The 88th Rotary District Conference and Assembly (DCA) attracted a whopping 2,100 participants, not only from District 9200 but also from the US,
India and other parts of the world. District Governor Geeta Manek, the first woman governor for the District, greeted the gathering saying that she is proud to be a Rotarian, and thanking all Rotarians and guests present for the amazing experience she shared with all the clubs she visited in the district, during the past year.
DG Geeta Manek said District 9200, which comprises of Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and South Sudan, the latest addition to the district starting from 2010, received 1,150 grants amounting to USD 46 million for development projects as of last year. The projects, she added, include the improvement of literacy and education, access to clean water and water management, combating hunger and poverty.
At the three-day conference held from 24 to 27 April at the Leisure Lodge and Golf Resort in Mombasa, Kenya, Rotarians celebrated the achievement of services within their district’s communities and the world at large and discussed future plans and commitments for stronger and effective Rotary services in the coming year. The conference program was filled with prominent speakers, while the evening’s plans in the delightful resort of the Leisure Lodge ensured the relaxation and fellowship of the participants.
The 88th DCA was indeed hailed a historical event as it was the last gathering for District 9200 representing the six countries. At the conclusion of the conference, District 9200 split into two Districts: 9211 consisting of Uganda and Tanzania and 9212 with Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya and South Sudan.
In her opening speech, DG Geeta Manek a devoted Rotarian herself, applauded the birth of the new districts and reminded the assembly that there is yet a lot of assistance needed in many areas and Rotarians should organize and continue to make a difference, putting the needs of others above their needs, the ultimate definition of a true Rotarian: ‘Service Above Self”.
Kwale County Governor Salim Mvurya, Ugandan Vice President Edward Ssekandi, and the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Buganda (a sub-national kingdom within Uganda) J.B. Walusimbi, both committed Rotarians, attended the conference.
The ‘icing on the cake’, as DG Geeta Manek called it, was the presence of Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya.
Speaking at the event on Thursday April 25, the newly-elected Kenyan President said that he was impressed by the commitment of Rotarians in identifying the needs of various communities and working to develop sustainable projects to meet such needs. “In Kenya, we appreciate the effort Rotary Clubs are making to provide services that create social harmony by addressing the challenges facing our people.”
He also hailed the local rotary clubs for their services to combat poverty. “Undoubtedly, the Rotary Club of Kenya has been a reliable partner of the Government in addressing various development needs and my administration will continue to partner with Rotarians in tackling inequalities that fuel ethnic division, reduction of unemployment, investing in the education and health sectors and advancing equality between men and women,” the President said in his opening speech.
Kenyatta further said “while the Rotary begun over one hundred years ago, the idea that it came to represent – service to others being more important than service to self – has continued to inspire citizens throughout the world to this day. Today, this enduring notion centers on the understanding that all countries and people are inter-connected on the belief that our survival as citizens, and indeed as nations, depends on all of us being our brother’s keeper and on the conviction that prospering alone is in fact not prospering at all – because while there is still poverty, inequality and injustice – lasting peace and universal prosperity cannot be realised.”
During the 85th DCA held in May 2010 here in Addis Ababa under the leadership of PDG Tadesse Alemu, the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, in a letter addressed to the participants, singled out polio as exemplifying Rotary’s work. “As a major national and international service society, rotary humanitarian service projects in the areas of health, education, cultural exchange programs etc […], are universally recognized as benefiting all sectors of society. Your sustainable effort for over the past 25 years to eradicate polio from the face of the earth is a case in point.”
The late Prime Minister, a Paul Harris Fellow, had also said that the Government of Ethiopia supports voluntary organizations, like Rotary “whose focus and purpose is to give maximum and effective community services with local voluntary manpower resource inputs and with little or no overhead costs.” “In this regard, I encourage local Rotarians to expand their humanitarian services to the rural population,” he had said at the time.
Today, there are 10 Rotary clubs existing in Ethiopia; 7 clubs are in Addis Ababa and the rest in Gondar, Jimma and Adama, with over 400 members who voluntarily dedicate their time and effort in eradicating the disease of Polio, as well as realizing small and large projects that help in the simplest way to alleviate poverty and help make people’s lives better.
Ethiopia in the District
Led by Country Chair Nasru Omar, the 75-member strong Ethiopian team present in Mombasa, was quite noticeable in its participation during the conference and plenary sessions.
