24th District Conference 1-3 May 2015

The 24th District Conference for District 3310 was held in Kuching from 1-3 May 2015. Rotary Club of Kuching Central, the home club of DG Andre Suharto played host and received delegates from United Kingdom (D3281), Japan (D2760), Bangladesh (D3281), Nepal (D3292), Malaysia (D3300), Indonesia (D3410) and Korea (D3620).

It all started with a ‘End Polio Walk’ at Riverside Majestic Hotel where hundreds of Rotarians gathered on the morning of labour day to start a 4km walk around Kuching. 3 Rotarians have just completed a grueling 11-day walk from Sibu to Kuching to raise funds for this worthy cause. They were AG Tay Wei Lien (Singapore), Dr Angamuthu Rajoo (Johor Bahru) and Mervyn Voo (Kota Kinabalu). They trekked through the jungles of Sarawak, often stopped by suspicious villages and completed a 420Km walk to raise awareness on the need to end Polio and to help Rotary Foundation raise funds. Every dollar raised by Rotary Foundation will be matched twice by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to eradicate Polio completely. At the end of the walk, Rotarians gathered for some photo taking and it’s noting that Rotaractors from Singapore also flew to Kuching to join in this meaningful expedition.

The ‘Welcome Dinner’ was attended by nearly 450 Rotarians dressed in Indonesian Batik and Past RI Director and RI President’s Representative Dr Keith Barnard Jones addressed the delegates with the need to look at how Rotary Clubs can function more effectively through great leadership and mentoring. More than 100 District awards were also given out on the night with several Assistant Governors bagging the Outstanding Assistant Governor award. Rotary Club of Singapore North would like to congratulate AG Rajamohan Munisamy from Rotary Club of Pandan Valley for being awarded the Outstanding Assistant Governor’s award.

The highlights of the event on 2 May were the inspiring speeches by invited speakers from all walks of life. In particular, two speakers stood out with their great conversational approach to address the audience. Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, a writer who championed women’s rights and an HIV/AIDS activist and TV producer spoke about ‘Values’. She recalled how her dad became a Rotarian in Malaysia, the values her parents instilled in her when she was young. What was noteworthy was the fact that she is straight-shooter who is never afraid of speaking her mind. She would not hesitate to reprimand government officials for their mistakes and would quickly address issues on hand to ensure the interests of the people are protected. You can read more her biography here. She writes regularly and her thoughts and opinions can be found on her blog.

John Soe, the Deputy District Governor from Indonesia struck me as an individual with great resilience. Plagued with Polio when he was four months old and abandoned by his own parents in a Medan hospital, John Soe is one individual who had a hard life since birth. No one came forward to take him home and the nurses cared for him for a few years before they sent him to a Catholic Orphanage in the same city. When he was in third grade, renovations in the Catholic Orphanage meant that he had to be sent him temporarily. The nuns found his mother but his mother refused to take him in. For a week, he was made to live on the outside of the house, in an mosquito infested courtyard and had to sleep on the floor. He was given food that were different from all his eight other siblings. After 10 days, the nuns took him back. Shocked at how bad he was bitten by mosquitos, the nuns never sent him back to his parents.

Plagued by Polio since young, John had difficulties with mobility but in 1973, a Dutch-Italian businessman by the name of Ted de Ponti, a Rotarian from Rotary Club of Singapore West visited the Orphanage and asked to adopt a child who had ‘never experience the feeling of being loved before since birth’. The nuns knew John was the natural choice. Ted de Ponti wanted him to be ‘someone’. It was Sunday, 13th June 1973; John found love.

Ted brought John to Singapore and underwent four operations, and after eight months in hospital, his right leg showed improvement. After the first operation, Straits Times ran a story about him; Mount Alvernia did the operation at no cost to him and Singapore Airlines even sponsored a return airline ticket for him. The money raised by Rotarians later went to his education. Today, John is a qualified architect and is married with a 25-year old son and 16-year old daughter.

Some blame their parents for their misfortune, while other blame God. John is able to lead a ‘normal’ life today because he blamed no one. He never even blame Polio for causing him to be wheelchair bound for his life. He has chosen to see things the positive way and there could never be a better story to tell to end Polio.

The audience was deeply moved and at the end of his speech, the entire ballroom stood to give him a standing ovation. John’s story can be found here.

More District awards were given out during the Governor’s Banquet on the evening of 2 May. PP Jayapal Ramasamy was awarded the Outstanding Rotarian award and Pres KS Low was among the 32 Presidents who was accorded Outstanding Club President. It was a year well worth the effort put in by the Board of Directors as well as members of Rotary Club of Singapore North. Congratulations to PP Jayapal and Pres KS Low.
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