Over successive years, The Rotary Foundation has been increasing its goal of collecting donations from Rotarians, so that it can help Rotary clubs around the world do better, bigger, more impactful and more sustainable service projects. “Every year, the RI Board sets a certain goal for TRF collection. In 2019–20 that goal was $370 million; the next year, 2020–21, the goal was $410 million. As we all know that year started and ended with Covid,” said TRF trustee Bharat Pandya, addressing the multidistrict TRF recognition meeting for zone 5 hosted by RID 3211 in Thiruvananthapuram.
This, added Pandya, surprised many Rotarians, who “thought this was madness. They felt we should have reduced our goal to $350 million from $370 million and not raised it to $410. But thanks to the generosity of people like you, instead of meeting our goal of $410 million, TRF collected $440 million that year. And that proves the commitment of Rotarians to TRF.”
The Gates Foundation website says that as far as the polio eradication programme is concerned, the world will not be where it is today without Rotary, and the world will not get where it wants to get without Rotary.
While individually no Rotarian could do much to change the world, “through TRF we can certainly make our world a better place to live in. TRF is our window to the world. Look through that window and you will find hundreds and thousands of people who do not have access to safe water and proper sanitation.”
Striking a poignant note, Pandya said a peep through the TRF window, and the opportunity it provides, would show them “pregnant mothers struggling with their pregnancy because of lack of access to good and affordable healthcare. Or young girls, 10–11-year-old, pulled out of schools at puberty because there are no separate toilets for boys and girls in their schools.” Or slightly older girls deprived of schooling because they had to walk a few km to reach their schools, and their parents were terrified to put them through this daily risk.
Once a Rotarian had run her eyes through this window, “you have two options; close your eyes and pretend nothing is wrong and go about your business as usual, or do something for them. And the best way to do something is through TRF programmes.”
Referring to the trustee chair Ian Riseley, who was scheduled to attend the event, but was constrained to address it through a short video clip, as he had to be hospitalised in Mumbai, Pandya said during the beginning of this Rotary year, when Riseley was planning his visit to India, he said India was such an important country that he wanted to come here twice during his year as trustee chair. His first visit to India was in September 2022, and he was very keen to come to zone 5 in South India, “because I told him this zone is not only a top contributor from India, but probably among the 4 or 5 top contributing zones in the world. So he said I must visit that zone and let’s try and have a multidistrict event.”
He thanked RRFC John Daniel for organising the mega event in which EMGA, ARRFCs, and several district governors from zone 5 participated, along with AKS members and major donors. Pandya was all praise for the two mega projects that the Kerala minister for general education and labour V Sivankutty inaugurated — distribution of 1,000 sewing machines donated by PDG John Daniel through his family trust Y Daniel Foundation and 1,000 bicycles donated by PDG E K Sagadhevan.
TRF is our window to the world. Look through that window and you will find hundreds and thousands of people who do not have access to safe water and proper sanitation.
Thanking all the generous donors who were attending the multidistrict recognition dinner, including AKS members, the TRF trustee said, “The world of TRF starts at our doorstep and extends to all corners of the world; whether it is setting up a dialysis centre in Thiruvananthapuram, or a blood bank in Bengaluru or Delhi, building check dams in rural parts of RI district 3141 or a huge five-storeyed diabetes facility in Rajkot with funds from TRF, our constant endeavour is to improve people’s lives.”
Pandya went on to give details about the Programs of Scale that TRF has launched, with the first two grants going to Zambia to combat malaria, and Nigeria for mother and child health. In Zambia, this grant of $6 million — $2 million each by the Gates Foundation, World Vision and TRF — had been given to two districts, covering one third of the country. “In the last 18 months, in the areas in Zambia where this programme is fully implemented, deaths from malaria have come down by 50 per cent. That is the kind of impact TRF programmes have.”
In Ukraine too, in eight weeks, for the Ukraine response fund, Rotarians had donated $15 million, and “in the next four months, by September, all the money was disbursed… whether for ambulances, relief material, etc, through 440 grants. And the trustees have now set up a new Ukraine response fund. So many times, we say TRF doesn’t respond quickly. Well, surely, there can’t be a quicker response than this!”
