On a greening drive
He is planning to make the entire district green by creating Miyawaki forests. “We are planning to grow trees in an 850,000 sq ft area across the district,” says Balaji Babu. Around 50 clubs have each planted saplings in 2,000-3,000 sft area in schools, hospitals and public places. All the 119 clubs are enthusiastic about the programme, he says. The region was badly affected by the tsunami and cyclones; growing native trees can help reduce the impact of natural disasters, he adds. “Sadly, we don’t keep track of the saplings we have planted and forget the plants after the hype around the event is over.” But this time the Rotarians have pledged to nurture the saplings they plant; also, the Miyawaki process requires less care and is easy to maintain,” he adds.
Babu is a Rotarian of 25 years. He aims at a 20 per cent membership growth and to double the number of women from 450 to at least 900. He is encouraging spouses of Rotarians to join Rotary. “I have waived their district dues.” He is walking the talk and has inducted his wife Alamelu as a member of his club. “So far 40 women have become Rotary members,” he smiles.
Babu is concentrating on installing rain water harvesting facilities across the district. “We get good rains but it is prudent to save water when we can.”
His goal for TRF is $1 million.
He is planning a global grant to equip the district with a cancer screening van and has aligned with the ICC (Inter-country committee) to identify foreign partner clubs for executing bigger projects. “French Rotary clubs are showing interest to partner with us,” he says.
Babu likes the friendship, dedication and genuineness of Rotarians and that had attracted him to the organisation in the first place.
A German connect
The district is keenly working with the police and recognising police personnel for their good work by giving awards. “We are grooming youngsters as traffic wardens, training them to provide first aid to accident victims and have formed community corps of autorickshaw drivers to help traffic police,” says Thomas Vavanikunnel. He is urging clubs to distribute masks, shields and sanitisers to protect them from coronavirus while on frontline duty.
He joined Rotary in 1995 after returning from a 12-year sojourn in Germany and is happy to be “able to speak the RI President’s language”. He was instrumental in his club executing six global grants (GG) with German clubs since 2008 and one more is under process. “I can communicate in German and probably that is an added advantage,” he smiles.
He is proud that his club has 152 members, including 50 women, and says this is due to the service projects undertaken by it.
Recalling his induction to Rotary he says, “A friend invited me to the club in 1994 and said that attendance is compulsory and if you miss three meetings you will be out of Rotary. That put me off. I decided against joining until the next year when I got inspired after seeing the service activities.”
The best part of Rotary, according to the governor, is that “Rotary connects the world. You need not know the person. Just that he is a Rotarian and the lapel pin is enough to connect with him. And seeing the Rotary wheel anywhere will make every Rotarian excited.”
Vavanikunnel fondly remembers the district’s work in facilitating schools with WASH facilities when he was WinS chairman two years ago. “We constructed toilet blocks in 36 schools, thanks to a GG with Germany,” he says.
His membership target is 600 and he has achieved 50 per cent so far in addition to chartering four new clubs, including a satellite club. “My wife Omana was the first woman member of my club,” he says.
The governor is planning to become major donor and include more major donors. His target for TRF is $1 million.
Promoting cervical cancer awareness
He joined Rotary in 2007 to connect with people and “get to know more about the world”. Davinder Singh is keen on promoting cervical cancer awareness in the district and is planning to innoculate young girls against the disease. “Initially we planned for 1,000 vaccines; the number has tripled as all clubs are interested in the project. So we have applied for a global grant,” he says, adding that 1,200 Rotarians and Rotaractors who participated in an awareness programme organised on zoom have together raised $36,000 for the project.
The governor has chartered eight new clubs since July and inducted 250 new members. He is finding ways to engage the 3,200 Rotarians in the district during this pandemic. “I want to sustain their interest in Rotary.”
Singh’s wife, Dolly, is also a member of his club.
Global grants are his focus
He joined Rotary in 2000 but “had not been actively involved in club activities for the initial five years. Later, when I started focusing on the projects I got hooked,” says Chinnapa Reddy who is also an avid badminton player.
He is proud of the Rotary schools in his district. “Our clubs have constructed schools even in small towns and the quality of education is so good that it is difficult to get admission in these schools. Many people come to us for recommendations,” he smiles.
Reddy has planned 10 global grants this year of which four applications are being processed by the Foundation. “We want to establish more dialysis centres, a blood bank and eye hospitals,” he says.
For TRF, his goal is to raise $300,000, although his target is $210,000 considering the district’s average performance last year when it could contribute only $57,000 to the Foundation. He is urging all the 76 clubs to contribute around $3,000 and the AGs to become major donors.
He has chartered two new clubs of the 10 clubs planned for the year. “We will have one all-women’s club and I am serious about getting more women into Rotary. Our RIPN Jennifer Jones is an inspiration for women Rotarians and prospective members,” he smiles. He wants to add at least 30 Rotaract clubs and energise the existing 21 clubs.
He is happy to share that his district has risen up well to the Covid relief challenge and have distributed face masks, face shields and PPE kits in large numbers and have fed hundreds of hungry migrants and helpless people throughout the lockdown period. Three Rotarians have contributed ₹100,000 each to the PM CARES Fund.
Reddy’s wife, a former IW president, is a member of his club and he intends to induct his daughter into Rotary during the district assembly.
Developing school infrastructure
Rotary has been a part of his growing up years. His father was a member of RC Mangalore North and Ranganath Bhat would accompany him for most of his club meetings. Bhat has been an Interact club president in 1973 and joined Rotary in 1989. His wife and son are also Rotarians in the same club.
He is gung-ho about the latest addition of environment as a Rotary area of focus. “All the 82 clubs will be planting and distributing at least 500,000 saplings during the year,” he says, adding that the Rotarians were a little disheartened that they couldn’t have grand installation ceremonies this year due to the corona pandemic. “But the zoom meetings we had with leaders such as President Holger Knaack, General Secretary John Hewko and RID Valerie Wafer made up for that and is keeping the interest alive among members,” he smiles.
Bhat aims to increase district membership by 30 per cent and raise $500,000 for TRF. “Women’s membership is just 8 per cent. Not much. But we will try to improve that,” he says.
His district projects include tree plantation, promoting positive health through health camps, WinS and first aid training for students in partnership with the Indian Red Cross Society.