626: Nairobi Presidential Conference Highlights
- RI president encourages Rotarians to "go forth and serve mightily"
On 23 February, Rotary International President Bhichai Rattakul
officially closed the RI African Presidential Conference on health
and development with a stirring address calling on participants
to "go forth and serve mightily." Seven hundred eighty Rotarians from
39 countries attended the three-day event at the Kenyatta
International Conference Centre (KICC) in Nairobi, Kenya.
"Throughout these busy and productive days, we have looked at ways we
can address health concerns here in Africa such as the HIV/AIDS
epidemic, tuberculosis, and other health problems," said the RI
president. "We have evaluated methods for supporting people in their
effort to break the cycle of poverty themselves through education,
micro-enterprises, and vocational training. We have examined how we
can support and further long-term Rotary projects like PolioPlus and
the Rotary Centers for International Studies in peace and conflict
resolution. And perhaps most importantly, we have refined strategies
for partnering with each other and with organizations and governments
outside of Rotary."
The HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa and Asia dominated the plenary and
discussion group sessions at the conference. Speaker after speaker
rose to share their experiences with battling the disease whose
devastating effect on the economic and social infrastructure of
African countries has left a heavy burden of orphans. Concrete
proposals to deal with the problem were considered by the
In his closing address, the RI president announced to thunderous
applause that The Rotary Foundation is providing a US$15,000 Matching
Grant to support an initiative of 14 African districts to assist AIDS
orphans in Kenya. The districts are donating part of their District
Designated Funds (DDF) to build 15 low-cost shelters for the
unfortunate children in Cura village near Nairobi. District 9200,
host of the conference, and District 9300, South Africa, are the
primary sponsors of the project, which could easily serve as a model
for similar efforts across Africa and other places severely impacted
Kenyan Vice President Kijana Wamalwa opened the conference on 21
February with a speech in which he thanked RI for choosing Nairobi as
the venue for the event. He praised Rotarians for volunteering their
skills, time, and money for worthy causes. "We as a government cannot
fulfill all the needs of our people. In fact, no government can," he
said. "We have gaps in our health and educational programs and we
depend on organizations such as yours to fill the gaps."
In his remarks, the vice president referred to Rotary's pioneering
role in the global initiative to eradicate polio. "You started on
this journey in 1988, and I understand that soon Kenya will be
certified polio-free and the credit will go to you," he said.
Other topics covered at the conference included the effects of trade
on poverty alleviation; education and literacy: two keys to fighting
poverty and hunger; successful participation in humanitarian
programs; nearing our goal of eradicating polio; practical ideas for
developing successful project partnerships; micro-enterprise and
vocational training; and the Rotary Centers for International
On 22 February, a projects fair showcasing close to 40 efforts of
clubs in Africa and elsewhere attracted great interest. These efforts
included a US$1.2 million project of a club in Kigali, Rwanda, to
build the country's first public library, and nearly two dozen Kenyan
projects aimed at providing better health, educational, and career
opportunities for disadvantaged children, the blind, and amputees.
Several activities sponsored by Nairobi clubs coincided with the
presidential conference, including pre-conference eye camps; a
diplomatic luncheon hosted by Nairobi clubs to mark World
Understanding Day and Rotary's 98th birthday; and a rally for
physically and mentally challenged children.
K.C. Abraham, a Rotarian from Kerala, India, said the conference gave
him an opportunity to interact with African Rotarians for the first
time. "I am going back home more enlightened about Rotary," he said.
Nigerian Rotarian Bamidele Salam called the conference "an eye-opener
and a challenge. We have so much to do, and we can achieve better
results by cooperating amongst ourselves and other organizations."
Courtesy: Rotary Newsbasket