Rotary Club of Tinnevelly, D 3212, turns 75 this year; their platinum journey has brought significant transformations in the community through construction of toilets and furniture given to schools, water storage tanks for nearby hamlets, an anganwadi, bus shelters across the city and health camps. This, besides giving three governors to the district!
The Rotarians revved up the milestone celebration last year by constructing toilet blocks and hand wash stations for the students of the Ramaseshier School in Pattamadai near Tirunelveli. “The school is 125 years old, but within its hallowed campus, the toilets were found in a pathetic state. We unanimously decided then that this will be our platinum jubilee venture,” says Satheesh Kumar, the club’s TRF Grants Chair. The school strength is 750 with 500 boys and 250 girls. While the boys rushed to the nearby fields to attend nature’s call, the girls used the lone toilet in the school. It had no water facility, was badly maintained and “a nightmare, especially for the adolescent girls.”
Since most of the children were not familiar with the western toilet, it is important we train them on its usage.
— Satheesh Kumar, TRF Grants Chair 2016–17, RC Tinnevelly
But today this heritage school can boast of a modern washroom facility, all thanks to the club’s ‘comprehensive health management project’ that included toilet blocks and handwash stations for girls and boys, an incinerator for girls to dispose of their sanitary napkins, and borewell and pumpset for water. A lot of thought went into constructing the washrooms; both Indian and Western closets, complete with health faucets, were installed and floors laid with anti-skid tiles.
K Vijayalakshmi, an eighth grader, cannot yet suppress her awe whenever she visits the washroom or uses the incinerator. So do most of the children. The teachers now face a challenge of keeping the children in class. “They want to visit the restroom even during class hours,” says one teacher. As for the objective of making them ‘agents of change’, some of the students are now insisting their parents construct a toilet at home! Vijayalakshmi, for instance, wants a toilet built in her home “before my next birthday”.
The club has arranged specialised training in wash habits and hygiene for the students and teachers through the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Institute in Kodaikanal. “Since most of the children were not familiar with the western toilet, it is important we train them on its usage,” says Satheesh Kumar.
The project cost $33,000, which was met through a global grant with Rotary Clubs of La Crosse Valley View and La Crosse Downtown of the US, D 6250, and TRF, and an initial seedfunding from the DDF. “Earlier I struggled to understand the process of applying for a grant, but when I went through the Rotary website, it was a cake walk. It is so easy that anyone with a bare knowledge of computers can successfully implement a project,” says the Grants Chair.
The completed set up was inaugurated by the then DG K Vijayakumar and handed over to the School Management Committee which promised proper maintenance.
The club is now planning to provide toilet facilities to 40 houses in an adjacent hamlet. “Most of them are farm labourers. Open defecation is rampant there. The entire area stinks. We will provide them a solution soon… with help from the same overseas partners,” says Satheesh Kumar.
The project estimate is $60,000. Back in the US, Rotarians Sandra and Roger Legrand from the partner club have already begun their fundraiser, having hosted a Diwali Nite.
Celebrating Platinum Jubilee
To commemorate the landmark journey, the club recently organised a grand event which was attended by PRIP K R Ravindran and spouse Vanathy. Asking them to scale new heights and uphold Rotary’s rich tradition, he impressed upon the Rotarians to carry out selfless service to uplift the downtrodden. Such projects were bound to improve Rotary’s public image and attract new members.
Ravindran lauded the club’s humanitarian projects and inaugurated prototype of a clock tower that the club will install at the bus stand. Club President P Chockalingam listed out the platinum jubilee projects that included a cancer clinic and an old age home.