What we can accomplish when we embrace diversity

A mother adjusts the strap on her son's new prosthesis.
A mother adjusts the strap on her son’s new prosthesis.

By K V Mohan Kumar, charter president of the Rotary Club of Bangalore, Prime, India, and an ambassador of the Ellen Meadows Prosthetic Hand Foundation

As members of Rotary, we can show our support for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) not only by our words, but by our actions. The way we design projects and include people of all backgrounds as volunteers and recipients speaks louder than words.

In 2021, three members of our district came together to plan a medical project that fitted individuals who had lost hands with free below-the-elbow prosthetics at a camp in Dharwad, India, in October. All three of these members were from different occupations and backgrounds; one a microbiologist, one a business entrepreneur, and one an IT project manager. Together in Rotary, they blended their unique skills to lead a project benefitting people from all backgrounds.

They elicited the support of Rotary clubs that were as diverse and inclusive as they were; including a 12-year-old club whose membership is mostly women; a 56-year-old club that has members of different ages, gender, and occupations; and a brand new five-year-old club that has younger members. We had 10 members of Interact and 16 members of Rotaract participate in the project.

Staff at Pallavi Hospital pre-registered patients prior to the camp. Local government officials helped by securing permission and permits and providing Rapid Antigen Tests for patients, medical workers, and volunteers. A Rotary member who is a physiotherapist organized a team of three other physiotherapists from her clinic to fit and train the prosthetic recipients.

We created publicity materials in both English and a local dialect to reach a diverse group of beneficiaries. We promoted the camp on a variety of social media platforms and print and digital publications in multiple markets. We received a big boost when RI President Shekhar Mehta, RI Director Mahesh Kotbagi, and our district governor attended an event promoting the camp on 19 October.

We had Rotary members travel from all over India to take part. Two dozen came from 265 miles away and one member from Jamnagar traveled 855 miles to volunteer.

More than 100 people received free prosthetic hands as a result of the 840 volunteer hours. Each of our prosthetic recipients received an individual assessment, fitting, and customized training on use of their prosthesis. Each also received professional counseling. Our beneficiaries came from different socio-economic backgrounds and varied in age from eight to 64 years old.

A 32-year-old individual from Bagalkot who had to have both of his hand amputated came to our camp, emotionally drained after he had been abandoned by most of his friends over time and even some family members. We were able to fit him with prosthetics, and he was overjoyed by the results. He left with renewed hope in his future. Results like this are what keep us going.

The project will continue to serve those in need. A permanent center is being established at Vithal Institute of Child Health in Dharwad.

Big journeys begin with small steps. We can achieve so much when we apply the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion to all of our efforts. And DEI itself is a journey, not a destination.

Learn more about Rotary’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion task force

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