A single club in Bengaluru, RC Bangalore Lakeside (RCBL), has been carrying out projects at a breathtaking speed, participating with full gusto as the lead club in many of the larger projects of RI District 3190. “We’ve done about 200 community welfare projects this year alone,” says club president Kashinath Prabhu, nonchalantly. The cost exceeds a whopping ₹1.5 crore.
He has shared with Rotary News some details of 5–6 projects, each sent individually and if featured as such, would get at most a half or one-page display, or a mention in our Club Hop column. None of them carry any mention of the funds spent. But when I scan through the different mails, I’m struck by the sheer width and magnitude of the work done by this rather small club with only 55 members. Above all, what is most striking is the partnerships this club has struck with both corporates and the voluntary sector, including small NGOs, as well as big names such as the Infosys Foundation and the Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiative (APPI).
When I congratulate Prabhu on the number of partnerships with so many corporates, he smiles, and says, “This is because all our basics are in place. We have a trust with the required clearances and certificates, so it becomes easy for us to approach the corporates for a partnership. And when all the details are properly documented and accounts are clear, it becomes easy for their audit purposes and corporate norms. So the next year they come back, seeking further partnership. It’s a long process…”
For several years, this club, where the projects chosen are long-term and sustainable, has been scouting for service partners who are well-known in the community and have a solid track record. Prabhu himself is an IT professional, and his club has made smart use of technology to raise funds. In some projects the club has resorted to crowdfunding and raised ₹5–10 lakh for each of these projects.
Creches for urban slums
One of the club’s signature projects is sponsoring and supporting creches for the children of slumdwellers, migrant labourers, etc. Five years ago, the club forged a partnership with the Navajeevan Mahila Pragathi Kendra (NMPK), which was running seven creches for children from slums and migrant labour families in Bengaluru. The club members started with small steps, partnering with the NMPK for activities such as donating food or sponsoring some events. Then it was decided that the next, or the eighth creche, would be “fully supported and financed by us. We raised about ₹10 to 12 lakh through crowdfunding which would suffice for expenses for two years, as each creche typically has about 50 children.”
When this 8th creche completed two years, its details were presented through a well-documented case study to the APPI. “When Azim Premji saw the details of this initiative, he was so impressed that he himself walked to the place to inspect it. He is such a simple person; we wanted to invite our members and have a big programme, but he wanted no fuss made at all. He loved the project and straightaway volunteered a long-term partnership,” says Prabhu.
It is to the club’s credit that one of India’s most iconic philanthropists was so impressed by the way the Rotarians were running the creche that he immediately pledged ₹62 lakh for the next two creches — No 9 and 10. “On top of that he gave us additional funding to upgrade the existing ones. He said why don’t you take the existing creches to a bigger and better house, make them more hygienic and provide better facilities.” The 9th creche was supposed to be opened last year, but the whole project was delayed due to Covid. Premji had inspected the project just before the pandemic hit India.
The 9th creche, in association with the NMPK, the club’s partner, was inaugurated on March 1, on the occasion of Maha Shivratri, at Anandapuram, Jeevan Bima Nagar, Bengaluru. In these creches, apart from providing a nutritious breakfast and lunch, as well as an egg, basic literacy skills are imparted to the children in a safe and secure environment, through two teachers employed and paid by the club. The kids are children of maids and other migrant workers, who leave their wards here in the morning and pick them up by 5pm. Counselling and training sessions are also offered to the parents, and festivals such as Diwali, Christmas etc, are celebrated here.
For both this club as well as RID 3190 this is a signature project; the district wants to do 100 creches in all, and for this ambitious district project, RC Bangalore Lakeside is the lead club. In another month, the club hopes to open the 10th creche, for which the APPI has given funding commitment. “To increase community participation, we provide an opportunity to the local people to sponsor a meal to celebrate a birthday or any other event. They can donate books or other articles,” says Prabhu.
But adequate funding is required to run or support such an ambitious project in a mega city like Bengaluru; the yearly liability for each creche is around ₹5 to 6 lakh. “Our district clubs will have to get more CSR partners, donors and philanthropists and raise more money,” he adds.
Girls on wheels
Another ambitious and heartwarming project of both RID 3190 and this club is the project titled Girls on Wheels. This project, which fits in nicely with RI President Shekhar Mehta’s focus on empowering girls, aims to provide bicycles to school girls in remote rural areas, so that at puberty they don’t drop out of schools for lack of safe or secure transportation to reach the school.
The larger district project aims to provide about 1,000 bicycles to girls in village schools who are in Class 6 or 7 in this Rotary year. Once again RCBL is the lead club for this project and to begin with, the club, in collaboration with RCs Rajmahal Vilas and Bangalore Basavanagudi, has gifted 35 bicycles to schoolgirls in Koira village, about 80km from Bengaluru. The rural clubs in the district were asked by the DG to identify villages where girls in Class 6 or 7 face the threat of dropping out of school, for lack of safe transport. About ₹1.5 lakh was raised by the Rotarians and the bicycles have been given to the girls, bringing smiles, and fulfilling the teenagers’ basic right to school education.
