On a balmy summer evening in 1949, a few doyens of industry and a dozen professionals in Kollam got together to discuss an idea. The country had just got independence from British rule. Among the men who gathered, a few came to know of this service and fellowship organisation that had originated in the West and was now gaining traction in India. It was called Rotary. They knew that Rotary was involved in helping build hospitals and schools and brokering peace in a strife-torn world.
These ‘Rotarians’ were men of substance, integrity and character, who took the oath of community service together with friendship and fellowship. It seemed that these men were enjoying themselves, while helping others. This appealed to our gentlemen, and the Rotary Club of Quilon was born. After brainstorming sessions and fervent communication, the club was formally chartered in Sep 1949, with J E A Pereira, an industrialist, who owned the erstwhile India Rare Earths Ltd, becoming the charter president.
Very soon, the founding fathers embarked on community service, taking up big and challenging projects and executing them with enthusiasm. The first project, done in 1949 itself, was to collect funds for donation to the Quilon Municipality, to buy a bus for the Quilon Poor Home. Funds were also donated to the government district hospital for the setting up of a blood bank and acquiring an electro cardiograph.
In 1962, with Raja Sankaralingam as club president, an all-India arts, science, industrial and agricultural exhibition was organised, attended by the then Kerala and Madras state governors V V Giri and Bishnuram Medhi and the state chief minister Pattom Thanu Pillai. The funds collected from the 40-day exhibition were donated to the Quilon Municipality for the construction of the Lal Bahadur Stadium in Kollam. Even today
it stands as a tall icon of the city.
In the late sixties, the government district hospital in Kollam was woefully in need of more rooms and beds. Those days private healthcare was marginal and in its infancy. The club decided to help. They met, discussed and came up with a plan. A two-storey Rotary Pay Ward consisting of twelve suites was constructed and handed over to the hospital administration. The then President of India V V Giri inaugurated the complex. The complex generates a sizeable amount every year which is again used for buying medicines for the poor and maintenance of the Rotary Pay Ward.
The first Interact club was formed in 1963 in St Aloysious High School. The Inner Wheel Club of Quilon was formed in 1967. In 1966, Peer Mohammed from the club was elected as the governor of the erstwhile RID 320 (comprising Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Ceylon). A matching grant project was completed in 1999 in partnership with the Indian Medical Association to establish the IMA blood bank in Kollam that caters to the requirements of the city and suburbs. In subsequent years, matching grant projects were again undertaken for various other projects including the building of kitchen and drinking water facilities for the S S Samithy Abaya Kendra.
A long-cherished dream of the club was to have its own premises for meetings and fellowship. A two-storey building was constructed in the land purchased by the club. It was inaugurated by the Kerala Governor B Rachiah in 1994. A Rotary Community Centre with an auditorium was provided in the ground floor.
In 2011–12, the club received the Change Maker Award for RI Zone 5 comprising about 1,500 clubs for outstanding service projects during the presidency of Krishnan G Nair. The same year an international project for solar lighting facility in three villages in the Gambia, the west African country, was undertaken and completed with aplomb. The club also attained EREY status, that is, each member has contributed at least $25 to TRF’s Annual Fund in that year.
The club has embarked on a major Covid-relief project. The district hospital, Kollam, will be equipped with two ventilators and four kidney dialysis machines at a cost of `60 lakh, aided by a matching grant from the Foundation. All members are multiple Paul Harris Fellows and four are major donors at various levels. The club has contributed six district governors including DG Shirish Kesavan. The past governors from the club are S Peer Mohammed, Dr Paul Christian, P Gopinatha Pillai, Prof K Udayakumar and Dr G A George.
In Feb 2020, the club celebrated 70 years of its existence with the Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan as the chief guest. As times fly, this club is continuing with myriad projects with an indomitable spirit, thus inspiring younger clubs and Rotarians.
The writer is secretary of RC Quilon.