Trust your spouse when it comes to social service or the way you want to contribute to The Rotary Foundation. These two Rotarians — Nikunj Jhaveri from RC Queen’s Necklace Mumbai and Nitin Mehta from RC Bombay Airport, RID 3141 — had implicit faith in their wives, and were in the limelight as the newly inducted AKS members at the Mahabs 21 institute in Chennai.
Jhaveri is the first AKS member from his club, while Mehta is the first sitting club president (20–21) of the district to have given the commitment last year. Both of them decided to join the elite club of TRF under the tenure of IPDG Sunnil Mehra who loses no time to encourage members to “give generously to the Foundation.” Listening to their Rotary journey so far is interesting and they both share a common purpose of ‘giving to society what we have gained from it’. For Jhaveri, becoming an AKS member was only a “matter of time as I was contributing regularly to various club, district and global projects.” Having joined Rotary in 2015 to fulfil one of his life goals of ‘doing social service’, he found that he could network with other like-minded people and “leverage their knowledge and expertise with multiplier effect on generating funds for charity,” he says.
Also, being on the board of many NGOs in Mumbai (Pride India, Lion Tarachand Bapa Hospital, Access Life, etc) helped him realise his vision of giving back to the society. “In Rotary, the concept of global grants struck me, as the amount you donate is channelled to needy people in the entire world. I became an AKS member as the amount ($250,000) will go to the Annual Fund, the key to the success of TRF.”
Many people have the money, all you need is the heart to give it. AKS is for the ones with a big heart.
– V R Muthu, District Governor Elect, RID 3212
Jhaveri was inspired by his late father-in-law PDG Jyotindra Vakil, the first AKS member from Asia, to give big to TRF. Moreover, his wife Kanan was the “first one to push me to make the first commitment in November 2020.” At that time the BSE Sensex shot through the roof and “I wanted to give a part of that unexpected gains I made from the stock market to the Foundation.”
He owns Systems Plus Technologies which has offices in Mumbai, Pune and a couple of offshore centres. With two sons and a large-hearted spouse, “I will continue to give to the Foundation in the coming years too,” he smiles.
Just a single RTGS
Until his 25th year as Rotarian, Nitin Mehta, a stock broker, had given only $1,525 to TRF. But in Feb 2021, a day after Valentine’s Day, his spouse Harsha advised him to make the AKS commitment. In a single RTGS transaction, he paid $250,000 on that day to TRF. “Now as past president, I am mentoring the club to do GG projects and community initiatives,” he says. Two GG projects involving setting up oxygen generation plants at Navi Mumbai and Palwal (Haryana) were initiated by him as club president and now they are in the final stages of completion. Mehta has some enviable records as club president — highest TRF collection of $435,000 (20–21) among clubs in RID 3141, second in Asia; and highest GG projects ($433,000) his club has ever done in a year.
Harsha says one of her daughters-in-law, as the Bengaluru head of Cuddles Foundation, an NGO, is doing commendable work for cancer-afflicted children.
Rotary’s DNA of giving and supporting communities has touched millions of lives in the world, says IPDG Sunnil Mehra, who was jubilant after being honoured by RI President Mehta at the TRF dinner.
He recounts that RID 3141 has 36 AKS members, the highest among Rotary districts in the world; RC Bombay has 11 AKS members, highest among Rotary clubs; and during his tenure as governor, he set a new record for inducting 8 AKS members, beating the earlier 10-year-old record of 7 AKS members in RID 3040. “Though Covid is a healthcare disaster, we touched the hearts of members who joined the AKS club and others who contributed liberally to TRF. The pandemic, in a way, opened new opportunities for us,” smiles Mehra.
Investing in Endowment Fund is smart
When he donated to the Foundation for the very first time “I wasn’t driving a BMW or owned a sea-facing property. When you give with an open heart you receive more than you expect in return,” says PDG Vinay Kulkarni of RID 3131. After surviving a car accident in 1994 “that almost killed me, I felt as though god has given me this second life to do good in the world and help those in need,” he says.
When you give with an open heart you receive more than you expect in return.
– Vinay Kulkarni, Past District Governor, RID 3131
He recalls the time when PRIP Kalyan Banerjee was RI president and wanted to do a healthcare project in Africa. “The mother and child healthcare facilities in east and west Africa were substandard. We donated 100 incubators and that got me thinking what more can I do?”
Kulkarni feels that investing in the Rotary Endowment Fund is a smart move “because it is a permanent and sustainable source of funding. Investment earnings are used to provide a permanent source of income to support Foundation programmes and give future generations of Rotarians the additional resources they need to design and implement sustainable projects year after year. Plus, so much more can be done with the return on your investment.”
Having donated $500,000, Vinay and IPDG Rashmi Kulkarni are part of the AKS Trustee Chair Circle; “to us, Rotary is not an assignment or a designation. It is part of our everyday life,” he says. With another donation of $140,000, the couple is all set to carry out 10,000 cataract surgeries in India and has donated three dialysis units worth $30,000 to a hospital in Mahad, Maharashtra, as Directed Gift to TRF.
His focus is to End Polio
Lead by example, says V R Muthu, DGE (RID 3212), who has donated $300,000 to the Rotary Foundation. He is inspired by his mother V R Jagathambal, who donated $30,000 last year to the Directed Gifts Fund. He is happy to be the first AKS member from RID 3212.
“My action is the best way to motivate Rotarians in my district.” He proudly recalls that in June 2020, when he was responsible for collecting TRF funds in his district, “within 10 days we collected ₹1 crore and donated it to TRF.”
He later convinced his family to donate to the End Polio Fund, a cause that is close to his heart. “We have a responsibility to rid the world of this crippling disease and ensure every child is safe,” he says. He is also keen on giving to the Annual Fund which “lets you choose how often and how much you want to give. It’s a simple and secure way to make a big impact.”
As chairman of a family-run business with an annual turnover of ₹1,800 crore he finds “giving to the Foundation is easy. But inspiring others to give, is not easy. Many people have the money, all you need is the heart to give it. AKS is for the ones with a big heart.”
His current interest is the RYLA initiative. His club — RC Virudhunagar — hosts a monthly three-day RYLA programme where participants from all over Tamil Nadu are encouraged and trained to become entrepreneurs. Two winners (every month) are sent to Singapore for a fully-funded four-day entrepreneurship training programme.