When Azim Premji saw the details of this initiative, he was so impressed that he himself walked to the place to inspect it. He loved the project and straightaway volunteered a long-term partnership.
— Kashinath Prabhu, president, RC Bangalore Lakeside
Once again, the club president says, “we will make a proper case study of this project and then take it to a corporate like Hero Cycles to explore the opportunity of a much larger partnership so that 1,000 girls can get this essential access to education.”
Mobile medical units for seniors
This young, dynamic and tech-savvy president has already completed 200 projects during his year, spending over ₹1.5 crore.
Even as Rotary celebrated its 117th birthday on Feb 23, the club, in collaboration with two CSR partners —Embitel and Corsair Gaming, formally launched two mobile medical units, under the project titled Sukh Sandhya, an initiative of RID 3190. This is being done with the support of Dream India Network (DIN) which is working in the area of providing critical medical care to senior citizens living in charitable old age homes and abandoned people.
While Embitel Technologies is driving digital transformation through advanced technology in various fields, Corsair Gaming is an American computer peripherals and hardware company headquartered in California. RCBL has been working with a couple of homes for senior citizens, from where there are periodic requests for bedsheets, blankets, etc. But stepping up this association, it has recently taken up the task of ramping up and upgrading two ambulances belonging to DIN, which takes care of the medical needs of the elderly as well as provides succour to people abandoned on the roads. About ₹7.5 lakh was spent on each ambulance.
When such cases are brought to the notice of DIN, which has a tie-up with a couple of hospitals, the abandoned person is picked up and taken to the hospital for initial medical treatment, if required. After basic treatment these people are taken to a nearby old age home and taken care of.
Under Sukh Sandhya, some 40–50 old age homes have been identified and different Rotary clubs will be invited to take up the challenge of making them “happy elderly homes”, by working in collaboration with DIN. The upgraded ambulances were recently inaugurated in the presence of DG Fazal Mahmood, PDG K S Nagendra and Edward Thomas from DIN and members of RCBL. Both the ambulances, manned by both doctors and paramedics, will go to homes for the elderly to provide regular medical check-up to the inmates and give medicines where required.
Another project launched in March by RCBL, in association with Rotary Mulbagal Central, was the inauguration of a computer lab with 109 desktop computers at the Government Polytechnic College, Mulbagal. The club has sponsored a total number of 337 PCs to government institutions including the Institute of Textile Technology (33), G R Institute of Commercial Practice (62); Government Polytechnic College, Mulbagal (109); and the Government Polytechnic, KGF (133). This project is in partnership with the Infosys Foundation and the department of technical education, Karnataka government.
Commenting on his dramatic performance, DG Mahmood says, “Prabhu is really an outstanding president, he is very well connected, and does projects at an amazing speed, sometimes, he does even 2–3 projects a day!” Above all, says the DG, “his ability to get corporate partnerships is amazing. For instance, it is not easy to get collaboration from the APPI, because they do their own work, but he managed it! Apart from his skills in getting good partnerships, Prabhu excels at getting other clubs involved in the projects.”
And these, he adds, are not always prominent or bigger clubs; “he gets the smaller clubs and some clubs outside the city are also involved and this fits in very nicely with our district project Sahayoga (collaboration) which aims to get the clubs in Bengaluru to work along with the smaller clubs outside the city.” He explains that of the 162 clubs in RID 3190, only around 100 are in Bengaluru, and the other 62 are in smaller places, and Sahayoga aims to involve all these clubs in service projects.
Rejuvenation of a temple pond
On World Water Day, RCBL, in collaboration with RCs Bangalore Basavanagudi and Bangalore Spandana, inaugurated a beautified and rejuvenated Kalyani (a sweet water pond) at Anekal, a Bengaluru suburb. Each of the three clubs raised around ₹50,000, and with support from the panchayat leaders, municipality workers and the local community, which gave shramdaan, the derelict pond was cleaned and obstructions around it cleared so that freshwater can now flow in. A painting competition was held and the entire area surrounding the Kalyani has been decorated with colourful paintings. A Gange puja was held at the rejuvenated Kalyani, in the presence of community leaders, local organisations and citizens. It took about seven weeks of shramdaan for volunteers to make the associated infrastructure and art work to rejuvenate the river. Rtn Gurunagesh, DLCC (district literacy committee chair), who hails from Anekal, took special initiative to get this project going.
Further work is required to ensure that the river remains free of obstructions and can get sweet water flowing into it. Hence a small committee of Rotarians and the locals has been formed to ensure there is ownership.
As he recounts other projects, including one done in collaboration with Rotary Bangalore Basaveshwaranagar, to renovate and modernise a kitchen at the Kidwai Hospital, which aims to provide free food (three meals a day) to over 500 attendants of patients every day, I joke with him about being a “full-time Rotary president”, as it requires a colossal amount of work for a club president to implement 200 projects during his year, with three months still remaining. Prabhu laughs, and says, “Actually, the Covid pandemic gave me an opportunity, as I was working from home. And we also do Rotary work till late hours, and a lot of planning and coordination is done on the phone.”