While the leaders of the world’s foremost service organisation were busy going about their business of service to mankind, the spouses took time to visit some of the humanitarian community projects that are supported by Rotarians in Pattaya.
Binota Banerjee presents a donation for the welfare of the orphans to Father Michael.
On May 12, the group of 25 ladies, led by Binota Banerjee, wife of the RI president, together with Kyoko Tanaka and Jetta Burton, spouses of the incoming presidents of Rotary in the years 2012-13 and 2013-24 respectively, paid a visit to the Pattaya Orphanage.
On their arrival they were welcomed by Father Michael Weera, director of the orphanage, and Ms. Radchada Chomjinda, director of the Human Help Network Thailand.
Guests were given a brief introduction to the orphanage and how it was founded by Father Raymond Brennan, a priest from Chicago who gave his life in the service of all children. Father Ray was also a Rotarian and served as president of the Rotary Club of Pattaya in 1977-78.
Binota Banerjee expresses her feelings to Radchada Chomjinda during the briefing session.
The highlight of the visit was when the ladies were permitted to visit the nursery where they were able to meet, hold and give love to the little babies.
The benevolent ladies were then led into a playroom which looked like a mini Disneyland. Here they played with the children who rode around on their tricycles and jumped around in the air-filled castles, squealing and laughing with happiness.
In an exclusive interview with Pattaya Mail TV, Binota Banerjee said, “I have been to hundreds of orphanages in the world, but I have never seen a cleaner and more hygienic home than this one. You have really organised this home well and I see that the children are so well taken care of. I am truly impressed.”
Jetta Burton (right) claps and sings together with a very happy child.
As part of their tour, Radchada took them on a private visit to Father Ray’s office. Very much like the original office of Paul Harris, the founder of Rotary, Father Ray’s office is preserved in its original layout with all the furnishings and documents remaining where they were as if Father Ray would come to work every day.
Meanwhile, the ladies did not come to the orphanage empty handed. A collection had been taken beforehand and Binota ji presented a token of love and care to Father Michael to be used in supplementing the children’s needs.
Binota Banerjee spoke to Pattaya Mail, telling us of her life as wife, mother and first lady of Rotary International. “My husband and I are originally from Calcutta, but because of his business we moved to Mumbai and then on to Vapi in Gujarat state where he set up a business and joined the Rotary Club of Vapi.
“The past three years have been a very hectic period of our lives as we had to move to Rotary International headquarters in Chicago, USA, to prepare for taking up the responsibilities of the president and first lady.
Rashi Metha has her hands full with these two super active boys.
“Our travels have taken us far and wide and we have visited many countries in the world where Rotarians are very busy serving the needy and underprivileged.”
Asked in which country Rotarians impressed her most, Binota said, “Having travelled to so many countries, our lives are like on a roller coaster. Rotarians are very active all over the world. Basically Rotarians anywhere in the world are all the same. They may look different and speak different languages but they have the same ideals and follow the same motto, ‘Do good, do good for the poor, do good for the other people. There is absolutely no difference amongst the Rotarians anywhere in the world.’
“Rotarians are helping in many fields. Because of the diversity of membership, our organisation’s has 1.2 million members from practically every vocation. That is the good thing about Rotary.
“There are many countries which desperately need help, though. Places like East Timor, South Sudan, Afghanistan, to name but just a few. Haiti needs a lot of medical help, so my husband established a hospital there.
“South Sudan needs practically everything. They don‘t have any infrastructure at all. Indian engineers are helping with a lot of construction work in Afghanistan. Rotarians are helping to give education and health care to people in India and many other countries where they are most needed. In India, Rotarians have helped set up schools at railway stations, where the platforms are converted into classrooms. The youth are taught simple vocations such as becoming good shoe shine boys or even to learn how to make sweets and snacks to be sold to the hundreds of thousands of people who use one of the world’s largest and most intricate railway systems.
“Another area of high concern is the trafficking of women. In Nigeria, local Rotarians are fighting vigorously alongside the authorities to help eradicate these immoral practices.
“Even the affluent societies need our help. In Australia I was saddened to see that the youth who have practically everything are not happy for one reason or another and sadly there is an alarming rate of suicides amongst the young people.
“In Chicago where we are based, there is an area where even though the people receive a lot of welfare care, they are not happy. My husband and I visit these unfortunate people often, spending time with them and making them feel loved.
“But of course Rotary’s foremost campaign is the eradication of polio. We have had no cases of polio in India for over a year and we are watching the situation closely in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. We are ‘this close’ to ending polio and Rotary will not stop our fight until we have achieved that goal.”
Binota said that she is looking forward to going back home to India at the end of President Kalyan Banerjee’s term of office on June 30. “It will be good to go home, but believe me we will be as busy as ever. We run a 300 bed hospital for the poor where no medical fees are charged. We also operate a nursing college, a pharmaceutical college, a commercial college and an arts college amongst the many other projects that my husband has set up.
“We are also looking after more than 200,000 tribal people near our home town. We care for their medical wellbeing and teach them modern agricultural methods for a better yield. We also manage the marketing of their produce so that they will not to be taken advantage of by the middle men and get a fair price.”
At the end of their tour the ladies were treated to lunch at the Indian by Nature Restaurant. Av Khanijou, the charming and multi-talented landlady of the fine dining establishment, ensured that the group of international ladies received the best of Indian cuisine and hospitality.
Binota expressed these feelings on behalf of the group, “The past week has been one of the most memorable periods of our lives. We are overwhelmed by the kindness and love afforded us by the Thai people.
“We are also so moved to see that Thais are benevolent and their good work for humanity can be seen through the thousands of Rotarians who are networking in their communities, doing all they can to help bring education, better health and sustainable livelihoods to their fellow man.”
Asked whether she would come back to Thailand again, with a gleam in her eyes Binota exclaimed, “We love Thailand and will definitely return to meet you again someday. After all my daughter-in-law is a Thai.”
Binota spends a few happy moments playing with a little girl.
Kyoko Tanaka gives a gentle push to the little boy’s tricycle.
Everyone gathers for a photograph in front of Father Ray’s statue, the beloved father and founder of the Pattaya Orphanage.
PDG Peter Malhotra informs the ladies of the R.O.S.E. (Rotary Orphans Student Exchange) program which gives orphans a chance to study for a year in Australia. This is a project between the Rotary Club of Eaglehawk in Bendigo, Australia and the Rotary Club of Jomtien-Pattaya.
Binota Banerjee is thrilled as she receives a gift of love and appreciation from the Rotary International directors’ spouses.
After a strenuous day, the Rotary spouses sit down to an exotic meal at Indian by Nature.
Binota thanks Betty Rozanski, who was instrumental in organizing the visit to the Pattaya Orphanage and the lovely Indian lunch, and Av Khanijou (2nd right) proprietress of Indian by Nature for her superb hospitality. On hand to ensure that all went well were Sue Kukarja (right), PDG Pratheep Malhotra and PDG Premprecha Dibbayawan (back row).