Rotary’s Main Goal Is To Promote Peace And International Understanding’
Rotary International celebrates 110 years of service to humanity. District Governor, Rotary International, District 9110 comprising Lagos and Ogun States, Dr. Aloysius Dele Balogun throws light into Rotary’s humanitarian activities as an open organization with friends all over the world, putting smiles on faces of the less privileged and promoting peace in the world. Balogun, a medical doctor by profession, joined Rotary Club of Agege in 1984. A Charter member, he rose to be the President of the Club in 1995. He was in charge of various activities at the District level, including the International Convention Committee that went to Ireland. Among other exalted offices held, he was an Assistant Governor, District Governor nominee until he became the District Governor for the Rotary year 2014-2015. He spoke to ISAAC TAIWO.
What is Rotary?
Rotary, with the motto, ‘Service Above Self,’ is a global network of community volunteers with members comprising of business, professional, and community leaders who provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards and help build goodwill and peace in the world. It is non-religious, non-political, and open to every race, culture and creed.
What is the significance of this celebration?
A lawyer by profession, Paul Harris invited three friends in 1905 to start this organization with a view to integrating friendship, serve the community and promote fellowship among professionals. This started in the office of one of his friends who also was an Attorney. The office was in the Unity Building Room, 711, downtown Chicago and was initially named Rotary Club of Chicago. It was called ‘Rotary’ because the members were rotating the meetings in their offices. Two of them were lawyers, one a miner and the fourth a tailor.
What started like a mustard seed with the same focus to serve humanity and make the world a better place of living, is in every continent of the world today with 1.2 million members in over 200 countries. Rotary International has 520 districts with 34,000 clubs spread all over the globe and we are still growing. I believe this is worth celebrating.
We work with government, support government and advise and encourage government both locally and internationally. We were involved in reorganization after the 2nd World war and putting together League of Nations which later became the United Nations. We were involved in putting together the Charter of UNESCO. We have been very active too locally in promoting peace.
What is the secret of the spread?
Paul Harris came from a small community in Chicago where he was missing the spirit of friendship and fellowship. What he did was to create the missing fellowship and friendliness, a platform for camaraderie that lifted up the spirit and act of doing good peculiar to small environment which has continued till today.
Our main goal is to promote peace and international understanding all over the world. However, we do not start talking of peace with a hungry man or with a jobless man or with someone whose future is bleak. We start by touching lives of the less privileged, provide clean water for communities, good sanitation, engage in community development, provide basic literacy and education, pursue economic development, promote international understanding, engage in disease prevention and treatment. All these provisions are made and supported by friends in Rotary.
We work with community leaders where we have social structures. It is our practice that before we meet the need of a community in terms of execution of a project, we find out what they really need through what we call ‘Need Assessment’. We then embark on the project and where we do not have enough resources, we seek for the collaboration of Rotary Club in other countries who willingly come to our aid. Rotary functions at various levels. We have Rotary interractors, Rotaractors for post secondary school leavers, Rotary Community Corps and Inner Wheel for spouses of Rotarians.
Expatiate on how Rotary carries out its peace strategy or programme
Rotary builds understanding through international scholarships, exchange programmes, and humanitarian grants. The Rotary Centre for International Studies in peace and conflict resolution is an innovative programme designed to educate tomorrow’s peacemakers. The programme funds 60 Rotary World Peace Fellows for graduate studies in international relations, conflict studies and negotiation, providing promising leaders the tools to further the cause of peace takes place at seven leading universities around the globe.
How did Rotary get to Nigeria?
Rotary first got to Kano in Nigeria on April 28, 1961 which was the 56th year of forming Rotary Organization. It was followed by Rotary Club of Lagos in May 30, 1961, then Rotary Club of Ibadan, November 24, 1961 and later Rotary Club of Ikeja. Today, we have three districts in Nigeria which include District 9110 that comprises Lagos and Ogun States, District 9125 which covers South-West of Kwara, the North and Abuja with 23 states and District 9140 in the Eastern part of the country including Bayelsa which covers 11 states.
Some schools of thought believe that Rotary is for the elites. What’s your view?
This is not true. We have Rotary at different levels as I have said. The primary aim of Rotary is to serve and this can also be done as a member of Rotary Community Corps. One may not yet be a member of Rotary and still serve by giving donations. What is important is that as one that wishes to identifies with Rotary and be a member, you must be ready to give and not to eat up everything you have. You must have the mind to give to the less privileged. You do not need to be rich to be a member.
Is Rotary a secret society?
There is nothing secret in Rotary and our meetings are held at public places. You can belong to any Rotary Club of your choice and you are free to ask any questions.
What is the Rotary 4-Way Test about
The Rotary 4-Way Test is made up of four cardinal principles for all Rotarians. Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned? They are universal guiding principles which of course are not limited to Rotary alone but very relevant in governance, administration and even in our homes. It was put together by the past Rotary International President, Herbert Tailor in 1947.
How do you advise or influence the government with your style of administration
We work with government, support government and advise and encourage government both locally and internationally. We were involved in reorganization after the 2nd World war and putting together League of Nations which later became the United Nations. We were involved in putting together the Charter of UNESCO. We have been very active too locally in promoting peace. In fact, we have an organization that is called ‘Mediator Without Border’ to promote peace all over the world and this is one of the cardinal programmes of the Rotary Foundation. We are into peace and conflict resolution and we cannot do all these without working with the government.
What is your programme on education?
We do a lot in the area of education by promoting basic education and literacy. We award scholarships, provide sanitation and water to schools. We refurbish schools, give dictionaries to schools. We have a school that is meant for children of street beggars. We provide them with uniforms, books and pay salaries of all the teachers in the school. The schools are located in Agege, Idi-Araba and Oko-Baba at Ebute-Metta, Lagos.
What is the major focus of Rotary International?
Our major area of focus is elimination of polio in the world which we have been fighting for the past 25 years and we are happy we are 99.9% successful today. There are only three countries where we still have polio today: Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan and we are working hard to ensure Nigeria is taken out of the list. Rotary Foundation has raised a lot of money to end polio in the world from Rotary Clubs, governments and our local and international supporters who believe in our cause.
What next after polio?
It is likely that Rotary International’s next focus would be on eradication of malaria and hunger in the world.
As a Medical Director, how are you coping with your work and your task as District Governor?
I have taken a leave of absence for one year and only go to the hospital when I am needed. There are doctors and administrators that are in charge. This is the kind of sacrifice we pay in Rotary. I have about 83 clubs under me, spread all over Lagos and Ogun States and I have to supervise them and monitor their projects. I encourage them and motivate them and drive them to greater heights. I encourage them to increase in their membership. I encourage them to donate to the Rotary Foundation. I encourage them to embark on service projects that are very relevant to their various communities.
How do you measure your success so far as District Governor 2014-2015?
I have tried to implement the programmes that I have. I still have four months to go after which I will give report of what I did during my tenure. I have assisted in promoting community service. I have also brought in new members. I leave the measurement to be determined by what I was able to accomplish.
How do you see Rotary International in the next 10 years?
As we continue to work harder, we will become more and more relevant within the communities and the coast of Rotary International cannot be imagined in the next 10 years.
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