The annual conference of District 3000 exuded abundant warmth and bonding among the Rotarians, impressing PRID Frederick Lin from Taiwan to comment, “It is like attending an Indian wedding. There is so much grandeur and affection all around. And above all, Rotary celebration is at its best here.” He was in Madurai as the RI President’s Representative for the conference. Referring to DG P Gopalakrishnan’s theme — Go the Extra Mile and Serve (GEMS) — he commented that the event was certainly “an extra mile in member connectivity”.
As it was a Polio NID, he, along with the DG, administered polio drops to a few children at the venue.
He echoed RI President Ian Riseley’s call for inducting more women members. “We must make Rotary interesting to attract women members. Presently their membership comprises only 20 per cent of the total membership which is far too less,” he said. Stressing on inducting young members to Rotary, he added, “We must find new and better ways to consistently attract and engage younger members so that we are constantly creating new generation of members and leaders for Rotary to flourish. The 2016 CoL allows more flexibility in membership and meetings.”
RI Director C Basker connected with the audience, speaking in Tamil. He recalled the District Conference of 1991–92 when he was president of RC Karur. “Back then it was just 32 clubs but still the conference used to be like a family get-together. And today with 120 clubs, it is still grander.” He congratulated DG Gopal and the Conference Chair V Ramesh for the choice of speakers and programmes.
Reiterating his thoughts on serving the local community needs, Basker asked, “How many of you have highlighted your community’s requirements at your club meetings? Addressing such needs will greatly enhance Rotary’s public image.”
He urged the Rotarians to believe in the cause they were working for. “When Rotary wanted to address polio that was rampant in the Philippines, there were many naysayers. But TRF’s 3H Grant helped to make the country polio-free and that inspired the world to adopt polio immunisation on a big scale. Your belief makes everything possible. Our country has the largest youth power, but lack of self-confidence deters us from becoming a developed nation. Let us teach the younger generation to believe in their power to bring a transformation in society,” he said.
Earlier, chief guest Vanitha Mohan, Managing Director of Pricol and the NGO Siruthuli, explained their efforts in reclaiming water bodies in Coimbatore. “With the support of 10,000 people, we cleared a 300-acre lake which was covered with weeds for years. We were overjoyed to see it fill up from an unseasonal rain last year. When we take one positive step forward, nature leaps 10 steps to meet us,” she said.
P R Seshadri, MD and CEO of Karur Vysya Bank, spoke about the bank’s plan to associate with Rotary to set up dialysis centres in the district. Chanchalapathy Dasa, Vice Chairman of the Akshayapatra Foundation, spoke about how the organisation feeds 1.6 million children across 12 States in the country every day. “Rotary is associated with us in a few regions,” he said.
Polio victim and Paralympian Madhavi Lata recounted how she overcame challenges to emerge a successful swimmer and basketball player.
The SCAW (Sleeping Children Across the World) team from Canada that has been providing sleeping kits to underprivileged children in the district and cyber-savvy auto driver Annadurai were felicitated. A lively debate on whether the present technological developments are a boon or a bane and poet Joe Mallori’s thought-provoking talk on the topic, Life – a blessing or a curse, rooted the crowd to their seats.
An auction was held for six best paintings from a contest for special children organised by RC Trichy Diamond City and the proceeds were donated to TRF.
Actor/politician/Rotarian Sarathkumar introduced a mobile App ASK, developed by him to receive public grievances. His deputies will folow up with the local authorities for getting solutions. So far, 1,000 social issues have been processed, he said.
The highlight of the valedictory was the presence of the Deputy Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, O Paneerselvam, who is a Rotarian. He recalled his days as secretary of RC Periakulam in 1986 and how his team executed a polio fundraiser through an Ilayaraja music concert and various other service projects in the town. Appreciating the district’s humanitarian projects, he also agreed to extend support for setting up a dialysis centre in Periakulam.
Pictures by Jaishree