One of the things I love most is storytelling. Our ability to tell our stories in a compelling way affects how our organisation is perceived,” said RI President Jennifer Jones, addressing Rotarians at Kochi as part of her Imagine Impact India tour. The three-day programme was hosted by five Rotary districts — 3201, 3203, 3204, 3211 and 3212 — comprising Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
“For so long we were told to do our good work quietly, and not for recognition. Sometime ago when we did a survey we found that out of 10 people, only two have heard of us before. We don’t want to tell our stories for recognitions and accolades, but to open the doors for others to join us,” she added.
Referring to an incident mentioned by Sujata, spouse of event chairman PDG Madhav Chandran, in her introduction of the RI president earlier, Jones added, “the power of a great story is that it doesn’t have to be your own. When you were recounting my story of the gratitude journal, you brought me to tears.”
Zone 5 — Tamil Nadu and Kerala — has 7 per cent of India’s population but 34 per cent of Rotary India’s population
She went on to relate two incidents to drive home the power of effective storytelling. The first one was when she, along with her husband DGN Nick Krayacich (a doctor), had visited a remote island to provide medical consultation to the local people. “Two young men came in at two different points, each with exactly the same symptoms. They both talked about a ‘fever in their belly’. Nick asked them probing questions — when do they have ‘the fever’ and when they don’t. It seemed that the only time when they did not have ‘the fever’ was when they had their one or two weekly meals. They did not need a diagnosis; they needed food. So when we returned home we shared our story and so many people, from Rotary and outside, joined us to help. Now children and their families in that village are able to access food, thanks to our food programme. This is the power of words, asking people to join us and be part of creating solutions for the good of our communities and our world.”
Another tale she related was about the Golf Day that helped raise $5.25 million in a single day for the Polio Fund. At the 2016 Rotary convention, Jones and Krayacich were in the greenroom where she was preparing to interview Jack Niclaus, one of the greatest golfers of all time and a polio survivor. Krayacich shared his dream with Niclaus to organise a ‘Golf Day’ with four golfers and raise $1 million for polio. “Niclaus told Nick, ‘If you can organise that I will give you the entire day.’ And it wasn’t $1 million or four golfers; it was eight golfers, and we raised $5.25 million!” Acknowledging RID 3132 PDG Parag Sheth’s presence in the audience, Jones said that he was one of the golfers who participated in the event, and also shared how Niclaus gave Sheth expert tips in hitting a sand shot.
Jones called the five host governors (she called her DGs ‘my babies’) to the dais and asked each of them how they imagine the year ahead. RID 3204 DG Elangkumaran imagines completion of a ₹60-crore cancer care hospital in his district during this year. DG Pramod Nayanar (3203) dreams of total eradication of polio and DG Rajmohan Nair (3201) envisions “a phenomenal increase in Rotary’s membership in India, leading to more contribution to TRF and more global grants for India”. DG V R Muthu (3212) sees an increase in major donors and RYLAs to promote entrepreneurship in youngsters.
“The dreams of all these leaders are not the same. It proves that there is no one way of looking at Rotary, but many ways where we can transform communities,” said the RI president.
RI director A S Venkatesh said, “This is an incredible opportunity to listen to one of the most inspirational leaders in Rotary. Till now I thought my grandmother is the world’s best storyteller, but President Jones beats her. Her real-life stories inspire us to do more, and non-Rotarians to join Rotary.” He added that Zone 5 comprising Tamil Nadu and Kerala has 7 per cent of India’s population, but 34 per cent of Rotary’s population in India. “With 52,000 Rotarians, this is probably the largest zone in RI.” India is probably one country that does more than 100 per cent of what we thought we can. We do more than our own expectations… be it membership, contribution to TRF or the magnitude of our service projects and, more importantly, the commitment and involvement of each one of you. When you choose to give your time, a non-renewable resource, to Rotary there cannot be a better investment from you for a cause.”
RI director Mahesh Kotbagi appreciated the grandeur of the reception for the RI president and complimented the five district governors for their efforts and dedication. “It gives out a clear message that together we can work impactfully and showcase more effectively the strength of Rotary. When we all come together we can do better service projects, handsome TRF contributions and also resolve conflicts easily.”
Talking about Jones’ leadership, he said that she “is unique in that she is down to earth, sincere and dedicated. We must take a leaf out of her book and make ourselves approachable for our team.” Complimenting her husband DGN Krayacich’s “extraordinary” support, he said, “that shows how much important and valuable a partner’s support is.”
DG Muthu gave a cheque for ₹25 lakh to scale-up his contribution to the AKS. Event secretary DGN Sudhi Jabbar proposed the vote of thanks.
Pictures by Jaishree
₹100-crore service projects
RI President Jennifer Jones soft launched service projects worth ₹100 crore to be implemented by RIDs 3201, 3203, 3204, 3211 and 3212 this year in their respective regions. These include: construction of 500 houses (₹30 crore); Rotary model roads (₹10 crore); healthcare for schoolchildren (₹2 crore); civil service training and medical courses for students (₹2 crore); sponsoring marriage expenses for the less privileged (₹10 crore); a pet crematorium (₹60 lakh); Rotary Miyawaki forests (₹1 crore); knee replacement surgeries (₹2 crore); heart and ophthalmic surgeries (₹60 lakh); initiatives under the Rotary Police Engagement (₹10 lakh); dialysis machines (₹80 lakh); 200 paediatric heart surgeries (₹1 crore); bicycles to 1,000 girls (₹80 lakh); mobile heartcare clinic (₹1.1 crore); breast cancer diagnosis and treatment (₹1 crore); and a cancer care hospital (₹60 crore).
An Alco scan van worth ₹55 lakh was inaugurated by Jones. The van with facilities to analyse saliva samples to detect use of narcotics is part of RID 3211’s Rotary Police Engagement initiative.
She launched ‘Tring a smile’ — a joint project of all the five districts to gift bicycles to 1,000 girls. Addressing 100 students who had gathered to receive their bicycles, she said, “An educated girl is an empowered girl. These new bicycles will take you to school where you can focus on your future.”
The RI president visited the Ernakulam Government Hospital where the Rotary clubs of Kochi have provided sophisticated medical facilities worth ₹30 crore, including a human milk bank and a dialysis centre, and have planned to renovate a waiting room this year.