Focus on younger, women members
He has become DG of a bifurcated District — 3011 with 67 clubs, where, says Subramanian, his first priority will be to ensure the District does not lose the focus on polio surgeries. “And bifurcation gives me an opportunity to enhance membership; I will focus on younger and women members and create clubs in areas that are underserved.”
Asked to explain how, he says, “In my membership team I have invited members who are now currently serving in clubs with young members. We’ll ask them to focus on this aspect.”
On membership goals, Subramanian says he’s looking for a 15 per cent increase; “we’d like to double the number of women members that were admitted last year … in our district women’s ratio is close to about 20 per cent.”
For the TRF Centennial, he has a couple of “exciting ideas; extend the Foundation activities to the non-Rotary public in a very big way.” He explains that most often the funding for TRF comes from the Rotarians. “If we take the performance of the Foundation and our work in diverse areas, be it the earthquake, floods, literacy, or polio itself, to corporates and HNIs, I’m confident they’ll partner with us in projects and bring in a lot of revenue outside of Rotary.”
Hailing from the Capital, he has already initiated discussions for CSR funds; “we will present short area-
specific presentations, say in Delhi and Haryana, so that they know their contributions are going to their own region.”
He will also concentrate on both WinS and literacy, as “they go hand in hand with basic education and if tackled properly, will address a vast range of our biggest national problems. And WinS is related to healthcare; 40 per cent of deaths under 5 can be prevented totally by just hand washing and hygiene.”
So what special attributes can doctors bring to Rotary?
“Two aspects; the profession itself helps you to grow as an individual with a lot of empathy. So compassion is ingrained into my profession. Two, I am aware of the importance of prevention. I might be a super specialist surgeon at a super speciality hospital. But what I address in terms of healthcare there is a very minuscule portion of the society’s needs. Prevention is what can address larger health issues and in a much better cost effective way.”
Bigger, more challenging projects
Ask him why he joined Rotary, and Gopal Mandhania says, “By 1990, I had achieved a lot in my business, which is manufacturing mild steel bars, and thought it was time to give back to society. Rotary was the best platform to do service to society. And here, I could also make a number of friends and get international exposure.”
Rotary, taught him leadership qualities. “My vision and enthusiasm levels have gone up and I feel I am a transformed person. I can take better and quicker decisions. Interacting with good people, taking up big projects and implementing them with responsibility and efficiency is another gift.”
Mandhania joined Rotary in 1990. His district has 78 clubs and over 4,500 Rotarians. His priorities this year will be “taking up bigger and more challenging service projects. Also, it being a Centennial year, TRF programmes and contributions will be very important.” He has lined up six programmes for TRF celebrations; “I don’t think any other district is thinking along the same scale that we have in mind and are implementing.”
A thrust area this year will be diabetes check-up and awareness, “as 20 per cent of our population is affected by diabetes in our region. We’ll have over 150 camps to screen one lakh people.” About 400 paediatric surgeries are also planned during the year. The Railway stations adopted by the clubs in his district will be cleaned and spruced up, and “of course we will continue with WinS.”
African Medical Missions enthralled him
This ENT Surgeon joined Rotary rather late in 2004, but has been working at the 600-bed hospital of SAIL in Durgapur Steel City for 22 years and is presently a Joint Director of the Hospital.
Asked why he joined Rotary so late, he smiles and says, “Because I was never asked!” But once he was asked, the journey has been great. “I’ve had an excellent experience in Rotary. My rise has been phenomenal.”
Niyogi says that the most endearing feature of his Rotary journey has been his participation in two medical missions to Africa; Nigeria and Madagascar. “Both were mindblowing; they taught me so much. When you see patients who are not Indians in a different set up, the best of you comes out.”
Rotary has changed his mindset. “Being a medical doctor you are used to philanthropic activities such as going to medical camps and helping the poor.” Along with that, Rotary also develops your leadership skills and teaches you to take new initiatives. What Rotary gives you is that you make many new friends.”
His priorities this year will be WinS, a project on deworming of children; “due to lack of hygiene and water-borne diseases children and young adults are dying and we have to do something about it.
I love his parting shot. “Well, my passion is to do something that has not yet come. I am still waiting for it!”
