With the words “you are all part of my family,” RI President K R Ravindran, struck a personal note while addressing the PDGs and Rotarians of D 3000 at its silver jubilee celebrations at Madurai recently. His own club, RC Colombo, and other Rotary clubs of Sri Lanka, formed part of the erstwhile District 322, prior to bifurcation in 1991. “I decided to come here for two reasons: one, this was my District and two, DG Theenachandran has done a wonderful job,” he said.
PDG N Raghavan took the audience down memory lane narrating how he and Ravindran became the first governors of the newly formed D 3000 and D 3220, in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka, respectively. Ravindran added that when the District split, some Rotarians in Sri Lanka wanted a re-election as they didn’t want a governor elected by the Indians and they wanted the first governor to be a Sri Lankan Buddhist. “But most of the Rotarians took a stand that such things were for the politicians and not for Rotary and that’s how I got to serve as the first governor of D 3220.”
The silver jubilee celebrations kick-started with a massive public image event at which 14,000 Rotaractors performed a human formation of Rotary’s literacy logo — ‘L,’ in the presence of RI President Ravindran, Vanathy Ravindran, DG Theenachandran and Madurai Mayor Rajan Chellapa. The event was coordinated by DRR A Sherma Vishnu, District Rotaract Committee Chair T Saravanaraj and District Rotaract Secretary R Lokesh Kumar. “We wanted to highlight the importance of education and Rotary’s role towards achieving Total Literacy,” said DG Theenachandran.
This was followed by a multi-district meet for the past, present and future District Rotaract Representatives (DRR) of South Asia. “We are on a hat-trick — this is the third consecutive year an RI President is meeting Rotaractors exclusively,” pointed out DRR Tapas Kumar Das of D 3262. Ravindran had the floor open for queries and invited suggestions from them. Discussions included re-introducing the GSE programme, non-receipt of enough communications from the RI for Rotaract clubs and revival of the certificate from RI signed by the President, authenticating the post of a Rotaractor as DRR. The last one has been terminated since 2010. Ravindran asked the DRRs to send him an email and promised to respond immediately.
I decided to come here for two reasons: one, this was my District and two, DG Theenachandran has done a wonderful job.
– RI President K R Ravindran
Rtn Karthik, formerly a Rotaractor, lamented that only 5 per cent of Rotaractors take to Rotary in their later life and wanted the President’s suggestion to attract Rotaractors back as Rotarians. “Like everything in the world, youngsters also want to know what is in it for me; why should I join Rotary; it’s costing me money. So you’ve to market Rotary. You can’t simply say it is a service organisation. That by itself will not attract Rotaractors. Something like Rotary Global Rewards certainly will,” he said and announced the extension of the scheme to Rotaractors too. Join a Rotary club in groups, that way you will not feel alone, and form satellite clubs, he added. He urged them to set goals; without them “you’ll be like a ship without a sail, drifting aimlessly.”
Family, business, Rotary — he categorised his order of priority.
The atmosphere in the evening at the Lakshmi Sundaram Hall exuded warmth and fellowship where Rotarians gathered for the commemorative meet. PDGs N Raghavan, P V Parthasarathy,
Y Kumanan, C Basker and few others recounted the District’s glorious past and highlighted some of its finest moments in 25 years.
Thanking Theenachandran and his team for their warm welcome, Ravindran said, “You treated us like a prince and princess. Not always do we get such a warm reception. We don’t set barriers; we just go where Rotary calls us.” One such visit helped raise several million dollars for TRF, thanks to a Rotarian named Steve Brown who had got the President’s dates two years ahead for a dinner to be held at San Diego in December 2015. When the date came close, Ravindran had second thoughts. “It didn’t make sense to go all the way to San Diego for a dinner, I thought.” But Brown had sold several tickets with a promise that the President will chair the dinner and they were raising money for TRF.
So Ravindran participated in the event. He asked Brown how much money had been raised. “These guys called it a ‘Million Dollar Dinner,’ even if they have got half that money, it’s worth it, I thought.” But when the figure was flashed on the screen just before he went up to the podium, he was stunned. It was $15,420,000! And after his speech, another Rotarian announced that he will match the figure with another $15 million, bringing the total to $30 million in one night. Two days later Ravindran happened to read a New York Times article which said that the Wall Street bankers had a fund raiser dinner for the Jewish community and they raised a ‘record’ $26 m. “I thought to myself where is this compared to Rotary. That is the power of Rotary and the prestige the organisation commands,” he said.
We wanted to highlight the importance of education and Rotary’s role towards achieving Total Literacy.
– DG R Theenachandran
DG Theenachandran summarised the Silver Jubilee projects which included a $274,000 worth Global Grants from D 2730 (Japan), D 3600 (Korea), D 5340 (USA) and D 1140 (UK) for establishing six centres across the District to address mental health issues; contributing $5 lakh to TRF; installing 10 new clubs in unrepresented areas of the District and boosting Rotary’s public image through a grand Rotary Day, a goodwill mission to China and empowering women with vocational skills. The District has also chartered 27 new Rotaract clubs, adding 100 Rotaractors and 15 more clubs are in the pipeline. Of the 4,000 volunteers for the RILM initiative, 2,700 are from D 3000.
Down memory lane
Formed with 1,299 Rotarians in 38 Rotary clubs, D 3000 today has 4,921 Rotarians in 113 clubs. Notable projects in these 25 years include Global Grants for the Rotary Arvind Eye Hospital in Madurai, partnering with D 7720, Carolina, USA, donation of submersible pumps to schools and colleges jointly with D 1240, UK, education projects under the Children Opportunities Grant, mobile mammography clinic for breast cancer detection and treatment in rural areas, micro-financing for street vendors and annual distribution of essential kits to school children under Canada’s Sleeping Children Around the World (SCAW) project.