Incoming club presidents in Sri Lanka prepare for positive impact

We are not living in a world draped in silk or bathed in sunshine; rather, it is etched with challenges that grow daily. Thanks to escalating tension in the Middle East, naked aggression in Ukraine, the blocking of trade routes, and disruption in global shipping, local economies are left ­devastated. Amidst these trials, as you step into your roles as club presidents, it won’t be a cakewalk,” said PRIP K R Ravindran, addressing over 50 presidents-elect from RID 3220 at the Presidents-Elect Training ­Seminar (PETS) in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. P S M Charles, Governor of the ­Northern Province of Jaffna, was also present at the inaugural event.

From L: DG Jerome Rajendram, Jaffna Governor PSM Charles, PRIP K R Ravindran and DGE Sushena Ranatunga at the PETS.

Complimenting DGE Sushena Ranatunga for selecting Jaffna as the PETS destination and promoting it as “a safe and welcoming destination,” Ravindran reminisced about his prior visit with PRIP Ray Klinginsmith in 2010, shortly after the war. “I like the idea of coming here, and since I’m already here, I’ve invited my university mates from India to join me for two more days in Jaffna. I hope they go back and share what they are missing and why they should come here.”

He said that the club president’s role “carries significant responsibility and plays a crucial role in addressing community needs and challenges. Every activity you undertake does not have to be monumental; focus on your members first. Promote camaraderie and support among them. Encourage socialisation and business networking within the club; your dentist, travel agent, lawyer, or doctor could all be fellow Rotarians.”

PDG Pubudu de Zoysa (fourth from left) with the incoming women club presidents.

Reflecting on Rotary’s evolution, Ravindran highlighted RC San ­Francisco’s focus on promoting business among club members in 1952–53. “Initially, there were practices such as tracking business transactions between members and rewarding them for doing business with each other. However, resistance to this insular approach grew over time, leading to a shift towards a broader focus on community and global service.”

Even when he became the RI president, “it was always family, business and Rotary. That’s what I urge you to do. As club presidents, you will probably learn more management skills, unlike any taught in universities. Because in a Rotary club, you can’t sack, force or jolt people. You just have to cajole them, influence them, and encourage them to do work.”

Club presidents participating in a karaoke activity.

He recounted a personal story of attending an Interact club meeting where he overheard children admiring superficial aspects of his life like his tie and car, rather than focusing on his speech. Despite the realisation that children may sometimes admire individuals for the wrong reasons, he resolved to be a proper role model by embodying positive qualities and values for those who look up to him… “and that is the sort of pressure that Rotary puts on you. You realise very quickly that it’s very easy to make a speech. But it’s a lot more difficult to live those words and walk that talk.”

Emphasising the inclusive and harmonious nature of Rotary, he said that Rotary transcends barriers of nationality, ethnicity and religion, fostering a sense of unity and shared purpose. “This is true at the club, district and international levels. Otherwise, can you imagine the Rotary world electing someone like me, from a small island, as the world president? Because we go beyond borders, we don’t worry about white men, brown men, black men, rich countries or small countries.”

Last row, from left: PDGs S Muthu Palaniappan, A Sampath Kumar, DGND Kumar Sundaraj, PDG Krish Rajendran, Rtn Kirubahara Alakasuntharam, DGE Sushena Ranatunga and his spouse Roshini along with the underprivileged children of Jaffna.

DG Jerome Rajendram spoke about the incoming presidents’ role in upholding the values and reputation of Rotary in Sri Lanka. He said, “Internationally, Sri Lanka is often recognised as the country of PRIP K R ­Ravindran. As incoming club presidents, I encourage you to continue the good reputation established by Ravindran and spread Rotary’s positive impact worldwide.”

DGE Sushena Ranatunga urged his batch of presidents to “support district projects and make a significant impact through simple action.” To kickstart the year’s projects, he handed over stationery kits and a laptop to a staff member of the Uduvil Malvatthai RCTM School. Essential medicines were also handed over to a representative from the Mannar District Hospital. “These gestures represent the ­beginning of our collective effort to bring about positive change in the country through Rotary initiatives,” he said. The DGE arranged lunch for children from less privileged families after the event.

ARRFC S Muthu Palaniappan (RID 3232) and PDG A Sampath Kumar (RID 3231) were also present at the PETS. The event concluded with a graduation ceremony followed by a toast to the presidents-elect by PDG Krish Rajendran, and expressions of gratitude by Gamini Madanayake, district executive secretary 2024–25.

 

Pictures by Kiran Zehra

 

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