It’s an exciting time for Rotary in Sri Lanka right now, with key life-changing projects underway, an ongoing visit by the Rotary International President and a Sri Lankan elected to take up the mantle as International President next year.
Rotary International President Gary C.K. Huang is on a visit to Sri Lanka from 15 to 17 December, the first visit by an international president since 2011.

Huang kicked off his visit with the ‘Light Up Rotary’ event –a cycle ride to celebrate a polio-free Sri Lanka on 15 December. Yesterday he addressed Rotaractors, Interactors and Rotarians at the BMICH at a packed event attended by over 1,000 Rotary members followed by a gala black tie dinner at the Cinnamon Lakeside, while today he will launch Rotary’s One Million Trees Project.
In an interview with the Daily FT last morning, Huang stated that his visit to Sri Lanka was all the more relevant since he hails from Asia, the next President-elect K.R. Ravindran is a Sri Lankan and also because one of the youngest female district governors, District Governor for Sri Lanka and Maldives Gowri Rajan, was doing a wonderful job here.
“I want to see what’s happening here, encourage our District Governor and share my experience from Sri Lanka when I address other Rotary clubs as I travel,” he said.
Commenting on the visit, Rajan said: “We are honoured to have the presence of the Rotary International President to Sri Lanka. We are also proud to say that this year we crossed the 2,000 magic number of members in Sri Lanka and the next International President is a Sri Lankan and top business personality K. Ravindran.”

Polio Eradication
Rotary International’s flagship project is the Polio Eradication program, which seeks to eradicate this incurable but totally vaccine-preventable disease from the world. Its first project to vaccinate children kicked off in the Philippines in 1979 and it currently records a 99% success rate excluding Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Polio is set to become the second human disease to be eliminated from the world, with smallpox being the first. To date, Rotary has helped 193 countries stop the transmission of polio through the mass immunisation of children. Sri Lanka is in the spotlight as the first country in South Asia to achieve 100% eradication and this will be further highlighted through Huang’s visit.
Speaking about the program, Huang said Rotary hoped to complete it by 2018: “We have worked very hard to eradicate this disease and we will never give up. We are very satisfied with the success rate and are now very close to ending polio. We hope to end it in 2018. Eradicating polio is our first priority, while we also focus on literacy, water sanitation, and environment protection.”

Rotary marked World Polio Day 2014 in October by announcing $ 44.7 million in grants to fight polio in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The financial boost supports immunisation activities, surveillance and research spearheaded by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
About $ 18.5 million will go to the three remaining polio-endemic countries: Afghanistan ($ 7.4 million) Nigeria ($ 8.4 million) and Pakistan ($ 2.7 million). An endemic country is one where the wild polio virus has never been stopped. Another $ 9.5 million is marked for previously polio-free countries currently reporting cases ‘imported’ from the endemic countries: Cameroon ($ 3.5 million), Ethiopia ($ 2 million) and Somalia ($ 4 million).
Meanwhile, $ 10.4 million will go to polio-free countries that remain at risk of re-infection: Democratic Republic of Congo ($ 1.5 million), India ($ 4.9 million), Niger ($ 1 million), South Sudan ($ 2 million), and Sudan ($ 1 million). The remaining $ 6.3 million will go toward polio eradication research.

Light Up Rotary
‘Light Up Rotary,’ the cycle ride to celebrate a polio free Sri Lanka, was held under Huang’s patronage on 15 December and was organised in partnership with Rotary District and Rotary Club of Down Town. It attracted over 200 cycling enthusiasts from all age groups, who participated in the exciting night cycle ride, building team spirit among the leading service-oriented entity in Sri Lanka.
Rotary International President-elect Ravindran, who also participated, has championed the polio eradication program in Sri Lanka since 1991 and gave leadership to the celebration initiative.
Commenting on the initiative, District Governor of Rotary Sri Lanka and Maldives Rajan said: “It is with great joy and happiness that I would like to state that Rotary Sri Lanka in collaboration with Rotary International was able to raise over $ 2 million to support the eradication of polio from Sri Lanka in a unique partnership with the Government of Sri Lanka in the past few years. ‘Light Up Rotary’ is a way for us to contribute towards society and our hearts will always be tuned into reaching out to them. The presence of Gary Huang is greatly valued amongst us Rotarians and we look forward to continuing success in the coming years.”
A key highlight of the event was the lighting of the Rotary flame, which is currently being taken around the world, while Sri Lanka was also part of the global rally to signify the eradication of polio in Sri Lanka. Proceeds of the event will be contributed to ‘The Rotary Foundation,’ in aid of service projects.

Greening Sri Lanka
Rotary’s One Million Trees Project will be kicked off today by Huang.
In the backdrop of Sri Lanka’s forest coverage having depleted drastically from 53% in 1990 to 29% in 2012 (UN Report, 2014), Rotary District 3220 has launched the ambitious flagship project in Sri Lanka to plant one million trees under the ‘Greening’ agenda.
The Ibbagamuwa Rotary Club has taken the leadership in propagating the nurseries by working with almost 2,500 farmer families in the vicinity with the approval of the District Secretariat and at present there are one million seedlings ready for planting at the nurseries of Ibbagamuwa.
The trees will be planted in a specific geographic area with the partnership of the Ministry of Irrigation and Agrarian Services – the selected area being the protected area of the banks of the six key reservoirs in the Kurunegala District. Each tree will be Google tagged in partnership with Google Earth so that sponsors could monitor the plant. Hatton National Bank is the Strategic Partner for the project.
Those who wish to participate in the project need to deposit Rs. 100 in the account ‘Rotary Tree Planting Project’ Account No. 003010505840 at any HNB Branch and mail the deposit slip along with the basic entry details on the brochure to Rotary District 3220 – Tree Planting Project, 316, D.S. Senanayake Street, Kandy or scan and email
Once the one million trees are planted, the next phase of the project will be certification for carbon credit and thereafter Sri Lanka’s export industry can purchase the carbon credits at a nominal price to ensure the neutrality of a brand on carbon footprint. The regulating agency for phase two will be the Sri Lanka Export Development Board whilst in the third phase Rotary plans to partner with the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce to set up the first biodiversity bank in Sri Lanka.

With some 34,000 Rotary Clubs worldwide and over 1.2 million members, Rotary plays an important role in helping shape the world, especially in terms of engaging the youth in making a difference. Established in 1905, it will turn 110 next year and has grown from strength to strength over the years.
“Rotary is one of the most senior NGOs and as a service organisation, we look at what the world needs and work to inspire, spread care and serve humanity,” asserted Huang.
While the organisation has been recording positive growth patterns, Rotary will also be focusing on increasing its membership in the year ahead, with a goal of 1.3 million members by next year.
Speaking of youth involvement in Rotary, Rajan said: “On 15 December, we organised a Rotary event, where 80% of the participants were youth. The age group was mainly between 16 and 35.”
Commenting on Rotary’s relevance to the youth, Ravindran said: “There are two things. Firstly, Rotary shows you that there are other things apart from earning a livelihood; there are a lot of people who are worse off than us. If you want your country to grow, you have to look after the people who are not doing so well. South Korea and Taiwan were countries that required massive aid to begin with; today they are giving aid to others. We need to help ourselves. The second thing is, through the Rotary network you are opening up global doors for networking which you will never have otherwise.”

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