Bigger projects is his mantra
His focus during his year is to show all the clubs the magical effect of “how TRF can multiply your money. Even before the year started I’ve been telling my clubs that we should do more projects involving the Foundation. And I will also help you show your members how TRF can multiply your contributions and help you do large projects.”
His pitch is clear… “Stop doing smaller projects; let us do signature projects. Because you have to show people the purpose of being in Rotary. By doing smaller projects you will never be able to show people this… and Rotary will seem to them more like a picnic activity!”
Sharat Jain, a pioneer in setting up an e-commerce venture in India, has been emphasising to his club presidents that even if they can’t finish a mega project this year, it doesn’t matter, “but think big, plan and apply for a grant and I will support you.” Thanks to his persistence, in July “I helped one of the clubs which was planning to invest $14,000 on a project, to get partner from the US, and now they are getting $58,000.”
He says quite often DGs delay decisions till the end of the year; “as a result, projects don’t happen, people don’t get motivated.”
His passionate plea that use the Foundation to do larger, and more sustainable, signature projects found a perfect fit with RC Delhi Riverside which has taken up fitting cochlear implants on hearing deficient children on its own, has now decided to go in for a TRF grant. “Only this way we can create a big impact on society,’ says Jain.
Jain’s district has undertaken a “a very difficult target” of raising $1.5 million for TRF’s Centennial. “Last year it raised $560,000, so we are aiming at three times the figure. In August we’ve got two AKS members and 45 major donors from my district.”
Jain’s second priority is membership growth. In July itself the annual membership target of 10 per cent was achieved. The focus will be on women and younger members — one club has been started with all members below 30. “We will focus on women and younger members, RI’s two focus areas. And last year we grew from 70 to 77 clubs, this year the plan is to add another five clubs,” he says.
But TRF giving during this Centennial year will be his priority and he is making a headway. “I want clubs that were giving only $1,000 to give $50,000. My own club which was giving only $1,000 a month back, has committed $153,000 today (at the TRF dinner to recognise AKS members from D 3011 and 3012) and my target is $200,000.
He is also promoting the Atlanta Convention aggressively; “we already have more than 50 registrations and my target is to send more than 100 couples from my District to Atlanta. There is no better place than a Rotary Convention to understand Rotary.” He says he has been to clubs where members have told him “we’ve been here for three years but really don’t know what is Rotary. So what better place than the Convention to get the real flavour of Rotary?”
Women’s empowerment top priority
A Rotarian since 2004, she is connected to Nepal’s royal family — the President’s house in Kathmandu was one owned by her uncle. She was the treasurer to the late Queen of Nepal for five years. But what Jaya Shah is most proud about is her 35 years “experience as a social scientist.”
On why she joined Rotary, she says, “As a social scientist who had worked for long years in changing people’s lives, becoming a Rotarian was a natural fit for me.”
Her entire country, Jaya points out, is still grappling with challenges following the devastating earthquake that Nepal suffered in 2015. “The challenges before us of rebuilding and rehabilitation are huge. There isn’t any stone that has not been turned in this earthquake. It was that bad, and the devastation was total both in terms of loss of our ancient, cultural heritage as also the homes of poor that were destroyed.”
Now with the Nepal government’s permission coming in, Rotary has started working with the Government to rebuild homes.
Her priorities during this year as DG will be women’s empowerment, which continues to be a big challenge. Nepal has a peculiar problem, she says. “We do have many women leaders in their own fields but they are still in their shells. It is not as though Nepal’s women are backward and not educated. They are educated but now we have to give them the platform… a helping hand… to come to the forefront.”
Her District has 97 clubs and 3,420 Rotarians. “As a woman DG, my priority will also be to get more women members, right now it has only 460 women Rotarians.”
Another focus area for Jaya will be maternal and child health, as she already has experience of working in that field as a social scientist.
Innovative in raising funds
Thanks to the leadership qualities and innovative spirit that Rotary has inculcated in him, Ananth H R visited around eight Rotary clubs in the New Hampshire region of California, US, prior to his training at the International Assembly in January 2016. “I told them I bring you an opportunity. I will make 100 per cent of my district clubs participate in one global grant and I would like your clubs to participate with each one contributing $500 each.” With this initiative, he has managed to get two grants approved, each around $170,000.
“What I proposed and what really aroused their interest was that your district has the opportunity to ensure that all your district clubs participate in the Centennial. And they need to contribute just $500 a club, and we will do the same.”
The money thus raised will be used for e-learning systems, desks and benches, toilets, teacher training and adult literacy, he says.
Hailing from the publishing industry, this DG also wants to raise funds to enhance Rotary’s public image “through coffee table books for which the forewords are written by some very eminent people.”
