Many of you will recall my challenge to Rotary clubs when I was RI president in 2017-18: to plant one tree per member to help the environment. Thanks to you, we estimate over 4 million trees went into the ground in Rotary’s name — quite a forest indeed.
This month, as we celebrate The Rotary Foundation, let’s remember that each Foundation project is much like planting a tree. With each sapling of hope, health, and peace we plant through the Foundation, we make an investment in the future that will one day grow into something even greater.
Such a tree was planted by Rotary in Sri Lanka, where more than 2,000 children born annually with a congenital heart defect can now get a corrective surgery that allows them to survive to adulthood. Local Rotarians identified the need to make the surgery more available and effective, and rallied 17 Rotary districts around the world to contribute District Designated Funds. After the Foundation matched those funds, a total global grant of $365,000 was used to create the first human heart-valve tissue bank in Sri Lanka, with the government providing the building, staffing, and supplies to ensure its sustainability.
Visiting this life-saving facility in 2017 was an unforgettable experience for me. But I have seen countless other great “trees” planted across our seven areas of focus. We planted PolioPlus in 1985 and it has grown into one of the greatest public health initiatives in history, helping reduce cases of wild poliovirus by 99.9 percent. Seven Rotary Peace Centers around the world have also taken root and are now bearing fruit as scores of peacebuilders and community leaders go forth with the skills to make the world more safe and secure.
Charity Navigator, an independent agency, has given The Rotary Foundation its highest ranking for more than a decade. Why? Our overhead expense level is much lower than most similar organizations — 91 percent of gifts to the Foundation go to programs and operations. Not only are we efficient stewards, but Rotary’s requirement of a community-needs assessment for global grants helps ensure the sustainability of our projects over the long term. And the Foundation is a charity you can trust because it is run by your fellow Rotarians.
However, only about 38 percent of members actively support our own organization’s great charity. We can and should do better. Just as I challenged you to plant trees as president, as Foundation trustee chair I would like to challenge each club to make a giving plan for our Rotary Foundation this year.
Imagine our impact — Rotary’s great forest of hope and peace that will flourish — and please give today.