An emergency lesson in being Rotarians

Residents of Chennai overwhelmed by flooding.
Residents of Chennai, India, overwhelmed by flooding.
Rotarians preparing emergency food packets.
Rotarians preparing emergency food packets.

Some Rotarians tend to think attending meetings and contributing money are all it takes to be a good member of Rotary International. However, in some parts of the world things are very different.

Recent devastating floods in the Indian city of Chennai — formerly known as Madras — left groups of as many as 500 people stranded in various parts of the three-century-old city. No food, no power, no sanitation.

The first calls for help went out not to government agencies, but to a Rotary past district governor in the area. Here’s what happened.

The past DG contacted an action group within his Madras North Club in the morning, seeking help in supplying 500 people with food packets. Within an hour, 500 packets were created and distributed.

The calls for help kept coming in because cooking facilities — restaurants, hotels, etc. — in the area were out of commission. So, other Rotarians were enlisted to pitch in. They were able to set up an emergency kitchen and, by 3 o’clock that same afternoon, 2,000 food packets had been prepared and distributed. The Rotary-led effort kept picking up momentum until, by the end of the following day, 25,000 food packets had been prepared and distributed.

It’s a stirring, inspirational story that may act as a stimulus for all of us to pitch in on many levels to help our fellow citizens of the planet. You can read the past DG’s first-person account of the spur-of-the-moment project by clicking here.


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