On its 41st charter day members of RC Mandvi, RID 3054, took a walk down memory lane to understand how well they have used the resources of The Rotary Foundation to do sustainable projects in this small coastal town in Kutch, Gujarat. “We wanted to see the impact we have created in our community by interacting with our beneficiaries of projects done so far,” says Darshana Shah, chairman of the charter day celebrations.
Among its milestone projects, the Rotary Colony in Godhra village, 17km from Mandvi, is a testimony to the club’s empathy for the underprivileged. Seventeen houses for homeless villagers were handed over with the support of TRF and 10 Japanese clubs in 2000. “Some of the beneficiaries have passed away and I was hesitant to talk to their family members who still live in these homes,” says Darshana. But the moment she made the phone call, “I was greeted with respect and gratitude” from the other end.
“My father, a paan seller, could never have dreamt of owning a house. But thanks to RC Mandvi, we own a house now,” says 54-year-old Hasina whose late father Mohamed Ali Suleiman was a beneficiary of this low-cost housing project. She recalls talking to the project chairman Sandeep Shah asking him to enrol her father in the scheme. The global grant of Rs 7.36 lakh was to be used for construction of 15 homes but “our club built 17 homes, which survived the 2001 earthquake,” says Vinay Toprani who was part of the project. The 20×45 feet homes have two rooms, a kitchen, an underground water sump, a terrace, and piped water supply under the gram panchayat scheme. “This is more than enough to live a dignified life and is a blessing for our next generation as well,” says Hasina.
Dr Jay Mehta is a recipient of the Vimala Ramesh Shah Scholarship, named after the late club member. He practises medicine at the Trust Hospital and Bhartiya Hospital, Mandvi, and has been part of over 300 medical camps in the Kutch region. Recalling his admission to medical college in 2005, he says, “I scored 93 per cent in my Class 12 exams and was a city topper in science. But I was worried if I would be able to secure a seat for the BHMS course that I wanted to pursue.” His father who worked at a cloth store asked him not to lose hope and apply for admission to the college.
A few days later he received a call from the school saying that the local Rotary club has come forward to give him a scholarship. “I got the seat on merit and also the scholarship worth ₹5,000 which covered my course fees and hostel charges,” smiles Dr Mehta. This scholarship, along with Rotary Club Mandvi Educational Awards, to students with good academic records from economically-weak families has benefitted many youth in and around Mandvi. “Since its inception in 1981, the club’s scholarships and awards have benefitted 350 students from Gujarati medium schools.
The CJ Mehta Vaccination Centre, another landmark project, has immunised around 5,000 children against polio, hepatitis B, measles and other vaccine preventable diseases since 2003. The Dharamsey Nensey Rotary Community Centre, set up after the 2001 earthquake with funds from the Rotary Gujarat Earthquake Rebuild Trust and local donations, doubles up as a wedding hall for girls from underprivileged families and is being rented out for local meetings, seminars, exhibitions and social gatherings.
Right in the heart of Mandvi is the Laxmiben Hansraj Latwala Bal Udhyan, a children’s park built and maintained by the club since 2002. Among other community projects, the club holds regular computer workshops for students, adult literacy camps for tribal women and tree plantation drives in the region. “We may be a small club but we sure have made a big difference,” says Darshana.
A gender-segregated toilet block with handwash station was built at the Shamji Krishna Varma Primary School at a cost of Rs 85,000 which was mobilised through donations. “We should prepare our schools for the post-corona world where sanitation and hygiene will be top priority. Since this is a school for students from economically-weak backgrounds, the need for better sanitation facilities is more significant here,” says club president Pratik Shah. During the lockdown, the club members, along with Rotaractors, distributed food packets and masks to the homeless and sanitation kits to healthcare workers and police staff. “We are still distributing the masks and sanitisers to the public,” he adds.
Recently the club installed sanitiser dispensers at the local court, the Saraswati Shishu Mandir and the Sheth Soorji Vaĺlabhdas Arts and Commerce College in Mandvi.