RIPE Mark Maloney and Gay shared some nostalgic memories when they visited Surat in Gujarat, after spending two days in Mumbai. “It is so good to be back. We were here in 2004 on a vacation. Himanshu (PDG Himanshu Thacker) and Aruna insisted that we lay the foundation for a water project at the Niyol village near here,” recalled Maloney.
The couple, accompanied by PDG Thacker and Aruna, travelled from Mumbai by train and were taken on a whirlwind tour of the Rotary projects executed by the seven Rotary clubs of the city.
“It is great to see that the project is benefitting so many villagers. The Rotary Foundation wants our work to be sustainable and continue long after the Rotarians depart. This project, like so many other Rotary projects, exemplifies the connections that Rotary establishes around the world. That is really heartening,” said RIPE Maloney, and on a lighter note added, “I remember not being able to crack the coconut that day 14 years ago,” referring to the tradition of breaking coconut to usher in good luck.
Rotary Club of Surat, RID 3060, had executed the drinking water project in Niyol under a matching grant in 2004, with support from RC Elmira Heights, RID 7120, USA, and TRF. The Niyol Village Public Trust, run by an NRI with roots from the same village, also pitched in for the project. The 50,000-litre storage tank provides water for 4,000 villagers today. An underground sewage system has also been constructed for the entire village. Maloney, then a TRF Trustee, had laid the foundation stone for the project.
The next stop-over was the Rotary Dialysis Centre established at the Savani Memorial Hospital in Varachha area. The centre, set up at a cost of ₹45 lakh by RC Surat East in association with RC Neanderthal and Rotary District 1810, the Netherlands, serves 12 patients a day with four dialysis machines. “While other hospitals charge ₹1,750 for a dialysis, the services are offered free for the needy here,” said Project Chair Dr Amulakh Savani. RIDE Bharat Pandya joined the Maloneys and were given a traditional welcome at the hospital.
At Dhinka Chika, a children’s home run by the Charlie Help Universe Trust, the 35-odd little girls were dressed in their best and with cheerful smiles, received Maloney and Gay with a prayer and a chorus “Welcome to our home Sir and Madam.” The home is being supported by RC Surat West. “These children are either orphans or have single parent who is extremely poor. If not for this home they would have been out there on the streets begging and been abused,” said Project Chairman Setu Gandhi.
Besides taking care of the education needs of the girls, the club has installed water purifiers and other appliances, organises regular health and vaccination camps, has set up a library and computers, and imparts computer training for the girls. “The children are very smart and dedicated and are studying in private schools,” said Club President Vivek Goel. “I could see the warmth and love in their eyes,” said Gay. She interacted with them in English, which was translated in Gujarati by Aruna. “You all have to study hard and make your lives comfortable. Education will certainly take you places,” she advised.
The couple were greeted with a group dance performance at the Mamta School for the mentally-challenged, adopted by RC Surat Roundtown. Around 45 children are being trained in various activities here. Maloney and Gay were happy to see the clay and wax handicrafts made by the children and the colouring activity that they were engrossed in with such accuracy, taking great care that the colours do not spill out of the outlines.
The physiotherapy centre run by RC Surat Riverside was next on the agenda. At the Mukbadhir Vikas Trust School run by RC Udhna, Maloney addressed the hearing and speech impaired students, and his talk was communicated to them in sign language. The club, with support from RC Darwin, UK, has set up a sports and vocational training centre offering courses in tailoring, beautician, multi-media and motor rewinding.
The evening saw two major events — Rotaraction hosted by DRR Kushal P Shah, where Rotaractors had an opportunity to interact with the RIPE, and a meet for Rotarians of 11 Rotary clubs in the region. DG Pinky Patel, DGE Anish Shah, DGN Prashant Jani and PDGs were present, along with PRID Manoj Desai and Sharmishtha and RIDE Bharat Pandya.
Speaking on the Future of Rotary, Maloney reiterated that polio is absolutely a big part of Rotary’s future. When it comes to polio, even ‘this close’ is not close enough. “It is incredibly important to understand that if we were to stop our work to eradicate polio right now and say we have done enough, we will lose everything that we have invested thus far. Within a decade we will see hundreds of thousands of children paralysed by polio, and we will also see the loss of our good reputation that we have worked so hard for 113 years. We have to go out there and ensure that polio remains a priority for all of the world’s governments until it is eradicated.”
We need to re-examine the time commitment and leadership positions and the number of positions that a member needs to hold before assuming a senior leadership role.
– RIPE Mark Maloney
With only one reservoir of the wild polio virus on the Afghanistan and Pakistan border, and only 27 cases of polio so far in 2018, “we need to stay the course.” It is going to take at least three years from the last sign of polio virus anywhere in the world, until the WHO certifies that polio has been eradicated. “At that time we are going to let the world know that Rotary was behind this success. Being known as an organisation that brought our children a polio-free world is going to raise our public profile more than anything we have ever done and make many more people who might not have thought of joining Rotary sit up and take notice,” he said.
Referring to the new Strategic Plan that will take effect in 2019–20, Maloney elaborated on each of the four priorities — increasing our impact, expanding our reach, enhancing participant engagement and increasing our ability to adapt. Just having members in the club is not enough. “We want members actively engaged in Rotary activities. Rotaractors are a tremendous asset to our organisation. We need to treat them as equal members of our organisation instead of participants in our programmes.”
On increasing Rotary’s ability to adapt, he said that Rotary needs to be evolutionary at all times and revolutionary on occasions. “We need to ensure that the Rotary experience fits into the lives of people who we want as part of our organisation, as participants and as leaders. We need to re-examine the time commitment and leadership positions and the number of positions that a member needs to hold before assuming a senior leadership role. This will certainly mean aligning our operations and resources to Rotary’s strategic priorities to strengthen our commitment to long term membership sustainability and goals.”
In honour of his visit, RID 3060 handed over the district’s TRF contribution of $3.98 lakh to RIPE Maloney.
Pictures by Jaishree