My Family of Rotary,

You will agree with me that we are going through an unprecedented period of uncertainty and the last couple of weeks have triggered a roller coaster of emotions: anxiety; fear; confusion; panic; and even anger. Just last week, we lost two great Rotarians in Uganda: President Ann Muhangi of RC Acacia Sunset and Rtn Charles Okolong of RC Bweyogerere-Namboole. The pain of these losses and those of other friends and relatives has been aggravated by our inability to stand with families and bid our loved ones farewell in the way we normally do.
The other week, Rotary leaders arrived at the painful decision of cancelling the RI Convention in Honolulu; and we quickly followed suit with the cancellation of our eagerly awaited 95th District Conference and Assembly. It was a difficult decision but the health and safety of our members remains paramount. While we will not enjoy the fruits of their labor, I would like to take this opportunity to recognise all the members of the DCA committee for their commitment to delivering what would have been a sterling DCA.
However even as we lament about the disruption that the COVID 19 Pandemic has caused our personal, professional and Rotary schedules, it is imperative to recognize that we still have a critical role to play. Never has our compassionate, collective and cohesive leadership been required more than it
is now. As People of Action, we are obliged to join and complement government efforts in flattening the curve; I have set up a D9211 COVID-19 Emergency and Support Committee to lead the District response for both Uganda and Tanzania.
Our theme this month is Maternal and Child Health. Much of our Rotary work in this area focuses on strengthening health systems and facilities to save the lives of mothers and babies during and after delivery. If there is one thing that COVID 19 has brought to the fore - it is the importance of strong and well-functioning health systems not just in urban centres but everywhere. I therefore commend all those clubs that are supporting health facilities in different rural communities and I encourage you to promote durable solutions – by not only focusing on infrastructure and equipment but also supporting capacity building efforts for health workers through VTTs.
But beyond the current crisis, I would also like us to direct our thoughts to the post COVID era. Even though we do not know everything, we can safely predict that the world will not remain the same. It will certainly not be business as usual. But as the saying goes, crisis situations are opportunities to either advance or stay where you are.” Fortunately for us in Rotary, objective No.4 of our Strategic Plan emphasizes the ability to adapt. And at this point, I would like to salute all the Rotary clubs in D9211 that have demonstrated great agility by swiftly adopting online meetings. Fellowship is the glue that keeps us connected and I am glad that we are maintaining this Rotary tradition during this crisis. As our founder Paul Harris observed,
“this is a changing world and we must be prepared to change with it.” There is no telling if online fellowships might not become the standard Rotary model.
On the other hand, how we engage our communities remains a challenge in this era of social distancing. But it is a very fluid situation and I encourage you to apply your best judgement and continuously adapt as the situation demands. Nevertheless, we should be aware and prepared for the likely increased demand for support from communities whose livelihoods are being disrupted. We can already see how poverty in our communities is constraining our ability to prevent disease. The question for all of us is: how are we going to increase our communities’ resilience and ability to weather such storms?
As we ponder on an uncertain future, I am proud of what we have accomplished this year and while the crisis is a setback, we still need to finish strong. We have challenges but also opportunities to provide leadership and mitigate this pandemic. When this is over, and it will be over, we want to look back on this moment & remember the many ways that we pulled together. Those small acts of kindness, done by us and to us.
Be safe and lets’ stay connected.
F X Sentamu
District Governor 2019 - 20
Rotary International District 9211