We refused to allow TRF to be “burned to the ground”: K R Ravindran

History is full of catastrophes, rebirths and incredible accomplishments that seemed impossible in the darkest moments. Rotary was born in Chicago in 1905. Only 34 years before that, the entire city had burned to the ground with only a handful of structures still standing. Some wondered if it was even worth the effort to rebuild Chicago.”

With this anecdote, TRF Trustee Chair K R Ravindran captivated participants of the RI virtual convention, to illustrate how every catastrophe comes with an opportunity.

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Chicago’s devastating destruction also brought with it both “hope and vision”, with city planner Daniel Burnham drawing up an entire new vision of the city that “defined the landscape and set the stage for all the structures that we see today. He said about his ambitious city plan: ‘Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood; make big plans, aim high in hope and worth, remembering that a noble logical diagram once recorded will never die. But long after we are gone, we’ll see a living thing asserting itself with ever growing insistency. Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that will stagger us. Let your watchword be order, and your beacon, beauty.”

Ravindran added that Burnham’s plans were adopted; Chicago grew, great skyscrapers rose and “Rotary was hatched in this atmosphere of optimism and ambition.”

Drawing this analogy to TRF and its performance during the pandemic challenges, he said, “Early in 2020 when we set the goals for this Rotary year we did so with high hopes of achievement only to see Covid 19 posing so many challenges which threatened to derail our plans. But we have, incredibly, not only achieved much of what we set out to do but in early Jan 21, we even exceeded the goal (the milepost set for the year till January). We refused to allow TRF to be burned to the ground.”

TRF has awarded our first project of scale grant, that will make a major impact towards a 90 per cent reduction in the incidence of malaria in Zambia.

The Trustee chair urged all Rotarians to “look at our architecture and envision a future foundation that will withstand every storm in the horizon.” This year TRF had laid the groundwork to enable Rotary’s seventh area of focus, the environment, to take off on July 1 “to inspire our clubs to think of innovative ways that will help protect our planet and mitigate the growing threat of climate change”.

“We also opened the doors to Rotaract clubs to apply for global grants. Beginning 2022, Rotaractors take on a new and important role in shaping the service projects that define us.” Even as Rotary celebrated Africa being declared polio-free, “TRF has awarded our first project of scale grant, that will make a major impact towards a 90 per cent reduction in the incidence of malaria in Zambia, saving countless lives of children and pregnant mothers.” In this, the Foundation received equal financial contribution from the Gates Foundation and World Vision. This could be a precursor for the future. Opening the door to corporations looking to partner with us to make a big impact through big projects.”

Ravindran announced that thanks to “an extraordinary pledge by the Otto and Fran Walter Foundation” a new Peace Center in the Middle East and North Africa region would be opened with no cost to us.”

Amidst “all these ambitious steps”, the Trustees were constantly pondering on ways to raise more funds for the global grants, TRF’s flagship programme, which were getting immensely popular. Giving numbers, he said that in 2013–14 when GGs were introduced, 868 grants were given worth $47.3 million; by 2019–20, the number of these grants had risen to 1,359 (worth $95.6 million)! “While global grants funding increased by over 100 per cent, the corresponding Annual Funds contributions did not keep pace, increasing by only 6 per cent during that period.”

So “corrective action” was taken “to ensure that GGs will be sustainable for years to come, even, as we predict, that the demand for them will grow further. And we are not stopping there; TRF has been exploring avenues to raise more funds from outside agencies. This year we obtained $5million from USAID to fund Italian Covid- related projects.” he said.

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