Past District Governor Nahusenaye Araya led Thursday’s full day session of the conference. As the Chairman of the National PolioPlus Committee, PDG Nahusenaye, reviewing the remarkable role that Rotary played in the eradication of Polio, said that the worldwide campaign against Polio was initiated by Rotary in 1979 when the USA eradicated Polio. “So far Rotary has spent over USD 1.2 billion for the eradication of Polio and we believe that, by 2016, it will be fully eradicated,” he said. “All this was because of the global efforts of Rotarians, national health ministries and partners”.
The eradication of polio is being undertaken in partnership with UN agencies such as WHO, UNICEF, and CDC and the ministry of health or such organ in every country. “Over 1.2 million Rotarians all over the world have participated and supported the campaign with millions of hours spent during National Immunization Days ‘NID’ through advocacy and hands-on projects,” he explained.
Ethiopia has remained Polio free for the last five years. Still, Ethiopia as well as neighboring countries are classified as infectious, high risk areas, due to cross-border movements.
“We are very close to eradicating the virus from the earth, but we need to vigorously continue the immunization campaign, especially in border areas,” he called upon Rotarians.
“Service Above Self” is Rotary’s principal motto, which means that every Rotarian is responsible for finding ways to improve the quality of life in his or her community and in other areas around the world, through service,” said Past District Governor Tadesse Alemu (Dr.) at the plenary session of the D9212 Assembly, talking about ‘Service Projets’.
PDG Tadesse Alemu said that the role of the committee is to lead the club’s service initiatives and to help develop and implement educational, humanitarian, and vocational service projects that benefit the local community and communities in other countries.
“Clubs can strengthen their service projects by collaborating with other Rotary clubs locally and internationally, with individuals, organizations, and Rotarian-sponsored groups that are based in the community being served or that have expertise in a particular area of service,” Dr Tadesse added.
“Working with partners can help even small projects achieve a greater impact, and can help established projects become more effective and sustainable,” he said concluding his remark.
Past Country Chair Samrawit Moges in her presentation entitled, ‘Celebrating the Past to Build the Future New Generation’, said that New Generations Service recognizes the positive change implemented by youth and young adults through leadership development activities, involvement in community and international service projects, exchange programs that enrich and foster world peace and cultural understanding.
In Ethiopia, active involvement of a new generation started 10 years back with the chartering of the Rotaract Club of Mella. “The Rotaract Club of Mella, later converted to RC of Central Mella, is one of the most vibrant clubs in the country. Since then, 12 Rotaract and 4 Interact Clubs have been established,” Samrawit said, explaining the Ethiopian context in nurturing a new generation of Rotarians.
“However, enough support has not being given by Rotarians to assist the new generation,” she added. “Lack of having a mother club, less support and mentoring from the existing ones are the major problems seen in the last years, in fact 20 clubs were established and from these, eight died due to lack of support,” she said.
“Investing in Interact and Rotaract not only ensures a strong future of Rotary, it also helps to save the new generation from the current unwanted degeneration. If we invest in the new generation, we will assure that Rotary becomes the most influential international organization on the planet as we develop future leaders,” she said, as she concluded her remarks.
Rotary International (RI) President Sakuji Tanaka in his monthly messages also stressed the need to focus on youth saying, “When we focus on young people, we are focusing on building the future of Rotary and a more peaceful world. When we serve youth, we help to bring Rotary to a new generation. We spread understanding among nations and cultures. We teach the importance of service to others, and pass on our core values. By doing this, we help to build peace.”
District 9212: DGE Harry Mugo – 2013/14
District Governor-Elect Harry Mugo of D9212 for 2013-14 urged Rotarians to work harder in order to meet their goals. “Let us use the experience of yesterday in our Rotary efforts of today so that we may obtain results compatible with our existing principles and our goals of tomorrow. Let us make Rotary Clubs stronger, more dynamic, and more successful, not only in serving their communities, but attracting new and diverse generations of Rotarians as members. As Rotarians are convinced that this world can be a better place to live in, and are committed to make it happen by nurturing understanding, friendship and peace, we shoulder much more responsibility than any sector of our community.”
Peace through service
Stephen R. Brown representative of RI President Sakuji Tanaka and Trustee of the Rotary Foundation, noted the commendable work done by the district in helping provide education, health care, water development projects, among other services and reiterated the President’s message that without a safe environment there is no peace and without clean water, education, health care and economic development, peace cannot be achieved.
End of polio within sight
One of the most inspiring speakers of the conference was Penny LeGate, a former Seattle KIRO-TV anchorwoman, who is passionate about Rotary and its values.