Ananth became a Rotarian in 1994, “because one of my friends dragged me into Rotary!”
Over the years, apart from giving him leadership qualities, being in Rotary has enabled him “to appreciate the difficulties of the poor people, which I was never able to do earlier.” Though both his father and brother were Rotarians, “I joined Rotary because of somebody’s pressure.”
But, he adds, everything changed for him when he visited a school for disabled children as a Rotarian, and that experience “really changed me. It has opened my eyes to the suffering of humanity.”
On his priorities this year, he says, “Our district has seen unprecedented growth in membership last year. From 3,800 at the beginning of the year, we crossed 5,500. My challenge is to ensure that this work is not undone… so basically, it is retention.” He gives credit to his IPDG Nagesh for D 3190 getting such prominence in both membership and TRF funds.
Ananth has used his professional expertise in publishing to benefit Rotary through various publications. Giving the example of their district directory he explains how he turned a cost centre into a profit centre. From 2003–04 onwards, the district was spending nearly Rs 1 lakh on the district directory, but last year, “Nagesh created a surplus, and I have continued; this year our surplus from the directory after all costs is Rs 17–18 lakh”. He is also bringing out a set of “Amazing books” which are designed, written and printed by Rotarians on excise concession paper and the money raised from them is going into the district welfare projects.
When he felt Rotary’s “real power”
The year has been quite satisfactory for him as he had planned each club should do one or two projects and “they are doing wonderfully well.” Narayan Nayak wants to bring 15 per cent growth in membership and add 10 more clubs in his District. He is keen on bringing behavioural change in adults by engaging children as catalysts of change through five global grant projects to construct toilets in 200 schools.
Nayak retired from the Indian Army as a Brigadier in 1988 and motivated by his wife Sunanda, joined Rotary in 2001 at Bhubaneswar with the objective to play golf! “But I find that Rotary has given me another huge family.” Talking about the magic of Rotary, Nayak says that he felt the real power of Rotary when Rtn Anurag Sahu met with an accident recently when he had led a team of Rotarians to Pataya. He had badly injured his spinal cord and with help from the local Rotarians, landed at Kolkata to be operated upon at Kolkatta Apollo Hospital. He plans to establish eye hospitals in two towns and work on a garbage disposal project with American Rotary clubs.
From left to right with Rotary!
His priority is to strengthen the clubs and improve relationship with Gen X. He wants to visit engineering colleges and bring in at least 1 lakh Rotaractors and 25,000 Interactors. He has planned a Rotaractors’ Fest in Hyderabad during December to take the message of Rotary to youngsters.
Ratna Prabhakar Anne is confident of meeting his District’s goal of $1 million for the TRF Centennial year. “We will have two AKS donors this year. I have also requested all 3,200 Rotarians to contribute $26.5 each,” he says.
On membership development, he is concentrating on retention and increase membership to 4,000, with an addition of 10 new clubs. He has exceeded his WinS target of 300 schools.
His association with Rotary began in 1991, on an invitation by the local MLA and the club’s charter president Jeyyamma. He was then an active student leader. “Rotary changed me from being on the left to right.” The best part of his Rotary life, he says, was when as club president in 1996, he was instrumental in performing cataract surgeries for 82 old people. “One of them hugged me and said, ‘Thank you, because of you I am able to see my grandchildren after so long.’ I had tears in my eyes. I understood that Rotary not only affects the community, it shapes us also for the better.”
His wife Sivakumari is a member of RC Guntur Aadarsh and both of them are Major Donors.
Drawing a parallel between the Army and Rotary
“I am a retired Army officer, tuned to serving my country, placing my life and family second only to our nation. That’s why I love Rotary’s theme — Service above Self — and am proud to be serving the two best organisations of the world — the Indian Army and Rotary,” says Deepak Mehta.
His love for Rotary began as a GSE candidate to Nebraska, USA in 1995 and he “joined Rotary within seven days after my return to India. Now I cannot imagine a life without Rotary.” His most cherished moment was when he managed to convince “a hardcore non-believer of Rotary” to not only donate liberally but also succeeded in changing his opinion about the organisation and its activities.
“Ours is one of the most spread-out Districts encompassing Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha, and our biggest challenge is poverty and illiteracy. My focus therefore is healthcare and education,” he says. He aims to send 1,000 girl children to school through Asha Kiran and organise three mega medical camps during the year.
Mehta says that the workshops by the VTT team from Australia to Chattisgarh to train midwives and health workers to reduce cases of infant and mother mortality will be extremely beneficial. He is confident of exceeding his target of $50,000 for TRF and hopeful of attracting CSR funds from the many corporates in the three States. His wife Ruby is a member of RC Raipur Queens.