Summing up an “incredible year” at the closing session of the Hamburg Convention, RI President Barry Rassin talked about “the amazing people” he had met during the year and began with Rotaractors.
Giving the example of The Beatles, an English rock band, he reminded the delegates that the four of them had “accomplished quite a bit before their 31st birthday. But compare them to Mozart, who wrote his first symphony at eight. Or to Joan of Arc, who led the French troops into battle at 17.” To those who thought that all this happened long ago, he reminded them that “Bill Gates founded Microsoft at 24. Steve Jobs co-founded Apple at 21. Mark Zuckerberg and friends created Facebook at the age of 20.”
So when it came to changing the world, it wasn’t age that mattered but “the size of your dreams. We’ve become so used to telling young people to be practical, think about your future, and look to us as role models.” Instead, elders should be asking the young to nurture their dreams, grow them and dream even bigger. “There is no such thing as the impossible dream for Rotarians.”
Rassin said it had been a great experience for him to meet Rotaractors who had great dreams for a better world; and “that should inspire us, because we are living in their world, and they understand the challenges of this age better than we do, and what it will take to overcome them. These amazing young people make me excited about the future of Rotary.”
This year, 1,000 Rotaract clubs were added; and the youngsters were doing great work. In Turkey, Rotaractors had visited and played games with the children in a hospital for 107 Wednesdays in a row, were mentoring new students at their university and teaching them leadership skills. Then there was the inspiring tale of Paul Mushaho (who addressed one of the sessions), a refugee, who had fled to Uganda following violence in his country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, two years earlier. He had managed an unbelievable feat in starting a Rotaract club that was thriving in a refugee camp. “If he can do this, imagine how many new clubs can spring up in your communities, in response to today’s challenges?”
In the Dominican Republic, a Rotaractor was recycling plastic refuse and making jewellery to sell to tourists; his biggest challenge was “that he might run out of plastic refuse!” The RI President was most happy to note the special affinity that Rotaractors had for environmental projects.
He and Esther had the opportunity to see inspiring projects being done by Rotarians around the world. In Paranaque City, Philippines, the Rotarians were transforming a community by providing homes for the homeless who lived by the river, moving them, and cleaning up the place.
In India, the WASH in Schools programme is bringing fresh water and sanitation to so many schools. “In the process, they are changing behaviour not only in the schools regarding hygiene, but also at home.”
In Puerto Rico, Rotary was bringing together young people from different communities through drama. In Colombia, they were giving stuffed animals that sick children in hospitals could hug. In Ethiopia, Rotary clubs had got Interactors, Rotaractors, and Rotarians to work together on club projects. And in Haiti, which is close to his heart and where he had worked extensively following the earthquake, the “pink jeep” project of Rotarians had helped midwives to reach out to expectant mothers in the remotest parts of the country.
In Brazil, club members had worked with fellow Rotarians from Japan on a global grant project that dramatically increased the capacity of an overstretched neonatal intensive care unit. “New incubators, monitors, and other equipment have enabled the local hospital to save many more babies’ lives each year.”
In conclusion, Rassin said that during his year as President, he had met with 35 heads of State. “All of them want to work with Rotary and two asked for written MoUs with us. This kind of respect around the world isn’t due to me, or even the office of President. It comes from you, your connections, your reputation in your home countries. That’s what opens doors everywhere.”
Indian doctors’ service in Africa praised
While describing the various “incredible projects that Rotarians were doing around the world”, RI President Barry Rassin had special praise for the recent Indian VTT in Madagascar, where he himself had volunteered.
In this particular mission, “a team of 19 surgeons from India, under the leadership of PRIP Raja Saboo, performed 3,500 procedures in the eight days they were there and trained 12 local surgeons to continue what they had started. They transformed that community.”
He had felt “privileged to watch them work and assist, where I could, to get patients moved quickly. Every Rotarian should experience this and be there when children wake up and open their eyes, smile, and say thank you,” he added.