At the glittering opening ceremony of the Zone Institute at Dubai, RI President John Germ had the delegates spellbound with his clear message to safeguard Rotary’s core values and work together as teams.
Whether a person was an engineer like he himself was, or in any other vocation, he/she turned in work, day after day, that had a “life-changing impact, work that allows other people to live better, safer, and healthier lives. Just like the work that we do in Rotary.”
With these words, RI President John Germ engaged the 900-odd delegates through his keynote address at the Dazzling Dubai Zone Institute (DDZI) with the theme Nothing is Impossible. Rotarians should be proud “because in every part of the world, every single day, whether they know it or not, people are living better, safer, and healthier lives because of the work of Rotarians just like you,” he said.
The people that Rotary helps might not have met a single Rotarian or even know about Rotary’s existence. But they were drinking clean water from a bore well that Rotary has dug; or learning to read in schools that Rotary has built; or were living lives free of polio because Rotary saw the opportunity to eradicate this disease, and seized it. And thus Rotary served humanity, said Germ, touching on his Presidential theme for this year.
At the crossroads
Germ told the assembled Rotarians that Rotary was at the crossroads as “we are looking ahead at a Rotary year that may one day be known as the greatest in our history: the year that polio finally falls. The number of cases so far this year stands at 28. But as much as I want you to know how very close we are, to ending polio, I also need you to know that we are not there yet.”
This August, four new cases of polio were found in Nigeria; the first cases seen in Africa in nearly two years. Though it was “a disappointment, because we had hoped we’d seen the last of polio in Africa, we knew all along it might happen, and when it did, we were ready.”
Germ disclosed that when the first cases were reported, no time was wasted on an outbreak response plan, which was already in place and was immediately put into motion by the WHO and the Nigerian government, with a series of six vaccination campaigns targeting children across five countries in the Lake Chad region.
“We know what it takes to stop an outbreak. We’ve done it before, and we’re doing it now. But as much as we’d rather not have had them, they’re giving us something we need. They are giving us a wake-up call: a vivid reminder of how easily polio can return, and how important it is to remain vigilant until the very end: until we’ve gone three full years, without one new case of polio.”
The RI President reminded the audience listening to him with rapt attention that Rotarians can’t forget that “we are still $1.5 billion short of the money we’ll need to get the job done. It’s not our job to raise all of that money ourselves. But it is our job to advocate, anywhere and everywhere we can, to make sure that it is raised. We started this more than 30 years ago. We’ve stuck with it all this time. And soon — 1.9 billion Rotary dollars and more than 2.5 billion immunised children later — we’re going to finish it, ” he added.
When that moment came, Rotarians would have to be ready for it, to be sure that “we are recognised for that success, and leverage that success for more partnerships, greater growth, and even more ambitious service in the decades to come.” It was important that Rotary’s role in making the world polio- free be recognised both for getting more partnerships and funding.”
Changing the world
Once Rotary is acknowledged as an organisation that could change the world, every Rotary club needs to be ready to play that role effectively. And for this “we require clubs that are flexible, welcoming and have the ability to respond to the needs of their members and potential members. This past April, your Council on Legislation went down in history as the most progressive Council ever — making the bold decisions that will help Rotary build a membership that truly reflects the communities we serve: with women and men, retirees and working people, and a diversity of ages, skills, and backgrounds.”
Germ said that more than ever before, Rotary clubs now have the opportunity to be what they want to be, to operate in the way that they choose, to not only attract new members, but engage them in Rotary service… but all this while remaining true to the core values that defined them as Rotarians.
Those core values on which Paul Harris founded Rotary 111 years ago — honesty, diversity, tolerance, friendship, and peace — were very important to the “essence of who we are and what makes a Rotarian and they don’t change. We’re still based on a classification principle, because our diversity is our strength. We still hang The Four-Way Test on the wall, because high ethical standards don’t ever go out of style. And we still believe, as Paul Harris believed, that serving humanity is the most worthwhile thing any one of us can do.”
Germ added that even as Rotary sought new partnerships and collaboration with other organisations to achieve more than it could do singly, “we need to prioritise continuity in our leadership. Because if there’s one thing we’ve learned from polio, it’s that if we want to go as far as we can, we all have to be moving in the same direction to serve humanity.”
