Meet your Governors – January 2019
I believe in dreaming big
He was a Round Tabler and served as its national president in 1995. “I came out reluctantly because after 40, they throw you out,” says Suresh Hari. In 1996, he joined RC Bangalore Indiranagar because he felt “that the chemistry worked well for him there.”
Hari is passionate about the Foundation, particularly the grants. “I have filled 50 grant applications and guided a similar number. My strength is grants and stewardship.” He was instrumental in collecting half a million dollars during PDG Nagesh’s year through major giving, term gifts, and now, the record `100 crore commitment of RC Bangalore Orchards President D Ravi Shankar.
“I always dream big and don’t believe in doing anything for the sake of doing,” says Hari, recalling how he inspired property developer Irfan Razack, Chairman and Managing Director of Prestige Group, “who is my friend,” to become an AKS member. When PDG Badri Prasad wanted him to sponsor `10 lakh for the district conference “I took him to Irfan but requested him to become an AKS member. He asked what is AKS and I told him to give $250,000. He asked me to send a proposal.” Badri was not happy with me because we couldn’t get the money for the conference. But imagine our joy when two months later Irfan consented to become an AKS donor!”
His wife Anita is his “biggest inspiration. Four other people who have played a great role in my success are my ever-encouraging parents, father-in-law who was literally my mentor, and my partner Narayanaswamy Iyengar who analyses everything I discuss with him.”
On membership, Hari is focusing on quality and not mere numbers. Two clubs have been installed and he is going to shut down ghost clubs in consultation with RISAO. “If I can get 1,000 good members, I’ll be happy,” says the DG.
He is focusing on greening the region through seed bombing and sapling plantation. “Even for the district recognitions, instead of wasting money on mementoes and regalia we will plant saplings.”
He believes in the TRF magic
He is a Rotarian since 1986. “I initially joined Rotary to enjoy the fun and fellowship. But once when I visited Kandy in Sri Lanka, I was looking for an exclusively vegetarian restaurant. I came across a man who, seeing the Rotary pin on my lapel, pointed out to a restaurant close by and said, ‘A Rotary meeting is underway there and I am sure the Rotarians will be able to help you out.’ That’s when I realised the power of the Rotary pin,” says Subhash Jain.
He is an AKS member since 2016 and was inspired to become one after going through Rotary’s AKS website which then showed 60 members. “More than anything I see first hand what transformation Rotary does to communities. I am a big believer of the Foundation and the vast good it does,” he says.
Jain is happy that his district has executed four global grant projects, including installing a CT scan worth `1 crore in a hospital, a mammography van, e-learning facilities in schools in Ghaziabad with support from Tata Technologies and a mega dental camp. “We have so far done 1,000 service projects in 150 days,” he smiles.
The DG is happy he has added 10 per cent more members and has formed three new all-women’s clubs. He is confident of exceeding the district’s TRF goal of $1 million and three potential AKS members have been lined up for the year.
Permanent projects are the need of the hour
He was a Leo club member during his school days and was invited by his neighbour to join Rotary in 1999 at 28. Muni Girish recalls the construction of a crematorium through his club during his presidentship. “I remember how the locals thanked Rotary for the structure. It enhanced Rotary’s image in a big way.”
This year he wants to add 20 per cent more members taking the total to 3,160 and add 10 new clubs. “Being a rural region, not many women are keen to join Rotary except in cities like Hospet, Nellore and Gulbarga. I am working on installing all-women’s clubs in those cities,” says Girish.
He hopes to raise $300,000 from the district for TRF, and is motivating each club to execute a permanent project. “It could be a vocational training centre or a Rotary centre; if they do this, the presidents will be remembered for their life time, I tell them.” The district has sanction for two global grant projects — to build toilet blocks in 19 government schools; and provide benches and desks to various schools.
His focus: educating girl children
Though the district spans a large area — nearly 500 km from Jaisalmer to Ahmedabad, he is enjoying his governorship even if it means lot of travel for official club visits. “The district includes Rajasthan and Gujarat and it is interesting to experience two different cultures — Marwari and Gujarati,” says Neeraj Sogani.
Education for girl children is his immediate focus, “because in Rajasthan especially, the situation is not good.” He is urging clubs to work on the uplift of girls. Promoting WinS is next on the agenda and he is planning to sensitise the public on sanitation and hygiene, and significance of toilets and handwash stations, through rallies and other promotional activities. “We should bring about lasting change,” he says.
Sogani is not keen on installing new clubs, and is encouraging people to join existing clubs. The district has added 600 new members during the year. But he is worried that by December the numbers will go down. “I have said that no name can be removed without my consent, that will not work. I wish I can bring in an Army rule,” he smiles.
Rather than ask for large TRF contributions, this DG asks the club presidents to produce 5–6 PHFs and MPHFs. So far this is working out well, he says, adding that during every visit, he speaks on TRF and how it works. “Many people still wrongly believe that RI takes the money meant for TRF, but come forward readily to contribute when they understand the concept.”
Sogani was “pushed into Rotary” in 2000 but after a couple of years when he started working on various humanitarian projects and saw the way Rotary works during his visits to Australia, US and Europe, “I now have a deep passion for Rotary.”
Strengthening clubs is his priority
He is the youngest governor in the country. Priyesh Bhandari became a Rotarian in 1999, after serving as a Rotaractor for eight years. “I travel all over the world and everywhere I go I meet Rotarians and fellow governors. I like this instant connect and the global reach of Rotary,” he says.
He is excited that the district membership is up by 400 new members and three new clubs have been installed while five more are in the queue. His team is geared up to raise $250,000 for TRF, a record high for the district; 15 major donors have been identified, with the governor himself contributing $50,000 to TRF. The district has created a record in the India Book of Records for the maximum number of women dancers at one show. “About 1,700 women performed the traditional Ghoomar in Jodhpur for an audience of 10,000 which had half a million ‘likes’ on YouTube.”
Creating 100 happy schools with as many handwash stations and a blood bank in Alwar are on his agenda.
Talking about Rotary’s magic, Bhandari recalls an incident five years ago that reaffirmed his faith in the organisation. When his brother-in-law underwent a bone marrow transplant at the CMC Hospital, Vellore, he needed 50–60 units of blood. “I simply called the DG in Chennai and told him about my predicament. He immediately tied up with Rotarians in Vellore and soon we had so many people volunteering to donate blood. This is possible only in Rotary,” he says.