Talking passionately about Rotary’s journey in its flagship task of eradicating Polio from the earth, she noted that in 1985 there were over 350,000 global polio cases. “As of the end of 2012 it was only 223. And today the number of new polio cases has been reduced to less than 20,” she said applauding the efforts Rotarians put on the fight against the disease.
Penny said “We are almost there; this is the last stretch, and though it is not the easiest last mile, now is not the time to stop, but to persevere. We are here to finish it! End polio now!”
Since 1985, when Rotary launched PolioPlus, the volunteer arm of the global partnership to eradicate polio, the number of polio-endemic countries has declined from 125 to 3: Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan – which in fact registered only 1 case in the last 6 months.
LeGate, a staunch believer in Rotary, has come to Ethiopia on several National Immunization Days Campaigns (NIDs) accompanying Rotarians coming from the USA, Hawaii and Canada to support and launch NIDs. One other issue that LeGate has put on the map with her strong advocacy is the problem of water in Ethiopia and the plight of women in the countryside who travel dozens of kilometers every day to fetch water on their back. Through her reporting, she helped raise funds for several water projects initiated in the country.
District 9212: DGN Teshome Kebede – 2015/16
Rotarians were also thrilled by the unanimous nomination of Rotarian Teshome Kebede from the Rotary Club of Addis Ababa Bole as the District 9212 Governor Nominee for 2015/16. Upon his nomination, DGN Teshome said that in all our endeavors, we should include women and give them all our support, as women are the key players in the fight against poverty. He said “50% of our population comprises of women and hence we need to work to have more women members in our district.” “Women,” he said, “have a kinder and softer heart and are very giving.”
Rotarian Teshome, a devoted Rotarian, has a rich experience serving in various capacities in Rotary and working on numerous international projects.
Recognitions and Awards
Yet another highlight of the 88th DCA was the recognition award of ‘Service Above Self’ that was especially attributed by DG Geeta Manek to Rtn. Yemane Bisrat, Past President of Rotary Club AA West.
During the award giving ceremony DG Manek said “Rtn Yemane has brought ‘Service Above Self’ into all his actions and thinking and works tirelessly to make other people’s lives better. He is an inspiration to many Rotarians, not only in Ethiopia, but the world.”
Celebrate the past to build the future
In her concluding remarks, DG Geeta Manek, whose theme is ‘Celebrating the past to build the future’, took extreme care in recognizing all the effort and work done by Rotarians in the district in all avenues of Rotary, and reminded everyone that more should still be done. She saluted all the new clubs that have been chartered in the district during her service year as governor, and called upon the DGEs of the two new districts to continue promoting the growth of club membership and the incorporation of more women in the clubs, as well as the creation of new clubs.
Her speech earned her a standing ovation, leaving a remarkable impression on all present, whom she profusely thanked as she took them through her remarkable journey as governor.
“We have done very well in the past, with significant projects that were launched and concluded, but we should step it up,” she said, not forgetting to mention the new generation that should be supported and nurtured as they are the future.
She will continue to serve the district as governor up until July 1st 2013.
The thoughtful preparation for the grand finale on Saturday April 27 made it worthwhile for the 2,100 particpants who were treated with a lavish dinner at the beach with a musical extravaganza and show. The 88th DCA was truly a notable milestone.
Rotary at a glance
Rotary International is a worldwide organization of business and professional clubs, dedicated to high vocational standards, community service, and international understanding. To foster fellowship through diversity of interests, a Rotary club is composed of one representative from each business and profession in a community.
Established in 1905 in Chicago, Illinois, it now has its headquarters in Evanston, Illinois. Rotary is the oldest service club organization in the world; in 1922 the name became Rotary International as clubs were organized in other countries.
Rotary International comprises of more than 1.2 million men and women in nearly 27,000 Rotary clubs in 149 countries and 39 geographical regions. Membership is by invitation, and clubs determine their own service activities.
Currently, the organization is encouraging clubs to focus community activities on fighting hunger, illiteracy, and drug abuse, and helping the elderly and the environment.
Clubs also participate in the international programs of the Rotary Foundation, which administers privately-funded scholarships and grants in order to accomplish large-scale, international humanitarian projects as well as smaller projects that are sponsored and partially funded by Rotary clubs or districts in two or more countries. Rotary International’s PolioPlus program, in cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), funds vaccine purchases and social mobilization activities in order to help eradicate polio worldwide.