RC Nagpur plays Santa Claus for mentally-challenged children on its 75th Charter Day

One of the highlights of the platinum jubilee celebrations of Rotary Club of Nagpur, RID 3030, which turned 75 on December 13, was to ask the 55 inmates of Matru Seva Sangh, a school for mentally-challenged children that the club has been working with for the last several years, what they wanted for Christmas this year.

(From L) AG Arun Mittal, DG Bhamre and Club President Paranjpe distribute gifts to children at the Matru Seva Sangh.
(From L) AG Arun Mittal,
DG Bhamre and Club President Paranjpe distribute gifts to children at the Matru Seva Sangh.

The children quickly came out with their requests for this initiative called the Wishing Tree, which the club has been doing for three years, and these were put upon the Whatsapp group of the club which has some 150-odd members (the total strength of the club is around 250). “It came as a pleasant surprise to us that within two hours, members had come forward to fulfil all the wishes of these children,” says Namita Sharma, Club Secretary, adding, “and many members who wanted to play Santa Claus too, were regretful that they weren’t able to fulfil a wish.”

The wishes of the children were simple enough; three children wanted Chota Bheem colouring book. It was easy enough for the Rotarians to sponsor this.

The children had been asked to submit their wishes on beautifully crafted leaves, which were placed on the cut-out of a tree. Their wishes were simple enough; on top of the charts was a Chota Bheem colouring book — three children wanted it. It was easy enough for the Rotarians to sponsor this as each book costs some ₹45! While one teenager, a girl of course, wanted a make-up kit, another wished for a pink frock. A battery-operated car, watches, a carrom board, etc were other gifts desired. All of the children were given these gifts, with the Rotarians dressed as Santa Claus delivering them. DG Rajendra Bhamre also gave out some gifts.

DG Rajendra Bhamre recognises the Club President Parag Paranjpe and Secretary Namita Sharma during the Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
DG Rajendra Bhamre recognises the Club President Parag Paranjpe and Secretary Namita Sharma during the Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

Namita explained that RC Nagpur’s relationship with this Seva Sangh goes back several years. For instance, a couple of years ago, club members while visiting the place “found some children walking on all fours, and because the floor was very rough and broken in many places, they had blood oozing out from wounds.” The club undertook a project to level and smoothen the floor with concrete tiles and also provided a grab rail on the sides to help the afflicted move around with a little more dignity.

Understanding the need of the hour, Team Rotaract decided to not only install computer lab but also to teach students in their free time.

Another achievement the club celebrated in December was the sponsorship and starting of 17 Rotaract clubs, one of them being a community club. Club President Parag Paranjpe said his club members were very happy to meet and interact “with a very enthusiastic bunch of Interactors and Rotaractors. It was heartwarming for us to hear that these youngsters are so inclined towards community service. Organising medical camps, teaching their maids, visiting old-age homes and undertaking a cleanliness drive in the city are a few projects in which they are actively participating.”

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A project that the Rotaractors are undertaking is giving a computer lab to the Kewalramani Girls College, which has about 3,000 students, most of them from very poor financial background. The college had no computer lab. “Understanding the need of the hour, Team Rotaract decided to not only install a computer lab but also to teach students in their free time.” A Four-Way-Test board and computer lab at this facility was inaugurated by DG Bhamre.

One of he club’s iconic projects is the Hemalkasa surgical camp, which has been going on for 33 years, with over 5,000 major surgeries done for tribals.

A project close to the heart of the club members is providing a nutritious meal to the 108 children at Antar Bharti School, a local daycare centre for kids in the age group 1–6 years, who reside in slums nearby. “We have taken on the commitment of providing milk and one nutritious meal a day to the children of this school for the whole year, and have successfully been doing this project for four years,” said Namita. Over the years the club has refurbished the school kitchen, provided an LPG connection and a gas stove, utensils and this year given it a water filter. The programme is run with donations from members, with a ₹8,000 donation taking care of the meals for an entire month. “Nutritionists from our club have helped them to make a meal plan which is suitable for growing children,” she added.

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Another small project of the club is micro credit and to mark its 75th Charter Day, the club distributed loans of ₹10,000 each to 10 women from two slums for starting small ventures. This year, 41 women have been helped through this scheme.

The day began with an Assembly presided over by the DG and there was a recap of the history of the club and thanking the past presidents who have worked so hard to make RC Nagpur a vibrant club.

Some of the iconic projects of the club done over the last few decades were recalled. One of them is the Hemalkasa surgical camp, which has been going on for 33 years, with over 5,000 major surgeries done for tribals. The club has been protecting several waterbodies in Nagpur for the last 19 years, and a watershed programme, which is ongoing for two years, has irrigated an area of 700 acres, benefitting eight villages inhabited by 5,500 villagers and 10,000 cattle. Udaan is a special project of this club; for the last nine Valentine’s Days, the club gives a special treat to about 8,000 special children.

Twenty-nine past presidents of the club were honoured.

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