Safe drinking water is his priority
With heavy rains lashing Odisha this monsoon, doing safe drinking water projects is a major priority for Debasish Mishra this year. Project Jaldhara focuses on equipping schools with RO plants. “All the 95 clubs will adopt a school each. A water ATM costs ₹40,000; half the price will be borne by the club and the rest will be funded from the DDF,” he says. A similar facility will be provided at government hospitals in the district. Here the club’s contribution for the facility will be directed to TRF and the project will be funded through CSR sponsorships. “It is a win-win as it serves two purposes,” he smiles.
Mishra is a Rotarian since 2004. He recalls how he was drawn into service during his presidential year in 2010. “RIPN Shekhar Mehta addressed our presidents’ orientation programme at Raipur. He asked if anyone will be interested in setting up an eye hospital. I volunteered and then things changed.” He went on to set up an eye clinic with a matching grant in one of the hospitals in Bhubaneswar and soon another followed. This time it was a full-fledged Rotary Eye Hospital with international partner, RC Singapore. “It serves several underprivileged people in the region.” But what touched him the most was when a Rotarian from New Zealand visited the hospital. “He had recorded the exchange where an elderly beneficiary placed her hand over my head and blessed me, thanking me for a cataract surgery which enabled her to see her grandchildren. When we met at the Seoul Convention he told me that he had shown the video in many clubs in his country and inspired by what they saw, Rotarians donated several thousands which he contributed to various other needy clubs. That really shook me,” says Mishra.
He is hopeful that the district’s project — Vision 30,000 — will treat cataract for as many needy people. Providing classroom furniture to 200 schools through corporate funding and large-scale medical camps across the district are also on his agenda.
Mishra hopes to increase membership by 10 per cent. He is aiming at 95 per cent retention of members through various programmes, one being mentoring of new members by existing Rotarians.
His goal for TRF is to raise $350,000. He is hopeful of getting major support from corporates for TRF.
Leading by example
He will soon be an AKS member, probably the first from his district. Natesan was thrilled to be adorned with the AKS pin by TRF Trustee Chair Gary Huang recently. A Rotarian since 2000, his connection with the NSS, having won the State’s Best Project Officer Award twice, and inspired by PDG Chehab Elawar of RID 5330, also an AKS member, it was only natural for the DG to contribute generously to TRF. “Elawar, a member of RC San Bernardino Sunset, stayed with us for a global grant project five years ago and extolled the Foundation for the amazing transformation it does to people the world over. We must help the Foundation heal the world, he would say, and that struck a chord in me,” says Natesan. His contribution will help health and sanitation and basic education programmes.
Natesan is keen on promoting an integrated school development programme whereby clubs will collectively improve the standards of at least 30 schools in the district. A mammography van and dialysis facilities are also on his agenda. One hundred Happy Schools, 100 Rotaract clubs, 100 Interact clubs and planting and nurturing 50 lakh saplings are his ideas for commemorating Rotary India’s centennial year.
He is confident of achieving TRF contribution goal of $700,000, and 10 per cent membership growth. Six per cent new members have already been inducted on the installation day in various clubs, although a negligible number has only registered in My Rotary. He aims at 100 per cent retention by devising interesting plans to engage Rotarians. The DG aims to raise Polio funds by distributing 60,000 contribution forms in schools and colleges, each pegged at ₹200.
His dream is to elevate the district and inculcate giving among his team.
Taking care of Rotarians’ interest
I enjoy Rotary. I have participated in every distrct activity and loved it these 22 years,” says Sameer Hariani who became a Rotarian at 24. The best memories of Rotary were leading a team of four multi- talented youngsters on a GSE to Germany in 2012. “For five weeks we learnt and basked in the internationality of Rotary, soaking in the varied cultural and vocational experience.” Another cherished moment was when he served as Director for External Extension when the district set a world record in membership growth, installing 52 new clubs and 1,900 new members in a single year. “We were on the road 220 days, visiting 120 prospective locations for installing Rotary clubs in 2015–16,” smiles Hariani.
