The Rotary International president 2021-2022, Shekhar Mehta, has described Uganda’s over 4,000 Rotarians as “category A+” but urged them to dream even bigger. He was on a three-day official visit to Uganda September 13 to 15.
Mehta urged Ugandan and Tanzanian Rotarians to “dream big”, grow their numbers because “power is in numbers”, and initiate projects that impact not only communities they serve but also the country and the world at large. He advised club presidents to share their dreams with each other and with key stakeholders, and to find localized solutions to issues facing the communities.
“Let us dream of big, bold programmes which impact the continent, because we now operate on a global scale,” he said.
Mehta, a member of Rotary Club of Calcutta-Mahanagar, India, and whose presidency tenure theme is ‘Serve to Change Lives’, held meetings with officials of District 9213 (Uganda) and District 9214 (Tanzania and Uganda).
He covered a compact programme accompanied by his wife Rashi, outgoing governor of District 9214 Young Kimaro and Rotarians from Tanzania, Kenya and Nigeria. He was hosted by District 9213 outgoing governor John Magezi Ndamira and incoming governor Mike Kennedy Sebalu.
100 FREE HEART SURGERIES
Mehta visited President Museveni at State House Nakasero where they held discussions for 45 minutes, in which he tabled three support offers to Uganda government: education and literacy, especially distance learning to help mitigate effects of Covid-19; health by opening up eye centres, and more blood banks; and free heart surgery in India for 100 Ugandan children.
He said Rotary can provide the necessary technology and even some learning content if government can identify platforms such as TVs to partner in the endeavour.
Museveni welcome all three with gratitude, and urged Rotary to also consider opening up more blood banks and a dialysis centre in Uganda. Mehta said that together with the Rotarians in Uganda, he is going to support a programme where at least 2,000 Ugandans with eye problems will receive free treatment.
Mehta also visited the Parliament of Uganda, where he interfaced with the speaker Jacob Oulanyah, and pinned him with the honour of Major Donor Level 2 at a private function. With his presence in the gallery, parliament debated and passed a motion recognising the important role of Rotary has played in Uganda’s development.
The motion was tabled by chief government whip Thomas Tayebwa who praised the international organisation’s contribution to Uganda in the health, education, water and environment sectors.
“In the past five years, Rotary clubs in Uganda in collaboration with a number of partners, have undertaken transformative projects estimated at over Shs 80 billion,” Tayebwa said, adding that in its first response to Covid-19 in Uganda, Rotary contributed Shs 1.2 billion in form of hand washing equipment, personal protective equipment and food to both government and communities.
TOUR OF ROTARY PROJECTS
Mehta then visited a number of Rotary projects around greater Kampala metropolitan. These included the Rotary Peace Centre at Makerere University, the Maternal and Child Health Programme at Kawempe hospital, the Rotary-Centenary Bank Cancer Center in Nsambya, the Empower the Girl Initiative, the Rotary International-USAID WASH Strategic Partnership and the Mengo Hospital Rotary Blood Bank.
As an example of the wide impact these projects of Rotary have, the Mengo blood bank not only stores blood, it also offers other services like blood donor recruitment, blood collection, processing blood into plasma, platelets and packed red blood cells, distribution of safe blood to nearby health facilities, and screening of blood for transfusion transmissible infections like HIV, hepatitis and syphilis, among others.
The Kawempe hospital-based Maternal and Child Health Programme does not only give antenatal care to adolescent girls and young women but also empowers them with knowledge on many issues such as family planning and nutrition.
Since it started operating in 2016, the Rotary-Centenary Bank Cancer Centre has offered a spectrum of services to over 3,000 clients. The services include cancer awareness and screening, ambulatory cancer clinics, chemotherapy administration, surgical and medical oncology services and palliative care every year.
ROTARY PEACE CENTRE
At Makerere University on September 15, Mehta held a strategic meeting with the leadership of the university and the Rotary Peace Centre which has started graduating peace fellows with calibre to work anywhere in the world as diplomats and humanitarian servants, among others.
He toured the temporary premises of the centre and also addressed a national media conference to wind up his tour. He commended Makerere University for hosting the only Rotary Peace Centre in Africa; there are seven such centres in the whole world.
Mehta also inaugurated the board of trustees of the Sam Owori Rotary Vijana Poa Village, and made a number private courtesy visits to distinguished individuals such as businessmen Sudhir Ruparelia and Emmanuel Katongole.
Rotarian Emmanuel Katongole, owner of Quality Chemical Industries, gave $50,000 (about Shs 1.8 billion) contribution to Rotary International’s peace programme, one of the landmarks that made Mehta declare his visit to Uganda a great success.
Mehta offered an extra 25 slots of free heart surgeries in honour of businessman Sudhir Ruparelia. Heart surgeries in Uganda are at average cost of Shs 18 million, which remains high for an average Ugandan.
On the final day of his visit, close to 200 individuals were inducted into different Rotary clubs in Uganda, ready to beef up the “service above self” tradition that defines the spirit of Rotary globally.