Making a Difference

By Yang Lan Source:Global Times Published: 2014-10-7 18:38:03

The Rotary China Conference was held September 20-21 in Shanghai. More than 130 representatives of Rotary International in the Chinese mainland gathered to share their current charity and community work as well as plans for the future.

Paul Harris started Rotary in Chicago in 1905. It is one of the world's first service organizations, which now has more than 1.2 million members spread across 34,000 Rotary Clubs in over 200 countries. Leaders from varied industries gather through Rotary to network, share ideas and take action against social problems. Rotary International sets global objectives and provides funding and tools for clubs worldwide. Each club develops its own projects, fundraising, and administration. Membership fees and donations go to both the Rotary Foundation and to projects around the world. 

Clubs worldwide are currently working together to eradicate polio. After years of hard work, only Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria are still polio endemic. The remaining 1 percent of polio cases are in the hardest to reach areas, and therefore are the most difficult to prevent. Rotary International's President Gary Huang told the Global Times that Rotarians are working to end polio by 2018. 

Huang was born in Taiwan. He is a member of Rotary Club Taipei and is the first Chinese president of Rotary International. He attended the China Conference and chartered the Rotary Club of Chengdu. Huang told the Global Times: "Rotary is a nonpolitical and nonreligious service organization. We do all the work according to the local government's laws and regulations." 

There are now three Rotary Clubs in the mainland, composed mainly of expatriates and Chinese from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macao.

Rotary Club Beijing was chartered in 1924, now with 45 members. The Chengdu Club was chartered during the conference on September 21. It took two years for this club to be officially chartered, and it now has 25 members. Unlike other Rotary Clubs, Rotary Shanghai has been through a lot of twists and turns throughout history. First chartered in 1919, then cancelled in 1943, in 1946 it was readmitted but closed again in 1951. After a half century's inactivity, it was officially chartered again in 2006, with 85 members.

Frank Yih is the President of the Rotary Club of Shanghai. Born in Shanghai in 1934, Yih is a US citizen and a pioneer in electronics and entrepreneurship. He returned to Shanghai in 1992. Dedicated to community work and helping others, Yih created the nonprofit organization HuaQiao Foundation. Yih told the Global Times: "Now everyone is talking about China dreams. But I am not a hunter of China dreams. I am a hunter of the 'nightmares.' One or two hours' drive away from the high-rises of Shanghai, you will see people in poverty. In Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, there are those living in remote mountain areas without drinking water. These people are who we help. We hope to improve their living standards with our projects."

Gift of Life is the signature project of Rotary Shanghai. As members of the world's largest nonprofit volunteer organization, Rotarians in China have been helping to "bring hope to children who have only known despair." This Rotarian-led project has funded over $750 million worth of surgeries worldwide and empowered medical staff globally with the skills and funding to care for children in need.  

This program sponsors lifesaving heart surgery. Over the past 10 years, in China alone, the Rotary Clubs of Beijing and Shanghai have saved and returned more than 800 children to their families to live long, productive and healthy lives.  

Another ongoing project is the Gift of Sight. The 2010-2011 President of Rotary Shanghai, Pradeep Kumar, a passionate leader of the program, explained: "Cataracts can cause blindness if allowed to develop without medical intervention. In China, 3,000 people per million get cataracts each year, but there is only the capacity to treat a third of the cases. There is a big gap." Kumar, who hails from India, has been an integral part of this project. He elaborated that doctors in India have perfected the surgical progress to increase the number of patients a surgeon can treat daily. In India, the capacity of treatment grew from 1,500 to 4,000 people per million per year. The quality of surgery is good, and the cost affordable. Shanghai's club has been helping the doctors and hospitals in India to transfer the technology and skills to medical staff and facilities in China. Our goal is to increase the rate of surgery while reducing the cost."

In addition to the Gift of Life project, the Rotary Club of Shanghai is providing wheelchairs, allocating scholarship money, supporting water programs, and training migrant workers by helping them find jobs through the Careers in Care program. As the club's website states, their club has provided funds that have helped train more than 4,000 migrant workers and made a positive impact on more than 800,000 people.

Randal Eastman, senior business executive at Dragonfly Spa, has worked in China for 15 years and witnessed the readmission of the Rotary Club of Shanghai in 2006. As Rotary Special Representative to Beijing and Shanghai from 2013 to 2016, Eastman has developed new clubs and set up a district structure for Rotary Clubs in China. 

According to Eastman, Rotarians focus their efforts in six areas: improving basic education and literacy, preventing diseases, helping with economic and community development, enhancing maternal and child health, promoting peace, and providing access to clean water and sanitation. Until now, Rotary has spent $3.40 million on basic education and literacy and $6.54 million on disease prevention and treatment in the Chinese mainland, accounting for 88 percent of the funding used domestically.

Rotary is making a difference here. China's Rotary Clubs hope to raise awareness among expats, find former Rotarians and like-minded individuals to join the clubs or start fellowships in different parts in China, and foster awareness about Rotary and its projects around the world.

(From left to right) Frank Yih, Gary Huang and Randal Eastman

Representatives attend the Rotary China Conference, which was held September 20-21 in Shanghai. Photos: Courtesy of Rotary


Posted in: Metro Shanghai

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