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By Ron Kelemen
District 5100 WCS Chair
GSE Bangalore Team Leader

Imagine how horrific it would be and the resulting news coverage if a 747 jumbo jet with 400 passengers crashed in Salem today.  Now what if it were 10 jumbo jets every day of the year?  That’s 4,000 deaths per day.  Unimaginable!  But sadly, we really do have a tragedy of that magnitude occurring right now.

According to the World Health Organization, every year 1.5 million children under the age of 5 die due to waterborne illnesses.  That’s over 3,700 jumbo jets per year.  That’s 7 times more than aids, malaria, war, and accidents combined, and the news cameras aren’t there.  Fortunately Rotary is there to help, and you can be too.

Last week, I had the extraordinary privilege to attend the Rotary Zones 25-26 conference in Bellevue, Washington with 650 wonderful people.

I learned so much I thought my head was going to explode!

  • I was reminded just how extensive and international we truly are.
  • I learned just how close we are to conquering polio.
  • I learned new ways Rotary is fighting water-borne illnesses and illiteracy worldwide.
  • I was reminded just how much our contributions to the RI Foundation really matter.
  • I saw some amazing examples of what individual Rotarians and clubs have done to help solve some of these intractable problems in villages and distant countries.
  • I learned what Rotary is doing to make projects sustainable—not only in the resource sense—but in providing ongoing continuity and encouraging self-help.  Much of that, by the way is through micro credit.

More importantly, I learned how Rotary is adapting and applying leverage on projects with the Gates Foundation, USAID, and many NGOs.  While this transition is difficult, in the end it will be much easier for us to partner with other clubs, districts and NGOs to get things done on a grand scale.  The grieving mother in Uganda with the dead baby in her arms isn’t concerned with whether or not the new well in her village will be provided through a pilot district or by a club like ours teaming up with another organization.  She just wants her next child to survive.

We all have our reasons for joining and remaining in Rotary.  We like the fellowship, the programs, and the community service.  Nowadays, people join causes, rather than organizations. With Rotary you get both.  Why not take up Rotary’s international causes? One of my favorite things is that Rotary gives ordinary people like us the ability to accomplish extraordinary things we couldn’t have done without the power of Rotary, such as bringing water to 1,000 thirsty people thousands of miles away.

So, how can you put a little more “international” into your Rotary experience?  What can you do to make your club  bigger, better and bolder?  Four things:

  1. Become active in your club’s World Community Service Committee.  You are also welcome to attend the WCS meetings of other powerhouse WCS clubs, such as Lake Oswego, Seaside, Portland, and the Salem-Area WCS Consortium.  (We’ll try to post meeting dates on this site.)
  2. Get started on your first or next Paul Harris Fellowship with a contribution to the RI Foundation.
  3. Make a contribution to Polio Plus.  A huge Polio Plus push is planned for later this month.  We’re just inches away from eradicating it, but the final inch is always the hardest.
  4. Above all, attend a District 5100 Foundation Seminar in your area.  The dates and locations are at www.RIDistrict5100.org.

Yes, I met a lot of great Rotarians at that conference doing extraordinary things.  But some of the best Rotarians I have ever met are right here in our district in every club.  I hope you will join them as we expand our good works at home and abroad, building communities and bridging continents.

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