Two years ago, when around 125 Rotarians from RI District 3000 planned a holiday trip to Turkey under the leadership of their incoming governor I Jerald, they were looking forward to a fun-filled holiday in the land of the Ottomans. “I had planned this trip as in 2013, I had successfully led a goodwill mission trip to China for about 115 Rotarians. We had then visited Beijing and Shanghai. At first we thought we would go to Russia in 2022, but due to the Ukraine war, we changed the destination to Turkey,” says Jerald.
Rotarians from across the district — Madurai, Trichy, Dindigul, Pudukkottai, Karur, Perambalur, Theni, Kodaikanal and Ariyalur signed up; hotels were booked and visas acquired. But 10 days before they could travel, a horrendous earthquake hit both Turkey and Syria, and the tour planners were in a tizzy. “But then, one of our club presidents, C R Venkatesh from RC Madurai Metro Heritage, suggested let us not cancel the trip. We are Rotarians who always help people in distress, so let us go there and do something for those affected by the earthquake. So I told him you plan what we need to do and we will try our best to help them,” says the DG, who was part of the group.
With Venkatesh as the project coordinator, the Rotarians from RID 3000 started working on a Turkey Relief Fund; their objective was to collect around ₹10 lakh but they ended up collecting about ₹15 lakh, says Jerald.
Recalls Venkatesh, “In a record three days, our district was able to raise ₹15 lakh for the Turkey Relief Fund. Against the target of ₹5,000 by each club, some clubs contributed more than ₹25,000, with RC Madurai Metro Heritage contributing ₹2 lakh and RC Karur giving ₹1.18 lakh.”
It was decided to use ₹2.38 lakh of the money collected to buy tents and beds which were urgently needed by the quake survivors. The Rotarians bought these here, says Jerald, and as 125 of them were travelling and had sufficient baggage allowance, they were able to carry this relief material with them on the aircraft as part of their baggage. “On reaching Istanbul, we handed over this urgently required relief material to Harbir Kaur Bhatia from RC Santa Clara, US, who is working along with ShelterBox and other organisations to distribute relief to the people affected by the earthquake,” he adds.
The rest of the amount, about ₹14 lakh (325,000 Turkish lira), was handed over in the form of a cheque to RID 2420 governor Suat, in the presence of past RI director from Turkey Safak Alpay, PDG Kara, president Ayse of RC Istanbul Anatolia International and few members of the club at Istanbul by the visiting Rotarians. DG Suat said that the funds will be utilised for building a mobile hospital which was urgently required.
DG Jerald adds that the Indian Rotarians, after rendering this help to the earthquake affected in Turkey, proceeded with their holiday, visiting Istanbul, Cappadocia etc. “We did enjoy the balloon ride, did paragliding, etc, and had fun as well as satisfaction, that as Rotarians, we had also done what Rotary does best — help those in need.”
When asked what next, he says, “The devastation caused by the earthquake is very bad and those people continue to need whatever help we can give them. There is a lot of reconstruction work that is required for which huge funds are required. We appeal to Rotarians across India to contribute whatever they can.”