Remembering the Centennial journey

From left: RID Manoj Desai, Judy Germ, RI President John Germ, PRID Shekhar Mehta, Rashi Mehta and Sharmishtha Desai.
From left: RID Manoj Desai, Judy Germ, RI President John Germ, PRID Shekhar Mehta, Rashi Mehta and Sharmishtha Desai.

It was a remembrance night at the Centennial Dinner on Day 2 of the South Asia Literacy Summit where RI President John Germ, RID Manoj Desai and TRF Trustee Sushil Gupta recounted the growth of The Rotary Foundation from a modest $26.5 in 1917 by RI’s sixth president Arch Klumph, to what it is today. “When Klumph created an endowment for doing good in the world, Rotary was already involved in community projects. It just didn’t look outside its geographic area. But looking back now at the end of 100 years, each one of us is proud to see the number of lives we’ve touched with grants worth $150 million. Today ours is the only Foundation with a four-star rating and recognised as the world’s outstanding philanthropic ­organisation — all this was possible because of your contribution,” said Germ.

He touched upon the polio eradication programme that PRIP James Bommar initiated at Philippines, immunising six million children. Germ and Judy have visited the historic spot “where Bommar gave the first two drops.” His voice choked with emotion when he spoke about the five vaccinators who were killed recently in Afghanistan where two cases of polio have been reported. “They gave their lives for our cause, so that a child will not be crippled. How can we not give it our all to honour them by eradicating polio and fulfilling our promise to the children of the world?”

TRF will live to see another century and keep our dreams alive.
TRF Trustee Sushil Gupta

Germ added, “You need to continue to contribute to the Foundation as it pumps in the money for what Rotary does around the world.” On Rotary partnering with the government, he warned that Rotary should not replace the responsibility of the government. He complimented RILM Chair ­Shekhar Mehta for the successful functioning of the Literacy campaign and said that educating a girl is educating a family and the first step out of poverty.

Quoting American writer Edward Hale who said “I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything; but still I can do something”, Germ added, “You have the courage to move forward to do what is necessary for Rotary to continue to serve humanity.”

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Trustee Gupta recalled the rocky path traversed by TRF, which without Arch Klumph’s persistence, would have died a dozen deaths. If that had happened there would’ve been no 3H grants to support even the first polio immunisation programme or access to clean drinking water, healthcare or education to people across the world. “Nor would we have had the friendship that our Foundation has fostered across borders or the peace builders and scholars that we’ve educated at our peace centres. And today, without Rotarians’ support, it would not be celebrating its 100th anniversary. TRF will live to see another century and keep our dreams alive.”

On Rotary’s focus after polio eradication, Gupta said, “It has to be part of the six areas of focus but with a caveat that the Rotary world is not ready to adopt another programme which might take 30 years and cost billions of dollars.”

Referring to the recent contribution of Rs 5 crore to TRF by PDG Triloknath as Donor Advised Funds in memory of his wife, quoting Swami Vivekananda, Gupta said: “Give willingly, for, sooner or later, you’ll have to give it all up.” RID Desai lauded Rotarians for the various humanitarian projects and added, “Dare to do the impossible, care for the needy and share what you have. Let’s continue our work with this positivity for the simple reason that Rotary is a never-ending journey for a better tomorrow.”

Summit Chair J B Kamdar gave a vote of thanks.

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