Tell our Foundation story to the World At the International Assembly Incoming Trustee Chair Kalyan Banerjee unveils TRF’s Centennial goals.

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A major reason for the success of The Rotary Foundation was that “we set ambitious, but reasonable, goals every year,” and thanks to these goals and the projects that result from them, disadvantaged people across the world get help in different forms, incoming Trustee Chair Kalyan Banerjee told a rapt audience at the International Assembly.

Marveling at the “incredible opportunity” he had been given to lead TRF during its milestone year — the centennial — “when we will celebrate our Foundation’s century-long history of doing good in the world,” he said Rotarians indeed had much to celebrate.

For one, each day they were marching closer to eradicating polio from the world. Rotary Peace Centres were sending trained peacemakers “into our troubled world every year.” But most of all, they could celebrate the millions of lives that TRF had either saved or transformed over the last 100 years.

A child in Ethiopia was alive today because a TRF vocational training team from Germany had taught local health-care workers new techniques for stimulating breathing in newborns after birth.

Gilberto, a Mexican, paralysed during a mugging in the US and despairing that he would have to live as a beggar, was trained by ALEM, an organisation supported by TRF, to repair wheelchairs. “Now Gilberto has a skill, a job, and hope for a brighter future.”

Combating breast cancer

Six Indian women from Tiruchi in South India will not die from breast cancer thanks to the initiative of two local Rotarian doctors who reached mobile cancer screening facilities to villages and small towns. Alarmed at the rising number of deaths from breast cancer in their region, and realising that the women had neither the time nor the Rs 1,200 (less than $20) required for a mammogram, they got their club — RC Srirangam — involved in a Global Grant project. Through this, a bus fitted with not only screening equipment but also educational material in local language to spread awareness on cancer prevention and teach self-examination to women, and armed with a doctor and two female health workers, went around the region and effectively combatted the dreadful malady.

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PRIP Chuck Keller compliments incoming TRF Trustee Chair Kalyan Banerjee for his address at the Assembly.

“All of this cost $34,000. That’s not really much money, but its potential for saving lives is enormous,” he said. As the bus drove through villages, stopping where large groups of women were sighted, the doctor and health workers were also consulted by the women for other health problems.

“And those six women whose cancer was detected? They are receiving treatment that is covered by government insurance, and their chance of survival is very good,” said Banerjee. When it was said that TRF saved and transformed lives, it was no exaggeration. “It is happening in communities all over our world. And it’s been happening for 100 years.”

Better syncing RI and TRF goals

In order to sync better TRF and RI goals, he had worked with incoming RI President John Germ to establish priorities for all Rotary goals. The first goal was to end polio, “now and forever. And we are making great progress. Yes, we are now not just this close, but closer still, to finishing the task.”

The next two goals were closely connected; to strengthen all Rotarians’ knowledge, engagement and financial support for TRF; and to increase the “quality and impact of Rotary’s humanitarian service efforts through our Foundation grants in our six focus areas.”

These two goals were closely connected because “we’ve found over the years that when Rotarians know about the good work TRF does, they are more likely to get involved with humanitarian grants and projects, and also contribute to the Foundation.”

Over 10 years ago, every Rotarian was asked to give to TRF’s Annual Fund $100 every year, “which, frankly, is not an unreasonable expectation. While we know that many Rotarians give much more than $100 a year, we also know that too many of our members give nothing at all. I find that very disturbing. It seems to me that our Foundation should be the charity of choice, for all our members,” Banerjee said.

A disturbing reason for this non-contribution from many Rotarians was “they don’t even know that Rotary has a Foundation, let alone that it’s been doing good in the world for 100 years. These are members in good standing. They attend club meetings and pay their dues and participate in club projects. But they don’t know about their, about our … Rotary Foundation.”

That “unfortunate reality” would have to change, he said emphatically. “Let’s educate these members so that by the time we meet to celebrate the Foundation’s centennial at the 2017 Convention in Atlanta, every Rotarian in every club knows about TRF and its good work.”

Tell TRF story to the world

Also, said Banerjee, it was important to tell the TRF story to the whole world and this was its final goal — raising public awareness of TRF’s achievements and “100-year record of doing good in the world.”

This would include the story of the “350,000 children who will not be stricken with polio this year, or next, or ever again, because 31 years ago Rotary began working towards a polio-free world. We can also talk about those thousands of people in Africa who no longer live with the threat of guinea worm or other devastating water-borne diseases, because of TRF-sponsored water projects.

Or, again, how in South Africa, local and American Rotarians are partnering giant international corporate houses to keep in check the scourge of AIDS.”

Or the girls who can today get a more complete education because TRF projects are “providing schools with sanitation facilities that offer essential privacy. Such initiatives can change the world. There are thousands of such stories in the Foundation’s history, and hundreds of them are happening right now, all over the world. It’s up to us to make sure that those stories reach a much wider audience.”

Once these “inspirational tales” were related, it would attract others to “join our clubs, or support our Foundation, or volunteer their time, or donate goods for a project.”

Taking the delegates down memory lane, Banerjee said that beginning with an initial contribution of $26.5 to TRF in 1917, from Arch Klumph, “it has today become a leading humanitarian organisation with $1 billion in assets. We have spent $3 billion on programmes and projects in our 100-year history.”

This could happen because visionary Rotarians understood TRF’s great potential and worked hard to raise more money every year.

Centennial goals

Unveiling TRF goal for its centennial in 2016–17, Banerjee said it had been set at “$150 million for our Annual Fund, with a target of $300 million in total giving for the year.” Total giving includes contributions to the Endowment Fund, Rotary Peace Centres and PolioPlus, in addition to the Annual Fund.”

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The incoming Trustee Chair said these were “ambitious but not impossible goals.” For success, Rotarians would also need to seek support from those who had never given to TRF, and hence raising awareness about TRF’s great work in the larger community was essential.

He was happy that when TRF tallied the top giving countries in terms of dollars and per-capita giving, India had made it among the top 10. “Not that long ago, I would never have dreamed that my homeland of India would make it into the top 10 list. Yet, for several years now, we’ve been on that list, and I’m proud to say that last year India ranked number four. And it is looking further up this year.”

So how did India progress from being “strictly a receiving country to one of the leading donor countries?” The reasons included economic progress of India, Rotarians seeing first hand TRF’s wonderful work, and excellent leadership in “our districts that has encouraged more contributions.”

Banerjee related the story of Javier Sotomayor, the current world record holder in high jump from Cuba who had held his 8ft and quarter inch world record for the past 23 years. Once asked how he managed to jump so high, much higher than his own height, he just thought for three seconds and said: “Well, I tell myself I want to jump this high, and my body just seems to follow. That’s what I’m asking each one of you to do next year. Challenge yourself and your clubs to increase your district’s giving over last year and move your country higher on the list of top givers. Believe me, if you don’t ask, you may never get. How, when and where … well, that’s for you to decide.”

But that leadership would have to come from those assembled at San Diego. “Now is our time to enable our Foundation to serve humanity for centuries to come, by making sure it is financially strong and recognised internationally for its good work. Now is the time to show the world that if we set our hearts and minds to achieving an objective, we will unfailingly reach that goal,” Banerjee concluded, to a standing ovation.

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