We meet on every wednesday 6.30 PM at Rotary Balbhavan in Panampilly Nagar

Rotary Grows 70s, 80s and 90s

The perceptions of service and related activities of Rotary saw quite a few changes at the beginning of 1970s and these changes continued till the late 1990s. A new generation of Rotarians who were impatient to conquer much in a short time became members of the Club and they spearheaded this change. This was a generation that thought, envisioned and acted big and has the courage to take risk in Rotary as a bid in their personal life. We see a K.M.K. Abdulla who spontaneously demands an amount of Rs. 1,00,000/- to be contributed from among members to aid the Bangladesh situation and achieving this target in a few days time. An earlier generation would not have courage to embark let alone try on those lines. The housing project at Cheranellore, building about 45 houses and a vocational centre and handing it over to local community through the Panchayat was a bold step of the members of our club. It was during this period that we donated an ambulance van - the first in Cochin City - to the authorities. Construction of a women and children ward in the Mattancherry Hospital a much needed facility was also achieved during this time. The maternity and child welfare centre, built and donated to the Corporation authorities and later converted as the Regional Cancer Detection Centre is also a product of this era. The biggest and the best so far is the Aginex Exhibition, an exhibition of massive dimensions running through weeks in the beginning of 1979 in the Marine Drive at Ernakulam, was a nucleus which generated funds for the Rotary Balbhavan. The Balbhavan project conceived during the presidentship of PP M. Jairam, through as project report prepared by L. Vishnudas came to stay and it is today the brightest jewel in our chronicle of events. It is said that the initial project report was prepared by Vishnudas, which had a financial outlay of few lakhs of rupees. Members had real apprehension whether the club will be able to raise that sort of money. Then came PP Jairam’s statement that “ when we beg, beg decently”. Probably, this call to beg decently inspired our members to go ahead with the project and see it to its culmination, though various methods adopted to raise funds for the project included the Aging – 79 Exhibition under the Chairmanship of PP Madhavan Nayar which collected 4 lakhs net. The amount we utilised to buy 50 cents of land for the Rotary Balbhavan at Panampilly Nagar. Many Rotarians were involved round the clock in organising and running of this exhibition to which PP R. Madhavan Nayar gave leadership. It was during the presidentship of Rtn. David T. Mookken. Rtns. Azad, Ramankutty, Siva, K.. Narayanaswamy, K.N. Suryanarayan, L. Vishnudas, G.K. Pillay et- al work hard and we are proud of what they have achieved during the few months of hard toil.

The Presidentship of Rtn. N.R. Shankar in 1980-’81 saw the foundation stone of the Balbhavan being laid by the then District Governor G. Varadaraj. Real work on the construction started only during the period of presidetnship of Rtn. P. Kesavan when a small committee with PP Madhavan Nayar as the Chairman, Rtn. Venugopal C. Govind, Rtn. G.K. Pillay and Rtn. A.K. Azad as members started functioning. From then on till the Balbhavan was inaugurated on the 27th of May, 1986 by Shri P. Chidambaram, Hon’ble Minister of State for Personnal Attention and Grievances, a hectic period of four years when the above Rotarians and many others chipped in their maximum in time, energy and money to see the birth of this dream child of the club. Some other names that stand out while reminisce about the construction of Balbhavan are PP N.T. Joseph, PDG Venugopal C. Govind, PDG S.R. Govindaraj etc. This project in those days and even now continues to be a shining example of International co-operation because Rotary Club of Brace Bridge, Canadian International Development Agency and the Rotary Foundation had contributed money for this project. The club on its part apart from Aginex – ’79 had many fund raising projects. Two souvenirs were brought out by the members of the Rotary Club of Cochin in 1982 and 1985. Another exhibition called Homex ’86 was held in 1986, a benefit performance was held all of which collected money substantially to meet the needs of this project.

Kumbalam a remote island, which till late 1980s was not connected by Road came to our attention during the Presidentship of Rtn. N.R. Shankar. Rtne. Annamma Chackola ran a small tailoring and vocational class in her house in Thevara which employed a few poor women of Kumbalam village. This was identified by Rtn. Thomas John and President Shankar and Rtn. Thomas John ferried to Kumbalam island and after holding detailed discussion with the Parish Priest and one teacher and social worker of the locality decided to have a free clinic functioning there from one of the rooms attached to the Mission School. This was inaugurated in 1981 December by Rtn. Gov. G. Varadaaraj and many facilities were added to it in subsequent years. During the period of Pres. Kesavan Governor Ratnam visited the place and added some more facility. During the presidentship of the present writer a Dental Chair was donated to the clinic. This was arranged by Rtn. PP N.T. Joseph and was donated to the clinic by Governor Gopal during his official visit to the club. Next year when Rtn. Joseph P. Kurien was the president, was the year we celebrated the Golden Jubilee, the first Rotary Village Corps in Asia, a new concept promoted by the then Rotary International President MAT Caparas – was inaugurated in Kumbalam by MAT Caparas himself during his visit to our club, the first ever by a Rotary International President, in January 1987. That was the year when A.K. Azad was the District Governor and this visit was arranged by Azad himself during his visit to International Assembly earlier. The club also completed a hospital in nearby Panangad village and handed it over to the authorities. This hospital, the construction of which was initiated by Panangad Panchayat was lacking funds to complete and after being identified by our club the construction progressed and the work completed, was inaugurated by MAT Caparas the R.I. President and was handed over to the Government immediately. It is a matter of pride to all of us that this health centre is functioning well even today.

A tailoring centre was also started in Panamgad during the same period where a set of sewing machines were handed over to the inmates of the convent to run a centre which will provide occupation to the poor women of the locality. The efforts put in by Rtn. T.K. Varkey and Rtn. K.N. Suryanarayan in this direction are worth mentioning.

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