R. I. President Message


RI President 2020-21 Holger Knaack - October 2020

Dear Fellow Rotarians, Rotaractors, and friends,

During a recent Zoom meeting with Rotarians and Rotaractors, I looked at the smiling faces on my screen and realized how much our organization has changed in a short period. It is clear that there is no going back to the "old normal" in Rotary — and I see that as an exciting opportunity!

Innovation and change are happening at so many levels as we rethink and remake Rotary. Rotary's new flexibility is blending with digital culture to drive change in ways that many of us have never seen before. We can learn a lot from Rotarians like Rebecca Fry — who, at age 31, already has 15 years of Rotary experience.

I see Rotary as a phenomenal platform to change the world. I believe I can have the greatest influence by empowering others to create the change they wish to see in the world. I've gained leadership insights through my experiences in RYLA and Rotaract, and now, as charter president of the Rotary Social Impact Network, a new e-club.

Engaging Rotary program alumni is key in forming new clubs. Our club is proof that Rotaractors and other alumni want to join Rotary — but sometimes they can't find the Rotary club that's right for them. Our club has 31 members, all between the ages of 23 and 41, and almost all of them are alumni of Rotary programs.

We need to be able to integrate and align Rotary with the other personal and professional goals we're pursuing. In chartering this club, we set out to design a personalized model of Rotary that is focused on added value for our members. We have also sought to leverage connections — through Rotary Fellowships, Rotary Action Groups, and other international partnerships — in order to elevate our members' experiences beyond the club.

Our club meets and manages most of its projects online, using Microsoft Teams to engage 24/7 in topics that interest our members. This also means our club is not geographically bound to any one location: Although many of us are in Australia, we also have members in Germany, Italy, Mexico, Tanzania, and the United States.

Also key for our club is measuring the impact of our projects. For Plastic Free July this year, we created an awareness campaign promoting ways that individuals could reduce their use of plastics, and we reached more than 6,000 people. It's a project with a tangible impact that anyone can take part in wherever they are. I'm proud that, through our club, we are bringing people together for a new type of Rotary experience. I am excited for our future.

All Rotary clubs have the opportunity to be innovative clubs, just like Bec's club. Let's trust those clubs, learn from them, and lend them our support. Change in Rotary happens at the grassroots level, as clubs lead the charge, defining what this new Rotary can be.

Change is constant, and we have more work to do in many areas. It is important that we celebrate the contributions of people of all backgrounds and promote people from underrepresented groups so that they have greater opportunities to participate as members and leaders in Rotary.

The tools to make Rotary more inclusive, more relevant, and more fun for everyone are at our fingertips. Let's use them now, and we will see how Rotary Opens Opportunities for ourselves and for those yet to discover us.


President 2020-21

Trustee Chair's Message - Oct. 2020

K.R. Ravindran
Rotary Club of Colombo
Western Province, Sri Lanka

Trustee chair's message

In the early 1990s, polio was still a concern in my country. As the Sri Lanka PolioPlus Committee chair, I was part of a task force of Rotarians, government officials, and UNICEF representatives that drove all polio eradication efforts, including National Immunization Days (NIDs).

But those were difficult days; civil war was raging in Sri Lanka. The government said NIDs could happen only outside conflict zones. This meant one-third of the country's children would not be vaccinated — an unacceptable proposition.

Rotary stepped in with UNICEF to engineer a cease-fire. Establishing contact with one of the world's most feared and elusive rebel leaders was not easy, and we were careful to maintain Rotary's good name during negotiations.

A few weeks later, my secretary delivered a letter to my office, her hands shaking. Signed by the rebel leader himself, it read: "Dear Mr. Ravindran: If you can persuade your government to stop the war for two days, then we are willing to lay down our guns for two days too, for our war is not with children."

Soon the NID was on, and vehicles bearing the Rotary emblem traveled to the vaccination booths in the areas occupied by insurgents, receiving the same respect and courtesy as the Red Cross.

Obstacles can seem insurmountable until we overcome them.

In March 2020, the polio program made the tough decision to temporarily suspend polio immunizations while the polio infrastructure that Rotary members had helped build was used for COVID-19 response. But with the wild poliovirus now banished from the African region and circulating in just two remaining countries, we continue to move forward. Our history shows that we can overcome even the most difficult situations. But we can't do it without your help.

World Polio Day is 24 October, and it's the greatest opportunity we have to raise funds and awareness for Rotary's polio eradication efforts. Visit endpolio.org/worldpolioday to get tools for planning virtual events and fundraisers, and to register your club's event.

Please consider making a donation to End Polio Now, to be matched 2-to-1 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In the face of a pandemic, there is a serious risk of further spread of polio. Your support is more important than ever, and it will ensure that together we can tackle the remaining obstacles and achieve a polio-free world.


K.R. Ravindran
Trustee Chair 2020-21

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