Rotary’s humanitarian spirit to the fore in Kerala

While barely a month ago we had the sensational news of a single Rotarian from Bengaluru — D Ravishankar — making a stunning donation of ₹100 crore to The Rotary Foundation, this month we have heartwarming news of the alacrity and speed with which Rotarians in Kerala and outside acted to bring relief, sustenance and succour to the thousands devastated by the worst floods in a century in this southern State.

My colleague Jaishree, who made a two-day visit to the worst affected areas such as Kuttanad, Kottayam, Kumarakom and Alleppey, planned by District 3211 DG E K Luke, was overwhelmed by the devastation, grief and agony she saw in those areas. Houses broken, tilted due to soil erosion or simply washed away; people returning to their homes after the flood waters had receded, to find their belongings washed away or covered under mounds of silt and hence unusable. The irony that struck her was that normally the rest of India goes to Kerala mainly to enjoy its backwaters, and a day or two on its houseboats is the icing on the cake. But this time around, she had no other option rather than use boats to survey the devastation that had taken place and how Kerala’s Rotarians were helping the people to pick up the threads of day-to-day life.

Tina Antony, District Coordinator for Flood Relief, and other Rotarians accompanying Jaishree explained to her how the fishermen, who had lost their livelihood for days, along with their fishing nets that were washed away, swung into action, using their boats to rescue trapped people. Even as nature’s fury, combined with man’s greed and destruction of precious ecosystems, wreaked havoc on the hapless people of the State, and people were moved into relief camps, Rotarians in Districts 3211, 3201 and 3202 swung into action. “Rotary was the first to come up with food packets, water bottles and dry clothes, as soon as people were evacuated to safety. We were everywhere,” says Tina. Whether it is cleaning operations, distribution of relief material such as medicines, sanitary napkins, diapers and clothes, or medical camps, the Rotary footprint is seen all across the devastated region. A Trust is being formed under the leadership of Past RI President Kalyan Banerjee who has toured the region to survey the destruction, particularly the loss of homes. Armed with rich experience from the challenge of building low-cost shelters in the earthquake devastated Kutch region of Gujarat in 2001–02, Banerjee has advised the local Rotary clubs to apply for global grants as Rotary undertakes the task of putting up 3,000 low-cost shelters.

As women Rotarians, Anns and Annets roll up their sleeves and work shoulder-to-shoulder with the male Rotarians to lessen the pain and wipe the tears of the flood-affected, it is in little gestures, such as handing out packets of sanitary napkins in one village or adult diapers in another, the real impact of why more voices are being raised in Rotary International and Rotary India to get more women into the organisation, hits you. Read the article Rotary swings into action to help Kerala on Pg 12 to get even more inspired and proud of the organisation you belong to.

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Rasheeda Bhagat

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