Rotary brings together people of action from all continents and cultures who deliver real, long-term solutions to the world’s most persistent issues. Each year, Rotary members contribute millions of dollars and volunteer hours to promote health, peace and prosperity in communities across the globe. In the month of February, Rotary International celebrated its 100-year journey in India with participation from nearly 4000 Rotarians and dignitaries from over 35 countries at the Rotary India Centennial Summit. In an email interview with Rusen Kumar of India CSR; Rotary International (RI) President- Mark Maloney discussed organisation’s vision, volunteering, activities and impact. Excerpts:
What is Rotary? Who are Rotary members and what do they do?
Rotary is an organization that connects the world. By that I mean that we’re an entity of 1.2 million inspired men and women who have come to Rotary with the goal of building a better world. Rotary members are people who use their professional backgrounds, diverse perspectives and the power of our global connections to take action to create positive, lasting change locally and globally. Through volunteering, we make lifelong friendships that transcend political and cultural boundaries and foster understanding and respect.
Each year, Rotary members contribute millions of dollars and volunteer hours to promote health, peace and prosperity in communities across the globe. In India, Rotary’s more than 150,000 members support an array of local and international service initiatives focused on supporting education, public health, sanitation and hygiene and much more.
Findings from a recent international survey conducted by Rotary and Johns Hopkins University found that Rotary members give more than 47 million hours of volunteer service a year, and if communities had to pay for the services Rotary volunteers provide, it would cost them around $850 million dollars a year.
Rotary is the driving force behind efforts to eradicate polio. With our partners, we have achieved a 99.9 percent reduction in polio worldwide. Our members have contributed more than $2.1 billion dollars to protect more than 2.5 billion children from this paralyzing disease.
After polio, which all government initiatives/programs are being supported by Rotarians at national level?
Polio is on the verge of becoming the second human disease, after smallpox, to ever be eradicated. Along with our partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, we are committed to delivering our promise of a polio-free world.
One of our greatest achievements remains a polio-free India, and we recognize that in order to maintain its polio-free status, we must continue our immunization and surveillance activities even as we begin to leverage the polio infrastructure and work with the government of India to protect millions of children from other diseases such as measles and rubella.
While ending polio worldwide remains our top priority, we are committed to finding solutions to some of India’s most difficult challenges from basic literacy to hygiene and sanitation.
It’s estimated that about 37.7 million Indians are affected by waterborne diseases a year, and that out of this, 1.5 million children are estimated to die of diarrhea alone. That’s why Rotary has long developed and supported projects in the area of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH). More recently, Rotary spearheaded a Pan-continental program called WASH in Schools, which is based on the idea that when people have access to clean water, children are better able to attend school and parents are better able to work and care for their families. Our goal is to create an environment that promotes school attendance and greater learning by providing access to safe water, sanitation facilities, and hygiene education in schools.
Progress has been made on three fronts including the installation of group handwashing stations; behavioural change in hygiene and sanitation; and removing the taboo on talking about the importance of menstrual hygiene.
As a President of Rotary International, what value does India add to the organization as a whole and what is expected from Indian Rotarians in the years to come?
Rotary in India—comprised of more than 150,000 Rotary members across 4,000 clubs– now contributes to nearly one-third of Rotary’s global membership growth, while the Rotary Foundation of India supports an array of local and international service initiatives touching on education, public health, sanitation and hygiene, and more to the tune of nearly $23 million dollars.
What’s more, Shekhar Mehta of Kolkata will become the fourth Rotary International President from India on July 1, 2021, and we expect he will further focus on increasing Rotary’s impact by implementing and expanding partnerships with like-minded organizations, as well as focus on driving membership.
With more than half of India’s population under the age of 25, and as the fastest-growing countries in terms of Rotary membership with a 56% increase in members over the last decade, we have unlimited potential for growth. So, in order to attract young and diverse leaders, Rotary is exploring alternative ways for people to engage with us, from events to service opportunities to online opportunities.
What are the most important learnings from the past century?
India was once considered one of the most difficult places in the world to eliminate polio. The eradication of this disease in India is proof that ending a major global health threat is possible even under the most extreme and complex circumstances. Throughout the fight to end polio, we have shown what we can do when we draw on our collective strengths. We have created solutions that match the people they serve. We have evaluated the results to learn from our successes and setbacks.
Our partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, along with governments around the world, have played a critical role bringing us to this point.
Alone, we cannot provide clean water for all; alone, we cannot eliminate hunger; alone, we cannot eradicate polio. But together? Of course we can.