TRF Trustee Chair-elect K R Ravindran talked about the Foundation’s new programmes and priorities to the governors-elect at the International Assembly. A new grant scheme, Programmes of Scale, will be rolled out next year. “These grants will challenge Rotary clubs to think big and approach co-partners and sponsors to join them in comprehensive solutions to major issues, the benefits of which reach a large population.”
Explaining it further, he cited the cervical cancer vaccination project, the only cancer that is vaccine-preventable. The programme involves vaccinating every girl in 8–10 age and screening every woman in age 35–45. “Then you can in theory eradicate cervical cancer.” But no one organisation can do it alone and it needs the support of multiple agencies. The Programmes of Scale grants will support projects of such scale with a single $2 million grant every year.
Talking about priorities, Ravindran reiterated that the first priority is of course to end polio. “We have already reduced the number of polio cases by 99.9 per cent. We are down to only two countries with the wild poliovirus — Pakistan and Afghanistan. We will finish the job,” he said.
The second priority is to increase the Annual Fund and PolioPlus while building the Endowment Fund to $2.025 billion by 2025. The comprehensive fundraising goal for the next year is $410 million. He pointed out that nearly 20 per cent of the clubs do not contribute to the Foundation’s Annual Fund. “We need to hit our goals if we are to fund the ever-increasing demand for our global grants, which enable our clubs to change lives,” he said.
The next priority is to improve the measurable impact of the grants. “We need to create projects that do more than make us feel good. Our projects must change lives. This is not just about dollars. This is about lives.”
Ravindran recounted how a maternity hospital that was built by his club with TRF support in Sri Lanka has been a big boon for expectant mothers and newborn babies.
He had accompanied then Foundation Chair D K Lee to the hospital during Lee’s visit to Sri Lanka. As they went around the neonatal ICU, he saw a tiny baby which could fit in both his palms, with tubes running all over its body, and fighting for her every breath. The sight made him say instinctively: ‘Fight, baby fight.’ “She was poor, she was sick, but she was not forgotten. She would not be left to die. She was someone’s precious child, and we had cared for her. We had done all we could to give her that chance to live, because of the power of our Foundation.”
And two years later, when he visited the same hospital, he was told that 140,000 babies had been born there since Rotary built it. He was introduced to a young mother with a child. He reached out and carried the child around. When one of the doctors informed him that it was the same child he was anxious about during his last visit, “it was I who struggled to breathe. That was the child. There in my arms: a little girl, who lived because of Rotary.”
He concluded his address by saying to the DGEs “when you go home, when you go back to your clubs, when you make your plans for next year — keep our Foundation foremost in your minds. It gives substance to our Rotary membership. It changes lives.”