Pandya concluded by saying that today, in the Rotary world, including TRF, India is held in very high esteem. In the last five years, during three years India has been the second highest contributor to TRF, and during the other two years, the third highest. This was a matter of pride to all Rotarians.
Addressing the meet, Kerala minister for general education and labour Sivankutty thanked Rotary for the tremendous help it has been extending through its selfless service projects in Kerala. These include helping the victims of the several natural calamities the state has faced in recent times, providing homes to flood victims and valuable diagnostic and treatment medical equipment to government hospitals. While the sewing machines which were being distributed to women from disadvantaged families will help them get a secure livelihood, the bicycles will empower 1,000 girls to cycle their way to schooling and knowledge.
PDG Daniel said each of the 1,000 sewing machines cost ₹5,000 (project cost ₹50 lakh), and it would help 1,000 women support their families. The 1,000 bicycles, donated by PDG Sagadhevan and clubs from RID 3211, will be given to girls in government and government-aided schools to prevent their dropping out from school.
Apart from RRFC Daniel and PDG Sagadhevan, host DG K Babumon (RID 3211), EMGA Madhav Chandran, and zone 5 ARRFCs PDGs R Balaji Babu, Harikrishnan Nambiar, A Karthikeyan, A V Pathy, S Muthupalaniappan, DGs V Selvanathan (2981), P Saravanan (2982), Rajmohan Nair (3201), Pramod Nayanar (3204) and B Elangakumaran (3203) attended the event. Fifteen AKS members (from 2020–2023), four of them second level, were honoured.
Pictures by Rasheeda Bhagat
Polioplus — jewel in Rotary’s crown
Addressing the multidistrict TRF recognition dinner for zone 5 TRF donors, TRF trustee Bharat Pandya said TRF’s flagship programme is “our Polioplus programme, which has today given Rotary a seat at every government platform in the world.” Often he had heard Rotarians despair and complain that Rotary doesn’t get proper recognition for its PP programme. Well, one of the partners of Rotary’s polio programme “is the Gates Foundation. Go to the Foundation website and read what it writes about the PP programme. It says that as far as the polio eradication programme is concerned, the world will not be where it is today without Rotary, and the world will not get where it wants to get without Rotary.”
This was not all. He added that last October, at the World Health Summit in Berlin, there was a pledge taken by various governments and organisations on what they will give in the next three years to finally eradicate polio. The second last speaker was TRF trustee chair Ian Riseley, and he said on behalf of Rotarians, I am pledging $150 million for polio eradication. That was the second highest pledge. The last speaker was the CEO of the Gates Foundation. “He pledged $1.2 billion for the next three years, but more important, while pledging, he made our trustee chair Ian stand there, and pointing to him, said that but for Rotary, the status of polio would not have been where it is today.”
Pandya added that Rotary’s slogan “this close to Polio” and its goal to eradicate it completely, is indeed close. “Bill Gates gives full credit for polio eradication work to Rotary. Do you know that all the money that the Gates Foundation has given till now — all of $1.5 billion, and another $1.2 billion pledged for the next three years — is only through Rotary? It is not given through WHO, UNICEF or world governments, but through TRF. If WHO or UNICEF wants a grant for polio, they have to approach TRF for that money.”
The last thought Pandya left with the large gathering of 500 people was that in the recent Gates Foundation report, Bill Gates himself had written that the Foundation has given a lot of money for polio eradication but the “real work has been done by the Rotarians. And he goes on to write that when — he does not say ‘if’ but ‘when’ — polio finally gets eradicated, the first call I will make is to the TRF headquarters and thank Rotarians for the work they have done. If that is not recognition, then what is it?”
Sharing another bit of “good news” with the gathering, Pandya said that while in 2021, six cases of polio had been found, in 2022, the number had gone up to 30 cases. “But from Sep 6, 2022, onwards, not a single case has been found either in Pakistan, Afghanistan or Mozambique.” Five months without a single polio case gave the hope that perhaps in 2026 the world, and Rotarians, might be finally able to say: Yes, polio has been eradicated from the world. “Then, each of us my friends, can lift our collars, our heads, with pride and say this is our gift to the children and grandchildren of the world.”