Showcase the Rotary magic: RIPE Stephanie

Now is the time for Rotarians to take action, “to move and make a commitment to increase membership, share ideas and impactful stories in their neighbourhoods, on social media to show the world the magic of Rotary,” said RIPE Stephanie Urchick.

Summing up an interactive session with PRIP Shekhar Mehta at the ‘Magic of Service’ event attended by 350 Rotarians from 20 RI districts of zones 5 and 6 in Kolkata, the incoming RI president, said, “Rotary is in you all to create hope in the world. Together we create magic by changing people we touch and benefit.” In the next 10 years, the RI membership can reach five million, “if all our clubs embrace the new Action Plan which had identified four priorities for the people of action — increase our impact and adaptability, expand our reach and focus on member engagement.”As chairperson of the Strategic Planning Committee that has worked for six years to bring out the new Action Plan, Stephanie led the core team on the Vision Statement that will steer Rotary on issues related to falling membership, retention, new format clubs, the DEI mantra and adapting new age tech to attract youngsters. “When expectations are not fulfilled, new members just walk away. We need to broaden and adapt to include e-clubs, satellite and passport clubs, corporate and new generation clubs to attract diverse people who seek fellowship, service, leadership, projects and networking,” she said.

When expectations are not fulfilled, new members just walk away. We need to broaden and adapt to include e-clubs, satellite and passport clubs, corporate and new generation clubs to attract diverse people.

Stephanie Urchick, RI President-elect

Rotary should welcome youth who want to do service in a different way, and form clubs with like-minded Rotarians who also expect other add-on services for networking. She recalled that as DG, she had an ‘amazing experience’ to educate people about Rotary in 1998–99. Her batch of RI directors from 2019–2021 was called ‘Covid directors’ as the pandemic was raging at that time. “But it was a blessing in disguise as we found new ways of connecting with people through digital technology and the amount sanctioned under Covid grants was astounding,” she said.

However, Stephanie cherished most the role as RI chair of the Strategic Planning Committee “where I had the opportunity to ask people around the world on what we could do better and what they expect of Rotary.”

Recalling her visit to the Dominican Republic as governor, along with other Rotarians, for the installation of water filters she said, “We worked hard to transport those filters, install them and worked with community leaders in the area to maintain them, and the locals, particularly the young, knew that easy access to clean water would change their lives.” Having played a small part in changing the lives of these children had transformed her life, the RIPE said. “We get a psychic income in serving people to bring lasting change in the world.”

Addressing 150 presidents-elect and DGEs of zones 5 and 6 later, she urged the club leaders to “get everything in place and your projects in line before July. Select your team in advance for a successful year and to make Rotary irresistible. We need strong people with leadership qualities as club presidents.” There should be continuity with change in Rotary’s growth as “our core values enshrined in the Four-Way Test, peacebuilding and service will keep us going. But we need to adapt to changing times with new format clubs and adopting technology in our work. Rotary has not made me richer, it has made me laugh and cry too. I simply cry after seeing the magical work being done by your clubs in Kolkata,” she smiled.

While Rotary promotes peace and wellbeing, its transformative power inspires Rotarians to “re-establish their commitment to its core values of service, fellowship and goodwill. We need a delicate balance between continuity and change as we remain steadfast to our service motto and at the same time innovate with technology to stay relevant in the work,” said RI director Anirudha Roychowdhury.

Every small act of kindness brings a smile on the faces of children and other beneficiaries, said RI director Raju Subramanian. “We are a 1.4 ­million-strong organisation doing service projects with transparency, integrity and ethics to make the world a better place,” he said. When a DGE from India landed at the ­Chicago airport to attend the International Assembly in Evanston, he was asked by the US immigration officer, “what is Rotary?” Mind you, this was at the city where Rotary is headquartered,” said Subramanian, and called for steps to shore up Rotary’s public image.

Around 25,000 heart surgeries on children were done across India over the decade, said PRIP Shekhar Mehta. “Being the club president over 30 years back was my best year in Rotary as I enjoyed the hands-on experience,” he said.

We need a delicate balance between continuity and change as we remain steadfast to our service motto and at the same time innovate with technology to stay relevant in the work.

Anirudha Roychowdhury, RI Director

Once a Pakistani mother with a blue child travelled all the way from West Pakistan to Durgapur in West Bengal for CHD surgery. “After the surgery, she said ‘my son was born in Pakistan, but got his life back in India, thanks to the heart surgery,’ ” Mehta recalled. He urged club presidents to “chisel your dreams with passion and bold vision translating into action.” He asked them to give credit to Rotarians who do service projects; and “go for CSR projects as just one per cent of annual CSR funds of ₹36,000 crore is more than the total TRF donations.”

PRID Mahesh Kotbagi said 50 per cent of Indian children born with ­congenital heart defects die before they turn 12. To honour Stephanie’s visit, “5,000 heart surgeries on children will be done across India in the coming year,” he said.

Around 68 million, majority of them women and children, were displaced by wars and conflict across the world in the last few years, said PRID Kamal ­Sanghvi. “If we want peace and progress, then as torchbearers, we in Rotary have to work towards peacebuilding, rather than just talk about it,” he said.

Listing out mega projects in RID 3291, DG Hira Lal Yadav said around 55,000 cataract surgeries are done and five lakh patients are treated in a year at the 13 Rotary eye hospitals; seven dialysis centres reach out to kidney patients; thousands of lives were saved through child heart surgeries in the last 16 years; a vocational centre trains young girls; a blood bank in Howrah, along with a blood collection van, offers 24×7 service; and old age homes shelter elderly people left high and dry.

While sanitary pads are being distributed and girls vaccinated against cervical cancer, on the sanitation front “we have built 10,000 toilets with running water in the last 20 years,” he said. “Our 4,000 Rotarians in RID 3291 are changing lives by investing time, talent, resources and energy.”

Hero Awards were presented to three unsung heroes striving for gender equality — Krishna Mondal, founder- trustee, New Light that rehabilitates sex workers and their children in the Kalighat red light area of Kolkata; and Reshma Prasad, a transgender activist, who through her NGO, Dostana Safar, Bihar, urged Niti Aayog, the planning body, to issue Aadhaar cards to all LGBTQ people in India, helped get PAN cards for 12,000 transgenders; and jobs for over 10,000 of them after skill training. Usha Vishwakarma from Red Brigade, Lucknow, has trained over two lakh young women and girls in self-defence. Over 200 rape survivors in Uttar Pradesh were helped to get jobs and self-employment.

India’s last polio survivor, 15-year-old Rukhsar Khatun (Class 9) who was brought to the venue from Shapara village, Howrah, by PDG Shyamashree Sen, was given a one-year scholarship of ₹10,000 at the event.

Pictures by V Muthukumaran

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