Rotary District Conference showcases outstanding humanitarian projects

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Ancient Sukhothai enchants visitors with rich history and culture

Over 500 Rotarians from 55 clubs in District 3360 traveled to the historic city of Sukhothai for their annual conference on March 9 and 10, held at the Pailyn Hotel.

The purpose of a Rotary district conference is to provide opportunities for networking, listening to inspirational addresses by leading Rotarians and discussions of Rotary related matters.

During the 2 day seminar Rotarians are recognized for their humanitarian service programs, projects, and public relations achievements in the district in order to inspire other Rotarians to become more involved in service and at the same time enjoy a memorable fellowship experience.

PDG Peter, PP Chuthathip, PP Bumnan Chinavicharana, Chairman of the District Conference Organising Committee,  Amporn and DG Anurak Napawan at the opening ceremonies of the House of Friendship.PDG Peter, PP Chuthathip, PP Bumnan Chinavicharana, Chairman of the District Conference Organising Committee,  Amporn and DG Anurak Napawan at the opening ceremonies of the House of Friendship.

Rotary International President Sakuji Tanaka appointed Past District Governor Pratheep Malhotra as his personal representative to the conference which was ably chaired by District Governor Anurak Napawan.

District Governor Anurak Napawan makes his opening address.District Governor Anurak Napawan makes his opening address.

In his opening keynote speech Malhotra said, “I join with District Governor Anurak in extending a warm and heartfelt welcome to all attendees at this year’s fabulous and extraordinary District Conference held in the most beautiful and historic ancient city of Sukhothai. Sukhothai will not only enrich us with knowledge and awareness of Thailand’s rich and proud history, but the conference itself also promises to excite all of us with the feeling of Fellowship, Peace, Love and Rotary Knowledge, not to mention lots of fun meeting our friends from all over Thailand and around the world.”

PDG Peter went on to say, “This year, President Tanaka asks us to focus the energies of our clubs on the three priorities of the RI Strategic Plan which are: to Support and Strengthen Clubs, to Focus and Increase Humanitarian Service and to Enhance Public Image and Awareness.”

The two day conference saw Rotarians in Rotary District 3360 proudly present their outstanding programs and achievements in Rotary’s 6 areas of focus, namely: Peace and Conflict Prevention/Resolution, Disease Prevention and Treatment, Water and Sanitation, Maternal and Child Health, Basic Education and Literacy, and Economic and Community Development.

The conference was also attended by Rotarians from neighboring Laos who belong to the same district. Guests came from District 3280 in Bangladesh who were on a Rotary Friendship Exchange program, as well as over a hundred Youth Exchange students from Thailand and overseas.

PDG Vivat Sirijankapattana introduces PDG Pratheep Malhotra, RI President’s Representative.PDG Vivat Sirijankapattana introduces PDG Pratheep Malhotra, RI President’s Representative.

One very special guest was Past District Governor Steve Yoshida, organising chairman of the recently concluded Rotary Global Peace Forum in Honolulu, Hawaii. With him was Ms. Mya Thida of Myanmar who also attended the Peace Forum where they were privileged to hear a speech delivered by Aung San Suu Kyi on Peace and Prosperity for Burma.

One of the highlights of any conference is the governor’s dinner party and this year, Rotarians and guests were transported back in time to when Sukhothai was ruled by King Ramkhamhaeng the Great. The light and sound show was a tremendous experience for Thais and foreigners alike.

In his second keynote speech, PDG Peter read a letter sent by RI President Tanaka to PDG Chamnan Chanruang, parts of which said, “PDG Chanruang is the editor-in-chief of Rotary Thailand which was founded in 1983. The magazine reaches nearly 8,000 readers per issue and serves four districts in Thailand.

“Under PDG Chanruang’s leadership, the magazine’s quality has seen a dramatic boost over the years. Rotary Thailand exhibits a new sense of direction – one with crisp designs and bright, saturated colours on every page. The magazine is faithful to Rotary International’s guidelines and always goes above and beyond what is required by including additional features and advertisements relating to Rotary. Chamnan Chanruang’s professionalism and dedication to Rotary makes him an excellent example of Service Above Self. I wish him continued success in his Rotary service.” A proud and beaming Chamnan accepted the letter amidst thunderous applause.

On the second day of the conference, PDG Pratheep spoke of his visit to two humanitarian projects in the region, underscoring the sacrifice and dedication of Rotarians to reach out to those in need.

PDG Pratheep Malhotra delivers his first of three keynote speeches.PDG Pratheep Malhotra delivers his first of three keynote speeches.

