The Indore Institute had special sessions to prepare the partners to support the DGEs. Gay Maloney said: “You are the eyes and the ears of your DG-spouses.”
Usha Saboo, Gay Maloney, Vanathy Ravindran and Margarita Hewko enthused the partners, all except one — PDG Vinay Kulkarni from RID 3131 —
The partners make a huge difference in the way the governor functions, said Gay, and urged the spouses to wholeheartedly participate in the International Assembly (IA). “It is easy to go there and stay within your national group. But do meet the partners of DGEs from other parts of the world, so you get to know the culture of their land, the people and their needs.” She narrated how she travelled across the world with her husband Mark Maloney now and when he was DG. “In 1998, we participated in an NID here in India. It was overwhelming to see families bringing their little children for polio immunisation.” Later in 2007, they were back as President’s Rep, and visited the slums of Mumbai where the local Rotary club had revived a water body. “It gave us so much pride to see the good work done by Rotary.”
Usha, spouse of PRIP Rajendra Saboo, has seen Rotary for over five decades and participated in several service activities here and overseas. “The most rewarding and dear to my heart are the medical missions. In Oct 1988, life started afresh for me at 60 while serving my first medical mission to Uganda.” Twenty years and over 40 missions to Africa, India, S E Asia, Mongolia, later “for both of us these have become a passion… a very happy addiction.”
Usha was initially hesitant when she participated in the first medical mission as she “is not a qualified doctor. But when I saw the long queue of suffering people I knew my calling. No work is big or small, when done willingly and lovingly. Whether giving medicines to patients or bandaging, serving coffee to the doctors, pacifying a crying mother or giving a warm hug to a child going in for surgery. Serving in the medical mission I have understood the true spirit of Rotary.”
This experience had taught her many valuable lessons. “The desperation of little children badly crippled by polio, crawling in dust; the helplessness of old people having lost both their eyes to cataract; the desolation of a mother whose child is suffering from a rare heart disease. I have seen fear of death written large on the faces of young people suffering from AIDS and the badly disfigured faces of the Rwanda Civil War victims. Seeing all these sufferings made me strong when I developed the pink and brown patches of leukoderma all over my face and body. I looked horrible. But I thanked God that it was neither contagious nor disabling. I moved on in life with courage,” she said, amidst applause.
She elaborated on the schools built in Sri Lanka by Rotary post the 2004 tsunami. The areas were planted with mines by militants. With international support and immense courage, the Rotarians led by PRIP K R Ravindran rebuilt 25 schools from where 14,000 children pass out every year. In Uttarkhand after the massive earthquake in 2013, PRID Y P Das led the rebuilding of 32 earthquake and landslide-resistant schools in Rudraprayag, she said.
Similarly, RC Chandigarh supports heart surgeries for the underprivileged and RID 3080 celebrates Diwali with the Army jawans serving in Kargil and the Siachen glacier by sending them sweet boxes. “To keep the soul of Rotary alive and vibrant, we must engage ourselves in more such humanitarian activities with compassion and care. We must keep district events and even Zone Institutes simple with service and giving as focus. This transformation arising from self to service above self is the power of Rotary,” she said.
Vanathy Ravindran urged the partners to be proactive and understand the basics about their districts — how many clubs are there, the length and breadth of your district, membership growth or loss, type of projects the district is doing. Getting to know the spouses of each club president will be a huge bonus.
DGs have to raise funds for the Foundation. Vanathy related Ravindran’s practice of giving the first cheque to his club at the beginning of every year. The amount may be big or small. But because he gives first, he has no qualms about asking others for money for the Foundation. “Not only should you encourage your husband to give his first cheque, but also make it known to others that he has your blessing to do so,” she said.
Dr Madhavi Pandya reiterated the importance of the spouse’s support for the success of the district leader. It takes two wings to fly, she said. Her advice to the Rotarian spouses: Meet people with a smile. Be constructive and thoughtful. Encourage small projects and harvest their talent.
“I have this one year and I will live it up — this should be your motto. Do all that you possibly can,” said Sonal Sanghvi.
Rotary need not take precedence over your home or work. Carefully plan your year so that none of the three suffers, said Margarita, wife of RI General Secretary John Hewko.
The programme was chaired by Madhavi. Sonal and Marlene, wife of PDG J B Kamdar, were co-chairs.