Very rarely will you find an RI President Elect coming to a single club’s event; we are really grateful to RIPE Mark Maloney attending an event of Rotary Club of Calcutta Mahanagar, where we are going to launch six projects valued at over $6 million or ₹ 40 crore, benefitting about 150,000 people,” beamed PRID Shekhar Mehta at a mega event held by his club in Kolkata to inaugurate these projects.
While four of those projects are of RC Calcutta Mahanagar, the other two were RID 3291 projects. “Have you been at a single event where projects worth $6 million were being launched? The only place I can compare with today’s event is the Atlanta Convention where outstanding amounts were pledged by nations and the Gates Foundation to fight polio.” The projects included skilling of 30,000 widows/destitute women, 1,000 from each State of India, “and the other five projects are all related to literacy,” he said.
Club President Chitra Agarwal said the club projects — including giving e-learning kits to 145 schools and training 300 teachers — are being done with the help of three global grants valued at $400,000. “Our club has completed 1,000 heart surgeries on children, (Afraz, on whom a heart surgery was performed to celebrate Maloney’s visit, was introduced to the incoming President at the meet), provided vocational training to over 2,000 young people, and done eye surgeries on over 10,000 elderly people.”
Two other projects pioneered by the club included giving shelter kits to natural disaster victims over the last 10 years, helping nearly 40,000 disaster victims. “Our Bloodline is the place for people who can’t get blood anywhere else in Kolkata,” she said.
A compelling partnership
Mehta added that literacy “is a programme that has caught the imagination of both the Indian Government and Rotarians in India.” While the GoI was putting e-learning kits in 150,000 schools, we are going to do it in 200,000 schools, so our programme is bigger.” Some meaningful work was also being done in Happy Schools and sending children back to schools under the Asha Kiran programme.
With the three global grants that Maloney was launching that evening, “our club today has 10 open global grants. I checked with the RI office and was told that very rarely a Rotary club would have 10 global grants open. RC Belur (in the same district) has eight global grants open and so we might be a district which probably has the highest number of open global grants in the Rotary world,” Mehta said.
TRF has raised and invested over $4.7 billion and this has enabled Rotarians to promote peace, fight disease, provide clean water and sanitation, save mothers and children, support education and grow local economies.
— RIPE Mark Maloney
The e-learning programme done by the club in 100 schools, in addition to the 145 schools, a project launched that evening, would change the way about 75,000 children learn.
He recalled that RILM had signed last year an MoU with the Lord Loomba Foundation of UK, in the presence of its president Cheri Blaire, for skilling 30,000 widows/disadvantaged women. This project will be done through 30 global grants where the Loomba Foundation had committed $1 million to TRF and Indian Rotary clubs would match it with another $1 million; jointly the project would contribute $2 million to the Foundation. The first five grants have already been approved, money for four grants had come in, and applications for five more global grants had been filed already. “Seven of the 10 RI districts which are doing this project with us are present at this meeting,”, Mehta said, and also welcomed delegates from Nepal and Bangladesh who were present.
The lakh-crore syndrome
Launching the six projects, RIPE Maloney had the audience in splits when he described how grateful he was that he did not have to do the inaugural that evening by “smashing a coconut. The last time I inaugurated a project in India 15 years ago, I had to smash a coconut! And I could never get the coconut smashed! It was a project outside Surat; recently my friend Himanshu (Thacker) took me back to see the water project that I had inaugurated with an unsmashed coconut. I was happy to see it is going very well, is in good condition and giving good water to the residents.”
He added: “As soon as I got up here, I asked ‘Do I have to smash a coconut? Because if I couldn’t do it 15 years ago, I won’t be able to do it now!”
It was wonderful for him to see “several examples of what we can achieve for our local communities with the support of our Foundation. Today we’ve seen projects, which when complete, will have a total funding of $6 million or ₹ 40 crore. The crore is an interesting concept to an American. We’re troubled with your lakhs and crores and you put your commas in different places than we do. It throws us off, you know… and we say: ‘I’m sorry that’s a million; you forgot a zero!”
But after about 20 years of coming to India “I think I have finally got it; that a lakh is 100,000. And a crore is… well, a lot more!”
While what RC Calcutta Mahanagar and District 3291 were doing was very impressive, “the striking thing about TRF and the projects we undertake is that they don’t all have to be large projects where you measure the value in crores.”