“These past two days have been both exhilarating and heartbreaking,” said Pratheep. “Exhilarating because we had a once in a lifetime chance to come to Sukhothai and see for ourselves the heritage of our ancestors and our country. We are awed by the significance and historical value of every stone, figure and structure in and around Sukhothai and Sri Chatchanalai. The beauty and grandeur of the monument of Pho Khun Ram Khamhaeng, the great king and scholar who gave us the Thai alphabet.

“We visited Lamchoke, a remote community about 50 kilometres from town where the Rotary Club of Sawankhaloke North had just completed a project through a 1.5 million baht Global Grant together with the support of District 5170 in the USA to build a water supply system that would pump municipal water up a hill to supply a village of 80 homes. Situated on higher ground, there was no chance that water would reach their community. But Rotarians made it happen.

“A day later we visited a school for children with special needs where the Rotary Club of Sukhothai had also contributed funds for them to buy equipment used in hydrotherapy. It was delightful to watch as the toddlers splashed around in the humongous whirlpool tub. The pressure of the jets of water massages their muscles and makes them stronger.

“It was also quite educational as we saw them ride horses. ‘That teaches them to be alert and also to train them to balance themselves,’ the teacher explained. At the same time, it was truly heartbreaking as we watched these unfortunate children struggle through the painstaking process of learning to read, write, draw, colour, to walk and to speak.

“We met a girl who we were told was 12 years old. She was there with her grandfather, as her parents were at work. The director of the school said that she had a mental state of a one year old. She could not speak nor did she seem to comprehend anything that was going on around her… and she was such a pretty girl.

PDG Peter reads a letter of commendation from RI President Sakuji Tanaka to PDG Chamnan Chanruang.PDG Peter reads a letter of commendation from RI President Sakuji Tanaka to PDG Chamnan Chanruang.

“She had to be held close all the times for fear of her wandering off. It was truly a sad sight. Tears rolled down our cheeks as we stood watching helplessly.

“I’m sure all of us there silently thanked God that He had blessed us with healthy children and prayed that He look after these children and give them a chance to live as normal people in this lifetime. We also thanked God for placing kind hearted teachers and volunteers who sacrifice their time in caring for the children. I was touched and awed by their patience and determination to care and teach these children.

PDG Steve Yoshida, and his team speak about the Rotary Global Peace Forum in Honolulu, Hawaii.PDG Steve Yoshida, and his team speak about the Rotary Global Peace Forum in Honolulu, Hawaii.

“There is no doubt that there are millions of people in the world that are in need and are suffering from some infliction or the other and at the same time there are millions of men and women who weep for them. Amongst those compassionate people are 1.2 million Rotarians.”

RI President Tanaka said, “Through our service, we learn that the problems that may seem large to us are really very small. We learn empathy for others. We come closer to people who seem very different from us. And we begin to understand how alike we really are.

Youth Exchange students carry international flags at the opening ceremony.Youth Exchange students carry international flags at the opening ceremony.

“Putting Service above Self allows us to focus our energies on what is truly important. We put the common good above our own. We value the needs of others over our own desires. We think less about ourselves and more about what is best for everyone. And in this way, we help to build the foundation for a more peaceful world.

“However we define peace, whatever peace means to us, we can bring it closer through service.”

Peter concluded by saying, “Peace through Service. Remember this theme well, because the true meaning will be revealed to you bit by bit for the rest of your lives. When the world and humanity have no more needs and our services are no longer needed, then and only then are we at peace.”

PDG Chamnan Chanruang, PDG Chaisin Maninan and DGE Suparee Chatkunyarat enjoy the proceedings.PDG Chamnan Chanruang, PDG Chaisin Maninan and DGE Suparee Chatkunyarat enjoy the proceedings.

PDG Supawat Poowakul, PDG Peter and batchmate PDG Pornsak Uerprasert at the plenary session.PDG Supawat Poowakul, PDG Peter and batchmate PDG Pornsak Uerprasert at the plenary session.

Rotary gurus PDG Xanxai Visitkul and PDG Chow Nararidh, never miss an important Rotary functionRotary gurus PDG Xanxai Visitkul and PDG Chow Nararidh, never miss an important Rotary function

The evening’s light and sound show depicting the era of King Ramkhamhaeng the Great was an extraordinary experience.The evening’s light and sound show depicting the era of King Ramkhamhaeng the Great was an extraordinary experience.

The visit to the school for children with special needs was an emotional one.The visit to the school for children with special needs was an emotional one.

PDG Preecha Jadsri (right) updates PDG Peter and DG Aurak on the progress of the water project.PDG Preecha Jadsri (right) updates PDG Peter and DG Anurak on the progress of the water project.