When Rotary International President Jonathan B. Majiyagbe
of Nigeria was unable to attend the Rotary District 3360 Conference in Phrae
last weekend, he sent outstanding Rotarian and Past District Governor Tjetje
Sjamsu of Indonesia to represent him.
delegation from Rotary Club Chiang Mai West, sitting from left, President
Manit Mantala, P.P. Somjin Ruangkit and Club Secretary Rachan Phonchevin
while Rotarian Frank Weicks and Dr. Rebecca Lomax stand behind.
Tjetje Sjamsu retired as a brigadier general from the
Indonesian Army in 1996. He then served as senior executive vice president
of the Indonesian Defense Industry and advisor to former Indonesian
President Habibe when he was minister of research and development for his
As keynote speaker to this gathering of over 200
Rotarians, he noted the past achievements of Rotary International and its
present worldwide status. Founded in 1905 in the United States, Rotary now
has 1,250,000 members worldwide in 36,000 clubs in 166 countries.
The Rotary International theme for 2004 is “Lend a
Hand”, and Tjetje Sjamsu ably illustrated how Rotary has lent a hand
through the years, as well as how the present and future activities of its
many clubs will continue to support this theme.
UNESCO has reported that there are over 900 million
people in the world who are illiterate, 2/3rds of those are women. 150
million children do not go to school. Of those who do begin their education,
1/3rd do not complete elementary school.
To address these deficits in education, Rotary
established a scholarship program in 1947. Since that time 35,000
scholarships have been awarded worldwide. In 2004 the first designated Peace
Scholars will graduate from college and enter the world political and peace
Rotary International has sponsored over 7,000 youth
exchange programs fostering understanding and friendship. Wearing t-shirts
with a motto of, “Building world peace and friendship one student at a
time”, several large groups of exchange students were in the audience for
Tjetje Sjamsu’s address. The exchange students, who represented Thailand,
Japan, Hungary, Brazil, Mexico and the USA, introduced themselves to the
gathering and played music and performed dances from their home countries.
Most of the students tried to introduce themselves in Thai language, and
their efforts were well-appreciated by the Rotarians.
In addition to student scholarships and exchange
programs, Rotary International has also supported 44,500 Group Study
Exchange programs in over 100 countries. Under the auspices of local Rotary
Clubs, small groups of young professionals work and study along side
professionals from other countries. A recent GSE program between clubs in
clubs in the United States and District 3360 exchanged teachers, dentists,
journalists, public relations specialists and travel agents who exchanged
ideas, culture and techniques to build lasting friendships. Tjetje Sjamsu
noted that Rotary International has invested over USD 73 million in hunger,
health and humanity programs. The Polio Eradication program alone has
invested USD 5 million in contributions by Rotarians to vaccinate children
against this devastating disease. Over 2 million children in 122 countries
have been vaccinated since the beginning of this program.
Once again according to UNESCO, over 1 million people in
the world suffer from some degree of hunger and malnutrition-related
diseases. Rotary International funding goes to programs to combat not only
hunger but also the causes of hunger.
Tjetje Sjamsu stated that the problems of the world are
so great that Rotary’s investments, no matter how large, cannot fully
address the need. But he also said that “however small our contribution,
maybe only a drop in the ocean of need, it means something to those
individual people we help.”
Rotary International’s theme “Lend a Hand”, and its
strategic plan calls for lending a hand to eradicate disease, provide
education, resolve international conflict and find lasting peace. Most of
all, “We will lend a hand to combat disease, we will lend a hand to help
educate those for whom obtaining an education has been a financial
impossibility, and we will lend the hand of friendship to Rotarians the
world over” -Rotarians who are actively working on these projects.