Small, yet impactful
Maloney said last October he had the opportunity to visit a project in St Thomas, one of the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean Sea, “where my Rotary club (Decatur) and my wife’s Rotary club (you notice that we are in two separate Rotary clubs, my wife says there is no Rotary club in the world big enough for both of us!) have partnered with RC St Thomas East to distribute water filters.”
It was a very simple project — handing out manufactured water filters with a two-minute education to the recipients — and it barely cost $8,000 “which is nowhere near a crore and not even a lakh!” But yet, that very simple project will have a tremendous impact upon the island of St Thomas where the 2017 hurricane had tainted the water systems, making the water in their taps at home undrinkable. And hence families had to spend anywhere between $40 to $150 a month to buy bottled water. The money having to be accommodated in their monthly budget was one thing; what was worse was the problem of disposing those bottles. They were being put into a landfill because the cost of recycling was not feasible as the number of bottles was too small. “And it’s too expensive to ship the used bottles someplace else, where the plastic can be recycled, so all those plastic bottles are just going into a landfill on that beautiful Caribbean island.”
Today we are going to launch six projects valued at over $6 million or ₹ 40 crore, benefitting about 150,000 people.
— PRID Shekhar Mehta
The solution was giving the families a $10 water filter. “This is what our TRF helps us do. That is not a global grant project; it doesn’t meet the dollar threshold. It is a district grant project with three clubs getting together and having an impact that could be measured in terms of hundreds of thousands of dollars in terms of saving money for the families and the saved landfill space on the island.”
The TRF magic
It was amazing how flexible TRF could be; allowing mega projects costing millions of dollars on the one hand, and also allowing smaller project which make a big impact on a local community. “Since it was founded, TRF has raised and invested over $4.7 billion for programmes that have a lasting impact on our communities. That money has enabled generations of Rotarians to promote peace, fight disease, provide clean water and sanitation, save mothers and children, support education and grow local economies all over the world,” he added.
Last year, as Rotary entered its second century of service, “we had an ambitious goal of raising $360 million. At the Toronto International Convention, Trustee Chair Paul Netzel said we have once again a landmark year for the Foundation, setting a one-year record in 2017–18 of raising $414.7 million. And all this money will be used by Rotarians to do good in the world as we have seen this evening.”
Urging Rotarians to keep their focus on eradicating polio from the world and continue to immunise millions of children every year, Maloney added, “It is more important now than ever before not to move on to something else, or let our attention waver before we end polio. That remains our Priority No 1.”
The second priority was to encourage every RI District to use its district designated funds, whether through global grants, district grants or polio fund. His message to all incoming DGs was clear: “Now is the time to review your district’s funds. Determine how much you have available, and plan how you and your district will use these funds in the coming year. Your Rotarians did not contribute this money to your Foundation to build a savings account, but to do good in the world, and there is no shortage of opportunities as we’ve seen tonight.”
Rotarians’ third priority was to strengthen TRF resources, contribution to the Annual Fund, and build the Endowment Fund to $2.025 billion by 2025. These three priorities will give us a stronger TRF and a stronger Rotary in our second century of service.”
RIDE Kamal Sanghvi said he was particularly happy to welcome the 30,000 women who were going to be skilled under the programme as he had “signed that MoU with Lord Loomba.”
When women are put at the helm of affairs, conflict decreases substantially. Quoting the results of a study done in 1995 in 72 nations, he said it found that if these countries had invested in 1975 in women’s education and skill development, then by 1985 or 10 years later, infant mortality in those countries would have been reduced by 68 per cent. “This is the strength of educating and giving opportunities to women. To reduce conflict, the first step any nation should take is empower its women. We are going to do that through this programme of skill development for women.”
Addressing the meet DG Mukul Sinha promised RIPE Maloney that District 3291 will go all out to increase induction of new members in their clubs and ensure retention. “After all, next year, a club in our district will be leading India into the 100th year of Rotary in this country. As the UN celebrates its 75th year in 2020, we will join it in celebrating 100 years of Rotary in India.”
PRID Mehta announced that Inner Wheel members had raised $19,500 for one of the literacy projects. A district project launched on that day was prevention of cervical cancer through vaccination of women.
Pictures by Rasheeda Bhagat