future of our organisation is sitting right here. You bring great energy, positive leadership, efficacy and quickness in solving the world’s most pressing problems and challenge us to think differently about how we do our Rotary business. Together we can achieve great things.”
Jones recalled the time when she accompanied her husband DGN Krayacich to a medical mission in the Amazon. “I met many Rotarians from different parts of the world. The internationality of Rotary inspired me and I understood that irrespective of our nationalities, backgrounds, religious beliefs… as Rotary members we all want the same things for our families, our countries and Rotary helps us achieve these goals.”