Sending Sundara to school

As a Rotary year ends and one set of leaders lays down office at the clubs and districts-level to make way for another, it is a good time to take stock of the work done at the ground-level. As the topmost leaders in Rotary keep reiterating, Rotary really operates at the club-level, and the success of a club president, district governor, RI director, and the RI President himself, can be truly measured by the community service that Rotarians have done in their clubs. It is projects that you do to change lives in your communities that really measure the intrinsic worth of a service organisation like Rotary.

As the chosen ones get ready to step into leadership positions, from club presidents to district governors, right up to the level of RI directors, Rotary News caught up with incoming directors Bharat Pandya and Kamal Sanghvi, to quiz them on their Rotary journey. The single message that emerged from their freewheeling interviews was that they look upon their posts not as “positions of power”, but responsibility. And, they are extremely grateful to Rotary for providing them unique opportunities to serve the less privileged and bring smiles on the faces of the disadvantaged.

India today offers a wide range of opportunities to help the needy and the oppressed. Ranging from acute water shortage and severe drought conditions leading to agrarian distress or the misery of our unemployed masses, millions of Indians need a helping hand. Rotary’s six areas of focus, be it literacy and education, healthcare and sanitation, or livelihood, are tailor-made to serve those in distress. Government welfare schemes are available for the deprived classes; but for the poor and illiterate to access what is earmarked for them from the tax payers’ money is often a Herculean battle. It is here that a service organisation such as Rotary can make a real difference. Be it in the Polio eradication programmes in the yesteryears or current healthcare and literacy programmes, Rotarians have always worked in partnership with the government, which has appreciated Rotary’s help in better delivery of government’s welfare programmes.

As a new government begins its five-year term in New Delhi, it faces multiple challenges related to the economy, development, education, income generation and livelihood. Yet another chance for Rotary to become a valued partner, something that the leadership in both Evanston and India values highly. The difference that you can make is captured in anecdotes related by Dr Madhavi, wife of Bharat Pandya, a past governor of Inner Wheel, who has worked closely with Rotarians in literacy. A group of smartly-dressed children were going to school, and little Sundara was watching them. “A couple of them asked her ‘Sundara, why don’t you come to school too?’ She said I don’t have uniform, shoes, a school bag, books and pencils. How can I come to school? And those children said don’t worry, the Rotarians and Inner Wheel club members have done so much work in schools, they will give you everything. She joined the school; the moment Sundara came to school, they all hugged her. It was such a beautiful moment.”

Another story she relates is about an Ashram Shala, about 120 km from Mumbai, “where the kids were such great runners; they would run and win marathons barefooted, because they didn’t have shoes. So the Rotarians and Inner Wheel members from our clubs gave them running shoes and also an instructor to train them in running.” Adds Pandya: “Such things keep us going.”


Rasheeda Bhagat

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