Table Speech

“Rotary Foundation Month” Meeting
My Forty Years as a Rotary Foundation Alumna and Ten Years as a Rotarian

November 5, 2014

Ms. Hiroko Yunoki
1972-73 Rotary Foundation Scholar

 I became acquainted with Rotary when I studied at the University of Tours in France as the Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholar majoring in linguistics. My sponsor club was Konan RC in Aichi Prefecture and my host club was Tours RC. Tours is a beautiful town with many old castles, located about 230 kilometers southwest of Paris along the river Loire. The area is also known for being the home to the purest French language in France. I still feel much honored to have been invited to the District Conference to make a speech as well as to have been introduced to Count of Paris who owns the Château d'Amboise when I visited the castle on an excursion.

 I served as the Secretary when Kanagawa Shonan RC was founded. Currently, I am the chairperson of the group under the Rotary Foundation Committee of District 2780 and work to promote the new Foundation scheme as well as to assist applications for the district and global grant scholarships, vocational training teams (VTT) and global projects. I must admit the on-line application procedure is quite complicated and challenging, but to my great relief, we managed to get approvals for all the applications submitted.

 Now let me tell you how I became involved in the activities of Rotary Foundation and the alumni association. After returning from France, I have been based in Kamakura and was acquainted with Rotarians of District 2780 who gave me a chance to establish an alumni association with three other alumni. We set out to organize an overnight orientation for outbound students before departure. Students who returned to Japan after a couple of years became alumni members and took over various duties that have enhanced the alumni association. After some years, the orientation and send-off party came to be organized in collaboration with District 2590 and we received funding and guidance from the Foundation.

 In 2006, I was invited by the Foundation to attend the Organizers’ Meeting where I met past-Governors, District Coordinators and Rotary Foundation Committee Chairmen from around the world with extensive experiences. I learned from the meeting that host Districts go through orientations to welcome the scholars and felt we must also give an orientation to departing scholars to deepen their understanding of Rotary. I was assigned to organize orientations at a multi-district level. With the assistance of the Governor and the Secretariat, we invited other Districts to make a joint orientation. Unfortunately, we failed to get their participation. I had a chance to speak on orientation and share my experience as one of the panelists at the 2008 RI Convention in Los Angeles.

 Kanagawa Shonan RC was chartered on December 15, 2004. Its members consisted of ambassadorial scholarship alumni, former GSE (Group Study Exchange) members and past Youth Exchange students. We had held preparatory meetings many times to discuss the basic principles and agreed to implement activities enthusiastically and efficiently to help people around the world, while asking for minimum club fees and dues. I had phoned one or two alumni for about an hour or two every night after coming back from work and managed to secure the required number of charter members.

 Our Club has been implementing various fund-raising activities. Our first activity was in 2004 at Yokosuka. We sold handkerchiefs made by children in Aceh, Indonesia, that had suffered devastating damages from the tsunamis. We used the sale proceeds to donate books to libraries in Aceh. We also held a charity concert jointly with the alumni of District 2780 and built three libraries in villages in Aceh. We visited village chiefs to discuss how to run and manage the libraries. I am happy to tell you that there are eight libraries today, which are managed by the local NGOs.

 We called upon RCs throughout Japan to assist the Great East Japan Earthquake Rehabilitation Project. Thanks to the assistance from the Alumni Association and München-Bavaria RC in Germany, Odawara RC, Tokyo Yoneyama Yuai RC, Fukushima Global RC as well as District Designated Funds (DDF) from three Districts, we were able to secure the matching grants worth 10 million yen for the Project. We donated books to all the elementary and middle schools in coastal areas of Fukushima that had suffered devastating damages. We also installed a solar-generating water system at Shizugawa Elementary School in Minami-Sanriku town in collaboration with Hadanonaka RC.

 Our Club works closely with alumni associations. During the International Convention in Bangkok, we visited a home that takes care of street children together with the Alumni Association of Thailand. Many of our alumni are well-versed in foreign situations and know how to respond to the needs of local communities. We aim to implement projects that address the needs of recipients, by tapping into the expertise of our alumni.

 Looking back on my 40 years as a Rotary alumna and 10 years as a Rotarian, I feel privileged to have worked jointly with so many people to achieve so many different activities. Each experience has filled me with emotion. I have come to cherish the motto of Rotary “One profits most who serves best.” I have received much more help from others than what I have done myself. I am grateful to Rotary for giving me a chance to serve for others, which in return have given me precious support and guidance. I am determined to keep doing my best so that we can pass down what we have learned to the younger generations.