New, innovative means of doing good such as adopting IT platforms and systems must coexist with traditional ways of executing service projects. This is one of the six pet themes of RI President Ian Riseley who has formed an eight-member Task Force consisting of young PDGs blessed with clear perspectives on Rotary’s future, PRID Mikael Ahlberg, the RI President’s Representative, said at Vannangal, the district conference of D 3232.
Spelling out President Riseley’s vision and roadmap to make Rotary a highly visible, relevant entity that transforms societies, Ahlberg added: “First, Ian wants all clubs to record two numbers — man hours spent on projects, and the cumulative money spent in all.” Next came membership, which is critical for growth and here the focus must be on inducting women and younger members who can usher in positive change. “We also have to revitalise Group Cultural Exchanges which can replace GSE for promoting friendship across borders. And, if we want a sustainable life on the planet, each Rotarian must plant a tree… about 1.2 million new trees in a Rotary year.”
Rotary India must build membership
District governors and club presidents must hold training sessions for the newly inducted office-bearers on a regular basis. It is unfortunate that these programmes are not given due importance, said RI Director C Basker. Instead of holding such training sessions in foreign locations and office-bearers getting onto a ‘holiday bandwagon’, “we will hold such meetings within the district henceforth.” Asking pointed questions — whether club meetings are purposeful; if action plans are being drawn up; and follow-up work is being taken up — he remarked, “Instead of service orientation, club members are more interested in elections nowadays.”
Your contribution to TRF will either feed a sick child in Somalia, help a destitute woman in the Philippines or rehabilitate a drug victim in Guatemala.
RI Director C Basker
Striking a sombre note, he recounted his interaction with late Sam Owori. When Basker proudly said that India accounted for 10 per cent of Rotary membership, instead of applauding the RID, Owori told him that when India has a population of over 1.2 billion, why couldn’t Rotary get one per cent of it as its members. After all Sweden has one per cent of its population as Rotarians. That had got him really thinking hard, the RID said and urged Rotarians to induct deserving, well-qualified friends and professionals into Rotary. “Club presidents must take up social and community projects following interaction with their members at regular meetings,” he added.
$100 to TRF
It is the duty of club presidents to explain the charitable projects and other activities of the Foundation to their members before urging them to contribute to TRF. With gentle persuasion and convincing talk, “every Rotarian can be made to donate at least $100. For they must know, that their money will go to either feed a sick child in Somalia, help a destitute woman in the Philippines or rehabilitate a drug victim in Guatemala. All their money is going to a good cause.” Conference Chairman Selvam Alagappan from RC Chennai East R A Puram was felicitated by the RI Director.
Rotary, Apollo tie-up
Rotary will partner Apollo Hospitals to deliver healthcare in rural areas through vans, ambulances and other vehicles donated by companies, said PRID P T Prabhakar in his address.
Apollo Hospitals Chairman Dr Pratap C Reddy said that avoidable mortality is a cause of concern and “the 80,000-strong Apollo family will join hands with Rotary to stop the tsunami of NCDs in the rural areas across the country.” Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, cardiac-related illnesses, stroke, blood pressure, cancer and hypertension kill 6,000 people a day in the country, he pointed out.
DG R Srinivasan detailed the various service projects performed by the district Rotarians. This is the maiden district conference of the bifurcated D 3230. So far, 10 new clubs have been formed this year and training was being extended for club leadership in an extensive manner, he said.
Addressing the conference, State Minister for Tamil Language and Culture K Pandiarajan urged Rotarians to become mentors of farmers in an ambitious project of the government which aimed to transform the rural landscape at an estimate of ₹ 6,400 crore.
The idea was to form clusters of 25–30 farmers each and develop entrepreneurial skills in them so that they don’t need to depend on farming alone for livelihood. “We can, by this approach, create over 12,000 small to midcap rural firms in this World Bank-funded project. Rotarians can put their intellectual capacity nurtured through service domains to good use by joining as mentors,” he added.
A gala inaugural
The conference began with DG Srinivasan, spouse Sujatha, RIPR Ahlberg and spouse Charlotte alighting from a horse carriage which was followed by a caravan of 30 vintage cars having club presidents and district officers.
In the procession were 13 floats depicting the District’s signature projects, and Rotary vehicles like those being used for blood banks, ambulances and mobile health camps.
Paul Harris statue
A life-size statue of Rotary Founder Paul Harris was unveiled by Ahlberg. It is similar to the one at the Rotary headquarters in Evanston, Chicago and was created by the National award winning sculptor Munuswami. The statue was sponsored by RC Madras Metro.
Another highlight was the display of Room 711, sponsored by RC Madras Pallava, that replicated the modest room in which the first meeting of Rotary was held way back in 1905 in Chicago.
Rotaractors brought a dash of colour and rhythm with a march past holding the flags of 219 countries where Rotary is present and 11 Rotarians who are honorary consul generals in Chennai were felicitated.
Former cricketer Syed Kirmani presented the Icon of Chennai Award to off-spinner R Ashwin in the presence of Rotary leaders. Also, film actor and mimicry artiste Jayaram was feted with a Rotary award for acting in more than 200 films over three decades.
Above 2,500 Rotarians had registered for the conference including 38 Rotarians from Kenya, 25 from Australia, 18 from Belgium and seven from Canada.
Pictures by V Muthukumaran