He is looking at 12 per cent membership growth this year, but quickly points out that the challenge is retention of members. “I feel that members in both old and new clubs are getting tired. We need to find reasons for them to stay back and enjoy Rotary. Sometimes we seem to forget our own Rotarians or we don’t consider their interest.” So this year he has announced that the district will “give back to Rotarians. The spotlight will be on them and we plan involve their families too.”
On TRF goals, the DG acknowledges that the district which was a topper last Rotary year, thanks to D Ravishankar’s massive ₹100 crore contribution, will be expected to contribute at least five per cent more. “We have so far got commitments worth $1 million, and I am sure the Rotarians will rise to the occasion. Of course, our super-hero (Ravishankar) will be the role model.”
He is excited about Rotary India’s centennial ‘Koti Nati’ project that will see one crore saplings planted across the district. “It has become a national project now. A massive tree plantation drive is being planned pan-India on a single day, and includes nurturing the saplings for the next three years too.”
Hariani’s wife Roopa is member of the same club and has served as president of Inner Wheel.
Shaping responsible youth force
He joined Rotary in 2001, inspired by his interior designer. “This was a god-send as I was totally alien to the city, having just moved from Mumbai,” says Madhav Chandran. His best memories of Rotary include the year 2007 when as club president he made his club 100 per cent PHF, “something unheard of till then”. He is happy that the Cancure Foundation formed by the club has gradually grown into a separate entity worth ₹30 crore now. “We do quite a lot of cancer screening and treatment, especially in villages.”
Chandran is keen on inculcating values in youngsters through a special programme called ‘Mission 2020 Responsible India’. The clubs have so far signed up with nearly 100 schools across the district and alongside sponsoring facilities there, the Rotarians groom students into better citizens with two-minute videos or short stories sensitising them on moral values and safeguarding traditions. A website is dedicated for this project which hopes to cover 800 schools by the yearend. Setting up human milk banks is his other focus.
With 5,700 members and 45 clubs last year, the DG pepped up his team saying that they were just 600 short of being the largest district in the world. “The presidents have taken it so well and 280 new members have been inducted so far. But I have to seriously look into retention.” His thrust is on compulsory partner-participation and induction of women members. “My wife Sujata is president-nominee of my club and inspires women’s participation to a great extent.”
On TRF contribution, Chandran is keen on raising more than last year’s figure of $1.03 million and plans to achieve this by encouraging every Rotarian to contribute whatever he can to the Foundation. His mantra for Rotarians is “Don’t join Rotary to do service. Join Rotary to enjoy. Service will follow naturally.”
Children’s health is his priority
Please give me a minute. I’ll complete the prescription for this little child so that he can go back home,” says Dr Debashish Das, as I call him for an interview. His vocation drew him to Rotary even before he became a Rotarian. “I would volunteer for health camps and NIDs and inspired by the then DG Manas Chaudhuri, I joined Rotary in 2003.”
Das likes Rotary’s Heart-to-Heart and Gift of Life projects and is happy that his hospital, The Children’s Hospital, screens children for congenital heart diseases and those afflicted are sent to Durgapur or Delhi for corrective treatment. “It is wonderful to see them come back with so much happiness and a new lease of life.” His recent contribution to the Foundation will be used to treat 10 children from Haiti who will soon undergo heart surgeries in India.
His membership goal is to add 10 per cent to the existing 3,000 members which he says is achievable as in the last three months 100 new members have been inducted. “Women’s membership in our district is just 13 per cent and I am urging club presidents to induct more women.”
Das is not satisfied with the district’s contribution to TRF. “We have not fared well in the past 4–5 years. It has been hovering around $130,000 to $140,000, and I am not sure how I will reach my goal of $500,000 this year.”
He is all excited to share his project plans which include a Rotary eye hospital, blood bank and an orthopaedic rehabilitation centre, all at Guwahati, to celebrate 100 years of Rotary in India. “I have already pitched in with $30,000 as Directed Gift,” he says. Equipping 200 schools with WinS features is also on his agenda.