Both he and his partner Judy had seen the “incredible work” done by Rotarians across the world. But more could be done; with more willing hands, caring hearts and bright minds. Ambition, creativity and the willingness to try out new things were required to find new and better ways to serve humanity, he added.
He urged the assembled Rotarians to never think that what they did was ever too small. “Everything you do matters, especially to the people you help and the people you love, in this generation and the next. Every good work you do makes the world better for them all. One good work at a time. One day at a time. In your clubs, in your communities, and in your vocations: whether you’re a teacher, a manager, a business owner, or an engineer.”
But above all, the mantra to remember was that Rotarains should work not as individuals, but a team. Only then they would see greater success.
Yes, it’s possible
Addressing the opening session, DDZI Convener and RI Director Manoj Desai said DDZI Chair Raja Seenivasan had indeed proved right the Institute theme Nothing is Impossible. “I keep getting ideas in the middle of the night and I would tell Raja can we do it. And he would say ‘Yes Sir!’ ”
The choice of the venue fitted perfectly with the theme, because Dubai had proved it. “They have it all; ice skating in the desert, the tallest building in the world, the most luxurious hotel, and so much more that makes millions of passengers travel to and through Dubai.”
Desai said that after the vacuum created by India becoming polio-free, the Rotary leadership in India had picked up two flagship projects — WinS and Literacy — that were being implemented by Indian Rotarians “with phenomenal success. Recently RILM Chair Shekhar (Mehta) was invited by Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi to a summit of 30 Nobel laureates just to discuss what Indians are doing for literacy! Both Shekhar and TRF Trustee Sushil Gupta have been able to garner support for these mega projects, and CSR funding was coming in, proving that Rotary has really become a preferred partner.”
Last year, under “IPRIP K R Ravindran’s leadership, our Zones were No 1 in membership and second in TRF contributions; we have collected $15.38 million, making India the second largest contributor to our Foundation, and ahead of Japan! All this has given us immense public image,” Desai said.
During the last five months “we continue to be No 1 in membership; you’ll be happy to know the numbers: 22,000 members have been added in the world and we’ve done 34 per cent, at 7,000. We’ve given $1.8 million till now to the TRF but yesterday at the TRF Centennial dinner it was revealed that we are aiming at 20 AKS members this year. That would take India to 70 AKS members. Unbelievable! And we have amidst us generous donors like Harshad Mehta who has given millions of dollars to the Foundation and is the second Indian after Rajashree Birla in his contribution,” Desai added.
Addressing the current batch of DGs, who he calls his “Smiling Sheriffs”, the RI Director lauded them for giving a spontaneous goal to TRF Trustee Chair Kalyan Banerjee that they will collect $26.5 million during this, the Centennial of TRF. “Many Districts can boast of giving that is 3-4 times the normal figure… once again a new normal here. Can you believe it, President John, that in India we now have $1 million dinners? The first was in Delhi; Sushilji (TRF Trustee Sushil Gupta) took the lead and DGs Sharat Jain and Dr N Subramanian executed it.”
Even on the election side, the complaints decreased last year, and an e-voting pilot was now in existence. “Let us hope you will all support it and there will be no more complaints this year, because RIDE C Basker has also decided that this is the way forward.”
After the inspiring speech by Dr J M Hans, and honouring him with a Vocational Service Award for exemplary work in doing expensive cochlear implant surgery on poor children totally free of cost (Detailed story in the November issue of Rotary News —https://rotarynewsonline.org/giving-one-more-life/), Institute Chair Seenivasan announced that DDZI was donating funds for one such surgery to support District 3141’s project One More Life that was helping Dr Hans.
RIDE Basker and Chair of the next Zone Institute Majestic Malaysia R Theenachandran, made a presentation on the Institute to be held in Kuala Lumpur from December 1–3, 2017. (Detailed report on the venue, registration fees etc in Rotary News, December issue. https://rotarynewsonline.org/2017-institute-kuala-lumpur/).
While releasing the Institute Directory at the opening session, the hard and meticulous work put in by Rotary News Trust’s Deputy Administration Manager K Viswanathan and RNT staff was lauded and recognised. Institute Chair Seenivasan welcomed the gathering and Vice Chair TVR Murti proposed a vote of thanks.
Pictures by K Vishwanathan