I am acutely conscious that the work of Rotary is not done on the 18th floor of the One Rotary Centre at Evanston, Chicago, but at each and every one of the over 37,000 clubs with the participation of every single Rotarian in over 200 countries to create hope in the world,” said RIPE Gordon McInally. Speaking at a Meet and Greet event hosted jointly by RIDs 3232 and 3231 in Chennai, he said he is a big fan of Scotland rugby team which ‘worked as one better together’ and all its 15 players, each one highly talented, “but they all pulled along as a single team to succeed.” Likewise, the uniqueness of every Rotarian must be leveraged when they come together to do good in the world.
Rotary has brought hope to countless individuals who were at the rock bottom of their lives, he said, and recalled two incidents where Rotary had instilled hope in young girls who were at the edge of their lives. In mid-2006, he and Heather were on a visit to Rwanda in East Africa when they were struck by the plight of Mary, a young girl who was orphaned at 12. Her father was killed during the genocide of 1994, and mother was sexually assaulted by militia gangs, infected with HIV and died. “At a very young age, Mary had to take care of her two younger brothers and run the family.” But she was sent back to school, with free education and secure accommodation, thanks to the sponsor in the form of an NGO, Hope and Home for Children, with which Rotary clubs in the UK had partnered with.
For long, mental health issues have been a taboo subject due to social stigma and this attitude has got to change.
— Gordon Mcinally, RI President Elect
While Rotary sponsored her education only till high school, Mary aspired to study further. At this juncture, a Scottish lawyer intervened and funded her education at the University of Kigali. She has graduated and is now an entrepreneur.
In August last year, he was witness to a heart surgery done on a four-year-old girl as part of a larger paediatric cardiac programme of Rotary clubs in Manila. “While I was amazed by the skilful work of the surgeon, just then I got a WhatsApp picture of my granddaughter in school uniform. Now here we have another girl in Manila who will get a new hope of life after the surgery.” Time and time again, Rotary has given hope to suffering people across the world, he noted.
Priority for mental wellness
For long mental health issues have been a taboo subject due to the social stigma attached to it, and “this attitude has got to change. People, especially the children and young adults, are suffering more in the aftermath of Covid. I wish the clubs extend a support system for mental health problems of their communities,” McInally said. He urged clubs to do a ‘need assessment’ to find the requirements of their community, before chartering a plan of action to tackle mental illness. “We are all at a level-playing field and have to work together. We need to eradicate polio once and for all, continue the good work of past governors and Rotary leaders, empower women with initiatives, and take more steps to make Rotaract an integral part of Rotary. I will work with each one of you to create hope in the world.”
The incoming year would be the ‘last show’ of RID 3232 before it gets bifurcated and “are you all ready for the challenge of the final year to make it the best one,” asked RI Director
A S Venkatesh to the incoming presidents-elect. “While there are many issues and matters of importance, we need to know that confrontation won’t get us anywhere, cooperation is the only way forward,” he said.
He was district governor when McInally was RI director in 2007–09, recalled Venkatesh as he introduced the incoming RI president to the delegates. At 26, McInally had joined RC South Queensferry in 1984 after establishing himself as a successful dental surgeon in Edinburgh. A Bequest Society member, he “has a wry sense of Scottish humour, is extremely friendly and an affable leader.” A big rugby fan, he loves good food and music, while his partner Heather is a music teacher and a great singer, added Venkatesh. McInally has a vision that “Rotary should exist everywhere in a style to suit everyone who has the desire to be part of us and to help us do good in the world.”
RID 3232 has added 890 new members and five new clubs, and “we will exceed the target of $2.15 million in TRF giving by June-end,” said DG N Nandakumar. In all, Chennai clubs have done 4,755 service projects worth ₹53.76 crore and Project Shakti is an ambitious project to screen women for early detection and treatment of breast cancer.
Under Project Velicham (brightness) 45 vocational centres with five sewing machines each have trained 20,000 women in tailoring so far, said RID 3231 DG J K N Palani. “A mammography bus, done with a global grant of $175,000, will be flagged off while six ambulances are in service, thanks to generous donors like PDG Abirami Ramanathan,” he said. Over 2.5 lakh palm seeds were distributed as part of the greening mission; around 2,600 units of blood were collected in various camps; and more than 1,000 people have benefitted in medical and eye-screening camps.
“I led a 43-member team to Sri Lanka and we donated medical equipment to government hospitals in Jaffna, Killinochi and Mullaitivu, and took care of the school needs of students under Project Dhanvantri,” he added.
Earlier DGE Ravi Raman said joint club meetings and collaborative projects would be encouraged during his tenure. “For the upcoming year, I have a target of adding 23 new clubs (to the existing 172 clubs), 1,200 new members (5,873), and 500 new Rotaractors (7,155).” He aims to collect $2.6 million for TRF giving with an Annual Fund of $400,000. Every club will have a holistic wellness chair to look into the mental health issues of Rotarians and Anns for timely intervention, he said.
AKS members S V Veeramani, PDGs Ramanathan, J B Kamdar, past presidents Ranjit Pratap and Vijaya Bharathi (RC Madras), DGND Vinod Saraogi, and Dev Damodaran were felicitated by McInally. PDG J Sridhar was presented a Foundation citation for mobilising over $155,000 for the Polio Fund as part of $2.5 million for TRF giving. P N Mohan, past president, RC Madras, who got the Green Crusader of the Year Award from the International Advertising Agency’s Olive Crowd Awards, for restoring seven lakes around Chennai, was honoured by the RIPE. He had led a team of Rotarians to reclaim ruined lakes across 600 acres that benefitted eight lakh people and over 1,000 acres of farm land.
Pictures by V Muthukumaran