RIPE Stephanie weaves the Rotary magic across Mumbai and Pune

Invite your prospective members to a service project first, and not to a club meeting. Because a club meeting can be intimidating to someone who does not understand the language. They must see what we do and who we are. Keep this in mind while you share the magic of Rotary with non-Rotarians. Think about how you want them to find out who we are.”

RIPE Stephanie Urchick interacting with students at the Shruti School for the Hearing and Speech Impaired, Mumbai.

RIPE Stephanie Urchick reiterated this during her recent tour of India where she visited Bengaluru, Delhi, Kolkata, Pune and Mumbai, meeting incoming district and club leaders, major donors and inspecting community service projects.

On her theme — Magic of Rotary — she said, “I chose it for all of us because every single member has experienced the magic of Rotary. Every time you work on a project, or induct a new member, inspire someone who has never contributed to The Rotary Foundation to do that, you are creating magic. Go back to your clubs and inspire your team to take your club forward, and help people live our 4-Way Test instead of just reciting it. Help build continuity so that we have leadership where our clubs, districts and zones are on the same page and work in the same direction even though we change every 12 months.”

She urged the incoming leaders to take challenges and opportunities head on. Her favourite mantra is ‘Life is beautiful on the other side of yes.’ That, she said, helped her in her journey “from a little club in Pennsylvania to become an RI president. I said yes to applying for the post because of my experience in developing Rotary’s Strategic Plan. From the time I was invited to become a Rotarian until now, I have always said ‘Why not?’ and ‘Absolutely fine’, provided the matter is moral and legal.”

Help build continuity so that we have leadership where our clubs, districts and zones are on the same page and work in the same direction even though we change every 12 months.
– Stephanie Urchick, RI President Elect

She explained to the Rotarians how the Action Plan evolved. “Formerly it was called ‘Strategic Plan’. But if I were to talk to you and say ‘Let’s talk about the Strategic Plan’, you will all go to sleep. So we decided that ‘Action Plan’ is a much better term. Because we are People of Action,” she said.

Stephanie urged the delegates to focus on membership growth. “Worldwide our membership has not grown for 30 years. We have been talking about it, but we need to start acting on it now. Because if we do not, we will end up like Jaycee that has just vanished. We can’t afford to do that. Since July I have asked 27 people to join Rotary, of which seven have become Rotarians. Most people in the world who do not know Rotary still think that we are Romeos — Rich old men eating out. That’s not who we are. We must tell the world our story, and that we have changed,” she said.

Recalling her induction as a Rotarian 33 years ago by PRIP Chuck Keller who was a member of her club, Stephanie said, “He instilled in me my love for Rotary. Every single time I work on behalf of someone, I am not changing their life, but something is happening to me too. That is the psychic income, the salary we get. We do what we do because it makes us feel good.”

RIPE Stephanie enjoys a selfie moment with DGE Chetan Desai at the Biodiversity Park, Mumbai. RID Raju Subramanian is also in the picture.

On the warm welcome she received in India, she said: “When I said in the US that I am going to India, everyone said it is going to be very warm. Well, not only the temperature but also the hospitality is very warm in India. Your handshakes, flowers, smiles and hugs warm my heart and make me realise that we are one big Rotary family. I am single, and my parents, grandparents are gone. I have a brother and his family. My family was small until I travelled and met my Rotary family. Now I find I have a larger family.”

If every one of our 175,000 members in India give Rs 600 every month to the Foundation, the magic of Rotary will happen.
– Raju Subramanian, RI Director

RI Director Raju Subramanian urged the presidents-elect of the Pune and Mumbai clubs to motivate their teams to give consistently to TRF. “If every one of our 175,000 members in India give ₹600 every month to the Foundation, the magic of Rotary will happen,” he said. Major corporate donors and AKS members were felicitated by the RIPE in both the cities. “Our Foundation needs more people like you. If we could achieve a $2.025 billion Endowment Fund by 2025, most of our issues related to GGs and Annual Fund will be sorted and the global grants can continue without any hitch,” he added.

RIPE Stephanie with (from R) DG Manjoo and Vishwas Phadke, RID Subramanian, DGE Shital Shah, PRID Mahesh Kotbagi and Amita, and PDG Deepak Shikarpur (far left) at the H V Desai Eye Hospital, Pune.

TRF vice-chair Bharat Pandya, giving an update on the progress made on the Endowment Fund contribution, said, “By March 31, we have collected $766 million in actual contribution as against our target of $1 billion, and in commitments, we are well on track. I am sure by June 2025, at the Rotary convention in Calgary, Canada, RIPE Stephanie and TRF chair-elect Mark Maloney will proudly announce to the world that we have achieved our target.”

