No gender discrimination for her!
It feels great to be a woman Governor, the only one in India,” smiles Shyamashree Sen, adding “I am really looking forward to my experience as DG of my District.
For her year, she has “many plans which I hope come through. My District is looking forward to some changes … some interesting changes.” she says mysteriously.
Of course this being the TRF Centennial, she has huge targets for TRF collections. “I hope to achieve our targets; of late, our District has not been doing too well, and I want to ensure more participation of Rotarians in giving.”
On the reason why a rich metro like Kolkata should be lagging behind on TRF goals, she says, “people have some hazy ideas about the Foundation which we want to correct through doing great projects.”
Her main focus will be on the two core areas of Rotary — WinS and Literacy, and her endeavour will be to connect both through good projects.
Shyamashree says that personally her Rotary journey has been great and she has never encountered any gender discrimination. She joined in 1993 when she was invited by some Rotarians who told her a new club was being started. “Since then it has been a roller coaster ride. This is not my first attempt to be DG; the first time I tried in 2003, failed, felt I had to learn and grow more and tried again in 2012, but lost by a very low margin.”
She finds the lower number of women in Rotary a cause for concern. “This is a difficult area because the mind-set still remains the same … male-oriented. Rotary has had only male members for too long; 84 years is a huge legacy.”
Asked if she is disturbed by the politics in Rotary, she says, “It’s very disturbing, because we are here to do service and make friends. Politics come out of jealousy which is uncalled for. I feel all this restlessness and strife is because our minds are not at peace with what we are doing. The day we resign ourselves … and say we are here for a purpose which is to make friends, learn the ropes and serve the community, things will change.”
As a PR consultant, she is very confident of taking Rotary’s public image to a new high. She is married, and her husband, a Captain in the merchant navy, is a Rotarian too.
Rotary has given me life itself
He joined Rotary in 1975 when he was invited by his friends. During his year as DG, his priorities for the District, which has 63 clubs and about 2,500 members, will be membership, strengthening the clubs and raising maximum funds for TRF during its Centennial.
During the last 40 years he has enjoyed his Rotary experience so much that Dinesh Kumar enthusiastically says: “What has Rotary given me? It has given me everything … in fact, I would say Rotary ne mujhe zindagi hi de di hei.” (It has given me life itself.)
He earnestly explains how Rotary has been a life-changing experience for him. “From the very beginning of my Rotary journey, my experience has been that if I, or anybody else, was doing Rotary service projects or any other work, it was as though a divine power was with me/us.”
At a loss for words, Kumar says that what he has experienced is so amazing “that I simply cannot put it into words. Suffice to say that if I undertake a Rotary project, I feel the presence of a divine power helping me to move that work forward and complete the project.”
He adds that there is a general feeling among his fellow Rotarians that whoever is dedicated to Rotary … “whether you call it religion or not, it is religion but without ritual.”
Rotary has taught me leadership
Joining Rotary in 1994 in a Bangalore club, when he moved his coffee and pepper estate to Chickmagalur, he joined RC Mudigere, which “is a rural club that was started in 1983.” The District has a membership of 3,400 and 77 clubs at present and “and we are planning to add an additional 11 clubs.”
Ravi says that when he shifted from Bengaluru, the local Rotarians asked him to join the club and he helped implement many good projects. Building a crematorium at a cost of Rs 51 lakh, was among one his bigger projects.
On his Rotary journey, he says Rotary has given him “so many things, but principal amongst them is leadership. Only Rotary taught me how to take initiative, responsibility and evolve into a good leader.” He says it is now very difficult for people to believe that once upon a time “I used to be a very shy guy, who would always be sitting at the back, and frankly, very happy not to be noticed by anyone. But Rotary changed all that.”
During his year as DG, he will continue to focus on membership, which is already a strength, and good projects in both WinS and Literacy. “And, though I can’t compete with the bigger and richer Districts, I will work to raise the maximum amount for TRF … we will compete with ourselves!”
Promoting friendship exchange
He became a Rotarian in 1987 “officially;” having been a Rotaractor since 1970. “Rotary has always been a way of life for me.” His wife, Bhishma, a Rotarian too, says Rotary is his first love.
The District is active in friendship/youth exchange programmes with participation of around 70 youth exchange students in the last 5 years, and has hosted an equal number. Jariwala’s focus is, “of course, on promoting the programme.” As to how he wants to conduct his year, he plans to follow what RIPE John Germ had taught them at San Diego in January. Project Smile, the signature of the District that has treated hundreds of children suffering from cleft lip/palate, will be his priority too. He has asked all Districts to screen children with the disorder and inform him. Doctors from the Institute with whom they have tied-up will perform the corrective surgery free of cost.
His plans to celebrate TRF Centennial includes an exclusive fundraiser by every club and “the proceeds, be it Rs 5,000 or 5 crore, will go to the Foundation. We also plan to invite past beneficiaries to talk on how the Foundation’s contribution has brought a positive transformation in their community.” This will inspire Rotarians to give to TRF. He expects a 10 per cent growth in membership during his year.
Giving a boost to Public Image
It is back to basics for me. I want to strengthen clubs and observe punctuality in meetings,” says Nagoji, a Rotarian of 16 years. His brother and brother-in-law are Rotarians too.
His focus for the year is to take WinS and Literacy forward in his District and “of course, TRF Centennial has a special place.” He has lined up exclusive fund raisers for celebrating the Centennial and that includes a “dinner with RIPN Ian Riseley during his visit to Chennai.”
Nagoji is excited about the Rotarytv.in — a satellite channel that is scheduled to go on air from June 30 when his installation will be live-streamed. “It will give more visibility to Rotary as projects can be showcased to the world,” he says.
Family participation and bonding are the best he likes about Rotary and is happy to have won the ‘Rotary Ratna Award’ in 2001.
Tobacco-free region and model villages
I want each of my clubs to adopt a village and transform them into model Rotary towns,” says Ramesh Choudhary. Making public places tobacco-free is his other focus.
His experience of 26 years as a Rotarian has taught him that Rotary encourages high thinking and generosity. He recalls a car accident, 10 years ago, when as a Rotarian he was able to save the lives of five people by getting them vital medical aid. “That was my Rotary moment,” he says.
His plans for the District include at least 100 e-learning centres and 200 Happy Schools and increase TRF giving to $5 lakh. “We have an agreement with Hindustan Zinc to construct 1,000 toilet blocks this year, as part of the WinS programme,” says Choudhary. He wants to increase his District’s membership figures by 15 per cent and bring more women and young citizens into the team.
Safe drinking water, his precedence
Ours is a coastal area and safe drinking water is a major issue. So that is my priority,” he says and quickly lists out his bucket list for the year — a skill development centre to make youth employable, cent per cent enrolment of his team on Rotary Club Central, construction of 100 toilet blocks in girls’ schools and launching of the District website.
Mani joined Rotary in 1998 and took voluntary retirement in 2013 from his vocation as a commerce lecturer to become a “full-time Rotarian.” He recounts his best moment in Rotary when he, as District Secretary, collected $25,000 for the Polio Fund through his students in a single week. He had raised $43,000 during the year. “This gives me the confidence to raise $10 million for TRF in its Centennial year.”
Another incident that is close to his heart is when his club brought water to his native village by digging an open well with help of a Global Grant. “Nearly 3,000 villagers benefitted from that.”