Hair donation to help cancer patients
It was heartwarming to see college girls seated in rows holding up their shining locks of hair they have donated to The Cherian Foundation to make wigs for cancer patients during Project Eternal Eight 2.0 at the A M Jain College, Chennai.
A mega Rotaract project jointly organised by nine clubs led by RAC Blue Whales, RID 3232; three non-Rotaract entities including CSR Club of Ethiraj College for Women and GSS Jain College for Women, with the support of Naturals group of salons, the hair donation drive was covered widely in the local dailies and TV channels driving home the message the Rotaractors are striving to spread.
While the first edition of Eternal Eight during the Covid times in 2019 evoked partial response due to pandemic restrictions, “this time we had 700 Rotaractors, besides some public volunteers, donating hair to help cancer patients live with dignity,” says IPDRR G Kamuvel, charter president and mentor, RAC Blue Whales. “We are pleased with the response and feedback we got for the project, the aim of which is to provide ‘eternal’ joy to cancer patients with the ‘eight’ inches of hair being donated by each participant,” he explains. “Thanks to Rotaractors, the hair donation event has entered into the Virtue Book of World Records.” All the Rotaract clubs pooled in around ₹1 lakh for the second phase of hair donation which was presided over by Rtn Vinod Saraogi from RC Madras Central as chief guest.
With 38 members from diverse professions and social backgrounds, the 10-year-old community-based club has two flagship programmes reaching out to orphanages and special care homes. Project Kondattam (celebrations) is a mega day-out for around 550–600 children from 5–6 orphanages in and around Chennai who gather at a city/college auditorium for a range of cultural programmes. “We provide them with delicious food, snacks and refreshments in the course of entertainment shows. For Kondattam, we bank on sponsors like Ashok Leyland and EIPP Solutions who liberally donate for the event that cheer up less privileged children,” says Kamuvel.
Another initiative, Project Porattam (struggle) is a monthly activity wherein Blue Whale Rotaractors use their family ration cards to procure rice, pulses and other groceries, pack them in carton boxes and cloth bags, and deliver them to orphanages and roadside families. “Every month around 900–1,000kg of groceries including rice and other daily essentials are donated to children’s homes and homeless families.”
The club members pay the annual membership dues of ₹1,500 in two equal instalments . “After the new mandatory RI dues, we now pay around ₹740 per head as international dues, and use the balance for club activities,” says Kamuvel.
The club members meet twice or thrice a month to review ongoing projects and chalk out new programmes and events. “We have to raise our membership to 50 before June 30, the end of Rotary year, so that we have more hands, and ideas to take up diverse programmes,” says Maneesh Jain, club president. Their parent, RC Madras Esplanade, provides mentorship and motivates them to take up diverse projects.
A career break
Looking back over his 13-year stint as Rotaractor, Kamuvel recalls he joined the Rotaract club at Shree Chandraprabhu Jain College, Minjur, located on the city suburbs as a student of BCom. One of his memorable experiences was that as charter president of RAC Blue Whales, he led a Rotaract team to set up a village library at Annai Sivagami Nagar, a hamlet at Thiruvallur district near Chennai.
In the course of installing the village library, “I came in contact with village panchayat president V Veeramuthu who was a government contractor. He influenced me to take up government contracts as a business and now I am into executing contracts for thermal power stations,” says Kamuvel. “Thus, being in Rotaract and doing impactful projects shaped my career too.”
While he is keen to become a Rotarian next year, “I am yet to decide on the Rotary club. However, I want to be in the thick of action doing community projects and as a member of project team for impactful events,” he smiles.