Taking Rotary to unrepresented regions
He had charted out the plans for his District well ahead of the year and is quite excited about the public toilets that his clubs will install with the help of global grants and the trolleys that will be rolled out at railway stations for the benefit of passengers. Darshan Gandhi has planned common community projects that are mandatory for all the clubs, in addition to their regular projects. This way there will be coordination among the clubs and the Rotarians will be inspired to perform better, he says. His plans for the TRF Centennial celebrations include contribution of $26.5 from each Rotarian and the club with 100 per cent contribution will be recognised as ‘John Germ Club.’
Gandhi plans to establish 20 new clubs, particularly in hitherto unrepresented areas. Having begun his Rotary journey in 1975 as a Rotaractor, he says that involving Rotaractors in Rotary projects will be beneficial for Rotarians. Recalling the polio corrective surgery camp his District had organised in 1997 which made “many children walk back home, even though they had come to the camp crawling,” he gives the example of a youngster he met a few months ago. “He thanked me profusely and said that he was one of the beneficiaries of the camp. Today he is employed in a bank and even as I say this I am getting goosebumps,” says Gandhi.
‘Simple’ is his mantra
I see a great year ahead, what with the TRF Centennial and our own Kalyanda at the helm, and it could well be a year when we will bid adieu to polio,” says an excited Shanmugasundaram. He has summed up his priorities as SIMPLE — Service, Involvement, Membership, Public image, Literacy and EREY (Every Rotarian Every Year — the contribution to TRF). His focus this year is on building toilet blocks in government schools and establishing a facility at the Tiruchengode Government Hospital to screen newborns for hearing impairment. “The neonatal care unit we installed here in 2008 was a forerunner for the district hospital and other paediatric clinics,” he reminisces.
He is a second generation Rotarian after his father who had served as the charter secretary of the same club. For the TRF Centennial, Shanmugasundaram plans to introduce 11 Endowment Fund donors, each contributing $25,000 to TRF, as well as an AKS member. Each Rotarian has been asked to contribute $26.5 to TRF. Also on his agenda is a 15 per cent growth in membership and at least 95 per cent retention.
His most unforgettable moment, he adds, was when he met a young boy whose college education he had sponsored. Now employed, the boy came up to him and repaid the money. What surprised him was when he told him that he is sponsoring the education of another underprivileged student. One act of kindness triggers a cycle reaction, he says.
Transformation through education
His focus is to transform society through education. “That’s why I call my District’s signature project Parivartan. We have identified 136 schools; each club will be responsible for overall development of the school and the students,” says Prakash Arackal. A Rotarian since 1999, he is proud of the numerous life-saving heart surgeries performed by his District under the Gift of Life programme. He recounts a time when 26 Iraqi children had arrived at Cochin for cardiac surgery. After the surgery, a three-year-old child walked up to him and hugging his legs, said ‘Thank you Uncle.’ “I still cherish that moment … the magic of Rotary that transcends borders and languages.”
He has planned 100 heart surgeries this year under the Gift of Life initiative. A mobile mammography screening unit and houses for homeless tribals in Palghat are planned. Arackal’s aim for TRF collection during this Centennial year is $1.5 million; his other objective is 20 per cent increase in membership which includes inducting 60 women Rotarians.
Healthcare is his priority
We felicitated 4 Endowment Fund donors and 3 Major Donors on my installation day where RIDE Basker C was present,” says S V S Rao. His focus is on TRF and membership growth, increasing the clubs from the present 85 to 100, and add 1,000 Rotarians to his present team of 4,000.
Rao is working on establishing six Rotary dialysis centres and Rotary schools, one in every district. His agenda further includes transforming 100 schools into Happy Schools, installing 100 toilet blocks under WinS and an equal number of e-learning centres. Three global grants have been sanctioned for the TEACH and WinS programmes for the year, he adds.
He got interested in Rotary after serving as a GSE member at Missouri in 1993 and became a charter member of his club soon after. As club president he was instrumental in setting up the District’s first Rotary Blood Bank at Kakinada in 1996 which is close to his heart “because I was traumatised when a person I operated upon had contracted AIDS due to unsafe blood transfusion.” His father, a Lion member, was his inspiration to set up an old age home for women which has 40 inmates now, says Rao.