The colourful South Asia Reception hosted by RI Director C Basker and spouse Malathi at the Toronto Convention was a platform for sharing pleasant reminiscences, achievements and challenges experienced along the way by Rotary’s top leaders, during their long and eventful Rotary journey over the years.
“It is a tribute to you that so many senior leaders have come to attend this event. It shows how much respect Rotary leadership has for what you are doing in South Asia. Juliet and I were overwhelmed to see some of the outstanding works done by you in your region,” said RI President Ian Riseley, recalling his visit to India and Pakistan, particularly the schools that were rebuilt after the floods in Uttarakhand.
“Thank you so much for being the wing beneath our wings.”
RI President Barry Rassin, addressing past RI Presidents.
He was most impressed after attending a few PETS programmes in India where he found the club presidents very industrious and charged with enthusiasm and great ideas. Making a special mention of Rotary News, Riseley said: “The magazine is doing spectacularly well… congratulations to all of you.”
PRIP Rajendra Saboo, in his heart-warming welcome address said, “We are truly privileged and honoured to have the top Rotary leadership with us here today,” and marvelled at how the registration for the Convention has grown from 16,000 in 1983 at the same venue to over 25,000 this year. It was a matter of pride for him that the incoming RI President Barry Rassin was the governor during his term as RI President in 1991–92. “Usha and I are grateful to all the past presidents and senior leaders who have made our journey in Rotary so valuable and memorable. Looking back, it amazes me how Rotary has given us the opportunity to transform so many lives in one way or the other and we are humbled to be a small part of this transformation.”
Talking about the achievements and challenges faced in fighting polio in the South Asian region, Saboo commended PRIP K R Ravindran for effecting the ceasefire in the war-torn Sri Lanka “so that children (in the troubled areas) could be vaccinated against polio.” He also complimented the Rotarians of Bangladesh for “proving us wrong that the country would be the last in the region to eradicate polio. To tell the truth, they beat India in becoming polio-free. I am also confident that very soon Pakistan too will be rid of polio.”
TRF Trustee Chair Paul Netzel said that after visiting India, Pakistan and Bangladesh during the year, he had personally experienced the energy and vitality of Rotary in South Asia. “With a total contribution of $19.1 million, India stands No 2 in the world in TRF giving. Your performance in getting CSR participation worth $1.5 million is amazing,” he said of his India visit, adding that the country has shown good response to the pilot project introduced by TRF last year.
Netzel thanked Rafiq M Habib, a member of RC Karachi Metropolitan, for his special contribution to Rotary. Though Nigeria seems to have made a head-start, Pakistan is most likely to be polio-free sooner, he observed. With 5,000 Rotarians in 207 Rotary clubs, the future of Rotary in Bangladesh is as bright as in any other part of the world, added Netzel. “I was totally blown away when I heard that the district has 10 AKS members.”
Incoming Trustee Chair Ron Burton had an appeal: “No matter how much you did to make Paul (Netzel) look big, I request you to top that and make me look even better.”
Reminiscing on his recent visit to India, RIPE Barry Rassin complimented Basker for taking him to “eight districts in eight days” and reiterated his earlier observation that India will be the No 1 donor to the Foundation in the coming years. He was very impressed by the handwash practice demonstrated by students in some of the schools he visited in India. “It was great to watch children line up on either side of the sink and sing a chorus as they washed their hands. And it doesn’t stop there. They take the song home and teach their families to sing it as they wash their hands. It is an amazing model for ushering behavioural change in communities.” Referring to the leadership of Saboo when he was serving as a district governor, Rassin said, “He truly taught us what it means to look beyond yourself. There was a piece of that in my theme to ‘be the inspiration.’”
He was all praise for Ravindran, for whom he was the President’s aide, and for his inspiring leadership in eliminating HPV in Sri Lanka. “Thank you so much for being the wing beneath our wings,” he told the past presidents.
Director Basker congratulated the Rotarians from the zone for the excellent year that “saw us increasing our contribution to the Foundation, strengthening our clubs and implementing some meaningful projects that addressed the needs of communities.”
The event was attended by delegates from Myanmar, Singapore, Malaysia, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, besides a large contingent from India.
The Rotary leaders who attended the reception, organised impeccably by Event Chair R Theenachandran, Secretary John Daniel, RID Basker and Malathi, were PRIP Ravindran and Vanathy, PRIP Gary Huang and Corinna, PRIP John Germ and Judy, TRF Trustee Sushil Gupta and Vinita, PRIDs Ashok Mahajan and Y P Das, RIDNs Bharat Pandya and Madhavi, Kamal Sanghvi, Trustee-elect Gulam Vahanvaty and several RI Directors and TRF Trustees from other parts of the world.
Pictures by Jaishree