April 27 was a special day for the members of RC Sambalpur, RID 3261, when their 11-year-long dream — the S N Rotary Mother and Child Care Hospital — was inaugurated by Odisha health minister Naba Kishore Das in the presence of RI Director A S Venkatesh and DG Sunil Phatak.
The four-storey hospital was completed this year after facing several challenges which were overcome by the never-say-die attitude and generosity of the club members. Venkatesh made a special note of this when he honoured the donors at a special programme the previous evening. “It shows the power of collective charity. The power of one person is just one person but when 10 of us join together it is not 10, but it is 100. Rotary elevates your ability to contribute to society by leveraging the power of collective charity which is greater than the sum of its parts,” he observed. The construction cost of the hospital is ₹5 crore.
What good is your wealth when it is not going to benefit the less privileged? I congratulate all of you for all that you have given towards making this memorable building.
— A S Venkatesh, RI Director
Congratulating club member PDG Dr Ashok Singh who, as DG in 2012, had mooted the idea of setting up the hospital though the club lacked the resources, he said, “Richness is not measured by one’s wealth or net worth, rather it is defined by what comes from one’s heart. What good is your wealth when it is not going to benefit the less privileged? I congratulate all of you for all that you have given — money, time, energy and knowledge — towards making this memorable building. Although you may not see the beneficiaries, their blessings and good wishes will certainly reach you.” He urged the club to include a geriatric ward in the hospital. “Aging population is increasing and geriatric care is the need of the hour,” he added.
“Today it is a Rotary moment for all of us. Eleven years ago, when as DGE I was asked at a press meet what I will do for Sambalpur, I announced that maybe I will build a hospital. It is god’s work and he sent several angels to help us complete his work,” said PDG Dr Singh.
Recollecting the early days, he added, “When I floated the idea in my club and hesitantly asked if anyone can donate land for the hospital, pat came the assurance from Dr Raseswari Panigrahi who gave her land without a second thought.” She is a former MLA and head of Gynaecology at VIMSAR, Sambalpur. “Soon after that I had 16 angels who contributed ₹1 lakh each.”
But this was not sufficient to make the club’s dream a reality. The architect quoted ₹5.5 crore as construction cost and ₹2.5 lakh as his fee. Singh then got in touch with a Rotary club in Switzerland (RID 1980) that had earlier partnered with RC Berhampur and a global grant partnership was struck based on the previous working relationship. But as GG does not allow funding of construction work, the club members scouted for funds from various sources for the building. Money started coming in and a trust was formed with the 16 donors as founder trustees and Raseswari as its chairperson.
Dr Singh laid the foundation stone for the hospital in June 2013 and the core building was completed in less than two years. But due to further cash crunch the project was put on hold until help came in the form of club member Dr Narayani Panda, a gynaecologist, who has contributed ₹85 lakh so far.
Both Raseswari and Narayani are the oldest women members, having joined the club in the early 1990s when women in Rotary were a rarity. “They are the true architects and backbone of my club,” said Singh. In addition to the land, Raseswari had contributed ₹10 lakh for the hospital. At least 15 members of her family have also provided financial support.
“Rotary in Odisha is vibrant. We have been working hard to give a shape to this hospital and today it boasts of best medical care for underprivileged women in the surrounding areas,” said Raseswari; 85-year-old Narayani wants “to see a baby born in this hospital.”
The hospital project has attracted generous contributions from Rotarians and past governors of other Rotary districts, and even a Lions member! Many of the donors are Singh’s school/college mates or childhood friends. “These people had blind faith in me, my club and the project. Their individual financial support varies from ₹5,000 to ₹30 lakh,” he smiles.
The hospital will provide free medical care to women and children and is the only hospital in the vicinity with advanced facilities. It is self-contained with a maternity and a paediatric ward, a sophisticated OT, an NICU and labs. Within a week of its inauguration patients have started flocking in and “they are happy with the diagnosis and facilities.”
Health minister Naba Kishore Das, commending the facility, said, “it is a boon for the people of Sambalpur and western Odisha.” He urged club president Bikram Senapati to include it in the government’s Swastha Kalyan Yojana scheme so that more people will benefit. Singh requested the minister to allot land for the club to set up an old age home and a hospice in the neighbouring town, Jharsuguda or anywhere in the state.
Every contribution, big or small, has been important for the success of this project, said DG Phatak. He is happy with the hat-trick, for, three global grant projects — the hospital, a mobile eye clinic of RC Rourkela Queens, and a WinS project at a gurukul done by RC Sambalpur Central — were inaugurated during the director’s maiden visit to the district.
Pictures by Jaishree