DGs Manjoo Phadke (RID 3131) and Arun Bhargava (RID 3141) updated their respective districts’ achievements, and DGEs Shital Shah (RID 3131) and Chetan Desai (RID 3141) listed out their plans for 2024–25. At the Mumbai meet, DGEs of RIDs 3040, 3055, 3060 and 3142 were also present.


Significant projects

In Pune and Mumbai Stephanie visited significant service projects being implemented by the district Rotary clubs. She was moved to tears when she went around the Children’s Heart Centre at the Kokilaben Dhirubai Ambani Hospital in Mumbai where one-day old infants were being treated for congenital heart conditions. Rotary clubs of Mumbai are supporting the heart surgeries for infants in this not-for-profit hospital (Rotary News Dec 2016,

RIPE Stephanie, RID Subramanian and DGE Desai at the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital. Dr Suresh Rao, director, Children’s Heart Centre; Dhaval Bhatt and Natasha Sejpal are also in the picture.

“We are doing 1,000 paediatric cardiac procedures a year, that is 4–5 procedures a day. Rotary has helped us scale up the programme,” said Santosh Shetty, the hospital’s executive director. Thanking the doctors for “giving new life to infants,” Stephanie said, “I am honoured to see what you are doing. If anyone from this hospital comes to Pittsburgh (her hometown) I’ll coordinate with the Rotary clubs there so that you have a homestay and other facilities.”

I am sure by June 2025, at the Rotary convention in Calgary, Canada, RIPE Stephanie and TRF chair-elect Mark Maloney will proudly announce to the world that we have achieved our target.
– Bharat Pandya, TRF Vice Chair

The Centre’s director Dr Suresh Rao sought Rotary’s support for a neonatal transport unit (NTU) to bring critically ill newborns and infants from far flung villages to the hospital for treatment. “Many children die on the way to the hospital. We want a specially-designed ambulance to take care of these kids who have to withstand 5–6 hours travel from places like Pune or Nashik. Such a facility could keep the child alive until he/she gets expert medical help.” RID Subramanian sought Rotary’s help to fund a high-end ambulance. He announced that his personal AKS contribution next year will be for this grant. Multiple clubs can come together to sponsor an NTU and this concept can be spread to other major cities too, he added.

RI Director Raju Subramanian, RIPE Stephanie, DG Manjoo with AKS members and Major Donors of RID 3131 at Pune. DGN Santosh Marathe (second row, third from L), DGE Shital Shah (last row, L), PDGs Shikarpur and Pankaj Patel (second row, R) are also seen.

Stephanie visited the Rotary Biodiversity Park being developed by RC Deonar at the Chembur Children’s Home (Rotary News Aug 2023, and inaugurated a library equipped with over 100 books donated by Rotarians to benefit the children at the orphanage. She also visited the Shruti School for the hearing and speech-impaired, supported by RC Bombay West and the Manjulaben Dolatrai Desai Rotary Borivali Eye Bank and Processing Centre.

In Pune she was impressed with the Rotary participation at the H V Desai Eye Hospital. Several matching/global and CSR grants have helped the hospital perform 6.2 lakh free eye surgeries since its inception in 2000. Hospital chairman Nitin Desai, a member of RC Pune Central and an AKS member who has been contributing ₹3 crore every year for the past three years, said that the hospital takes care of cancer patients too. “Since we do not have facilities for chemo or radiation therapy, we send them to other hospitals for treatment at our cost,” said Parvez Billimoria, executive director of the hospital and past president of RC Pune Cantonment. The 400-bed hospital located in a 1.5 lakh sqft area is being expanded. An eye care training and research centre and another hospital at Solapur, 240km from Pune, are being built with CSR and Rotary support. Thirty-five vision centres set up across Pune cater to people with eye ailments.

TRF Vice Chair Bharat Pandya and RID Subramanian greet RIPE Stephanie in Mumbai. Also present (from L): RID 3142 DGE Dinesh Mehta, RID 3141 DGN Manish Motwani, DGE Desai, DG Arun Bhargava and RID 3040 DGE Anish Malik.

She also visited the 900-bed Symbiosis University Hospital and Research Centre near Pune where Rotary clubs of Mumbai and Pune are supporting dialysis facilities.

Quoting Helen Keller, Stephanie said, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much. These initiatives are splendid examples of partnerships that produce an amazing amount of magic in Rotary. We are creating lasting change in people’s lives.”

Pictures by Jaishree

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