The chance to build a better world through Rotary

130906_celia_giayBy Celia Elena Cruz de Giay, RI director

In December 1995, my husband, Luis, and I visited Bombay (now Mumbai), India, during his year as president-elect of Rotary International. We were there to participate in a national polio immunization day and were very impressed by the social mobilization that went into it. It was the largest immunization day to that point.

When the day arrived, more than 10,000 volunteers were distributed throughout the country, easily identifiable in their yellow jackets and caps imprinted with the Rotary wheel.

Volunteers immunize a child in India during a National Immunization Day in 2008. Alyce Henson/Rotary International

Volunteers immunize a child against polio in India during a National Immunization Day in 2008. Alyce Henson/Rotary International

The district governor picked us up early and took us to inaugurate a 10-kilometer long banner that announced the immunization activities and publicized polio eradication. They were hoping to make the Guinness World Records with the size of the banner!!

The governor next took us to a vaccination post located in a slum of Mumbai, where 5 million people live in extreme poverty and homelessness. We got out of the car and walked under a burning sun, the intense heat beating down on us.

The first thing I remember seeing was a long line of children accompanied by their mothers  waiting to be vaccinated. We met the members of a Rotaract Club in Mumbai who were responsible for administering the immunizations. Like many volunteers, they were aware of the importance of their mission. But unlike most volunteers, they were all young people with special needs. In their wheelchairs, or with assistance of canes, these 31 Rotaractors helped each other put the saving drops into the mouths of children.

Seeing the joy on their faces as they overcame limitations to perform their tasks made me feel very small next to the greatness of their gesture. I saw for the first time the human face of Rotary, and what it is capable of inspiring in individuals such as these. It was a moment I never forgot – it is my Rotary moment.

On that day, more than 120 million children under 5 were vaccinated throughout India – that’s about 6,000 children a second!

Seventeen years have passes since that day, but still the memory of those Rotaractors is fresh in my mind and my heart. They and others helped achieve a milestone when India was declared polio-free in 2012.

That experience made me feel so proud to be a Rotarian, and made me understand how much you grow when you give more than you receive; when you help others. Thanks to the magic of Rotary, you get the chance to build a better world.

8 thoughts on “The chance to build a better world through Rotary

  1. “Seeing the joy on their faces as they overcame limitations to perform their tasks made me feel very small next to the greatness of their gesture. I saw for the first time the human face of Rotary, and what it is capable of inspiring in individuals such as these. It was a moment I never forgot – it is my Rotary moment”. I can’t forget this sentence !? Moment of truth for Rotarians who serve to serve, who are above themselves, above the “me”, melting in the “we”.

  2. Pingback: The chance to build a better world through Rotary | Warsaw Rotary , Club 3393, District 6540

  3. The chance to build a better world through Rotary by RI director Celia Elena Cruz de Giay – grabbed my attention. First time I came to know “a 10-kilometer long banner that announced the immunization activities and publicized polio eradication”. I will carry the total report in my mind for a long time and will share in Rotary events. –Sk. Abdul Hadi, RC Khulna North, RID 3281

  4. It is really important for all women rotarían to see the intense work and commitment of our RID Celia with Rotary’s Ideal along so many years, even since she was a child.
    She will continue giving of her best to improve Rotary in all the World!

  5. RI director Celia Elena Cruz de Giay wonderfully expressed her experiences of service aboveself that could inspire thousands more. This reminds me about the cataract surgeries those we had done in the remote villages through satellite camps; the experiences of helping half-blinds getting eye-sight made us feel very great but the person who helped us to help the patients was the eye surgeon N Ambia Chowdhury ( former mebmber & President of RC of Jalalabad) had lot more of the kind of feeling.
    We have many more responsibilities to perform for our communities that supported us to be where we are now. We need more professional volunteers in Rotary.
    Rotary provides us a very honorable and humbly way of giving back.
    Mahboob Subhani Choudhury, Past President, Rotary Club of Jalalabad, RID-3282, Bangladesh

  6. December 13, 2013

    Celia Elena Cruz de Giay
    RI directress

    With sincerest pleasure, I would like to congratulate you for your inspiring dedication. I am Dr. Ruben G. Henson Jr, Rotary Club of Clarkfield, District-3790, Philippines. As I mentioned to you during the 2013 Taipei Rotary Institute, I would like to have a copy of your speech concerning “Update on RI Strategic Plan”. It is of great honor for you to share your noteworthy dialogue to us.

    Your response would be greatly valued.

    Respectfully yours,
    PDG Ruben G. Henson Jr., M.D.
    Rotary Club of Clark Field, D-3790, Philippines
    rubenghenson@gmail.com

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