Peace is part of Rotary’s DNA. Our work for peace does not happen at conferences or in diplomatic circles. It happens through personal relationships developed over time across national borders. The presence and strength of Rotary clubs is a litmus test for the health of civil societies in any country and we persevere in tough times.”
RIPE Mark Maloney said this while addressing an elite assembly of Arch Klumph Society members and senior Rotary leaders in Mumbai. He conducted the induction ceremony of father and son, Nick Israni and Manoj Israni as AKS members. Nick Israni is a member of RC Bombay North since 1993, and Manoj Israni joined RC Bombay in 2008.
PRIP Rajendra Saboo, PRIP Kalyan Banerjee, Binota, RID C Basker and Mala, RIDE Bharat Pandya and Madhavi, RIDE Kamal Sanghvi, PRID Ashok Mahajan and Nayantara, EMGAs Sam Patibandla and Ashok Panjwani were present among other Rotarians and AKS members.
“Most of the Indian Rotarians I know are extremely generous. You have Rtn D Ravi Shankar (President, RC Bangalore Orchards) who has given $14.7 million to TRF this year — that is 75 per cent of his wealth — and you have Rajyashree Birla of the Aditya Birla group who has contributed almost ₹80 crore for polio eradication. And now this father-son Rotarians who have given $250,000 and $500,000 respectively. I appreciate your magnanimity and support,” said Maloney.
You don’t need to be a diplomat to make peace. When you build water and sanitation systems or help a young student struggling to pay her fees, you are a peace builder.
This is Maloney and his wife Gay’s fifth visit to Mumbai. “Before 1998, Gay and I had never been to India; but now, looking at my schedule, I see that I’ll be here many times again and I am looking forward to that.” Acknowledging RI Director Basker’s introductory note that India is one of the fastest growing countries in membership growth, he said, “56 per cent increase in members over the last decade is indeed a remarkable growth.”
On Rotary’s peace promotion initiatives, he said, “You don’t need to be a diplomat to make peace. When you build water and sanitation systems or help a young student struggling to pay her fees, you are a peace builder. When you launch any project to support education or economic development of your communities you are building the optimal conditions for peaceful societies.”
Governments alone cannot handle the influx of migrants fleeing from conflict-ridden countries such as Syria or Iraq who face an enormous challenge in starting life afresh in an unfamiliar country and culture. Such issues call for leadership from civil society. “Our peace programmes such as Rotary Peace Fellows and Youth Exchange promote students across the globe to act as ambassadors of goodwill. Our international service projects depend on Rotarians from two different countries, often with very different cultures, working together to improve the quality of life in the home country,” he said.
Maloney pointed out how one Danish Rotary Peace Fellow trained Syrian refugees in digital integration, besides entrepreneurship and business skills, through a coding school she set up in Berlin in collaboration with the Stanford University. “She saw an opportunity that will benefit both, the refugees and the host country. Local startups had new talent to meet their growing needs, and migrants were able to get gainful employment while waiting for their asylum applications to be processed.”
Complimenting RIPN Sushil Gupta for the success of WASH programme as its Global Chair, Maloney said since 2013, TRF has invested in more than 1,000 WASH projects in over 100 countries through global grants and fundraising from Rotary clubs. “Our goal is to provide sustainable WASH solutions that can dramatically improve school attendance and basic education and literacy levels. Thanks to your generous contributions, the Foundation has raised and invested $4.7 billion to promote peace, fight disease, provide clean water and sanitation, save mothers and children, support education and grow local economies all over the world.”
Congratulating the assembled donors, RI Director C Basker said, “We are here to celebrate your generosity and incredible support to TRF. Your benevolence makes India a leading role player in Rotary — be it fundraising or changing lives in communities.” India has 4,000 Major Donors and 92 AKS members, with five more commitments underway.
RIDE Pandya, in his introduction of Nick Israni, said that the senior Israni believes in donation for a cause and not mere philanthropy. He classifies donors under three categories — “those like a metal plate who need hammering after which they part with very little amount; those like the sponge who have to be squeezed hard and they give something but soon run dry; and there are the honeycomb kind of donors who continue giving freely. Nick belonged to the last category.” RIDE Kamal Sanghvi introduced Manoj Israni and said, “As Chairman of the Fundraising Committee, the first event he organised brought in $400,000. He believes in the Foundation for its reputation of giving back to society and he is confident that his money will be utilised well.”
TRF Trustee Gulam Vahanvaty said, “I am happy to say that our total giving this year till October is $5 million as against $2 million around the same time last year. In Indian value it is ₹34 crore against ₹13 crore last year. Even if we were to remove ₹10 crore given by Ravi Shankar we are still ₹11 crore more!”
Praising RC Bangalore Orchards President D Ravi Shankar’s pledge of ₹100 crore ($14.7 million) to the Foundation, he said, “He set the ball rolling and now donor after donor is coming forward to give to the Foundation. Let’s maintain the highest degree of stewardship so that the good name of our Foundation is always held high.”
Earlier, EMGA Ashok Panjwani announced that District 3141 has crossed $1 million in actual giving and with 23 AKS members, ranks No 3 in the world. While traditionally the induction is done in Evanston, since last year the ceremony is held at home countries to enable participation of family.
Homes for Kerala
D 3142 Governor Ashes Ganguly presented a cheque for $250,000 as the district’s contribution to build homes for the flood victims of Kerala and Karnataka. Pandya added that the surplus funds from the recently held felicitation ceremony for RIPN Gupta were used to sponsor a home in Gupta’s name for a flood victim.
The evening also saw a contribution of $100,000 to TRF by Dilip Piramal. “He has pledged to become an AKS member by the end of this year,” said Vahanvaty.
Earlier, RIPE Maloney and Gay inaugurated the illumination project of the Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vasthu Sanghralaya, a museum in Mumbai, for which Manoj Israni, an avid art collector, has donated ₹1 crore. It is a solar-power backed project undertaken by RC Bombay to make it a green museum.
Pictures by Jaishree
Fascination for trains
RIPE Mark Maloney recalled that TRF Trustee Gulam Vahanvaty was an RRFC in 2004 when “we conducted a series of seminars here and ever since we have been good friends.” Along with Vahanvaty, he had spent an hour at a Mumbai Central Railway Station platform, watching trains go by. When I met the couple later in Surat, where they had travelled from Mumbai by the Rajdhani Express, he said:
“I love trains and am fascinated by how each one brings in so many people, empties them on the platform and again fills up more people to take them to their destinations, and all this in just three minutes.” Added Gay, “Mark loves travel and driving long distances while I love your vibrant colours.”