Program Report: District Governor Shafi Parekh

Durham Rotary Past President and Current Assistant District Governor, Susan Ross introduced the new District Governor, Shafi Parekh.  It is unusual to meet one man whose life illustrates both the international nature of Rotary and Rotary’s commitment to service, but DG Shafi certainly fills the bill.

After getting his degree in dairy and food science from the University of Reading in England, Mr. Parekh lived and worked in many places around the world including Cuba, Puerto Rico, Pakistan, Michigan, Texas and California. His Rotary history includes four districts including one in Pakistan, one in Michigan, one in Texas and now the one he leads, district 7710 here in North Carolina.

Of the four districts, he considers this one the best, which is an appropriate political statement, of course, but set the tone for his plans for individual clubs and the district.

For many years Rotary International has been concerned with the demographics of the membership, especially the average age. Goals have been set and the long term national goal is about 35% of membership to be under 40 years old. He talked about starting two clubs himself with very high percentages of under 40 members.

In a mature club like ours with reasonable retention of membership these goals may be difficult to reach but newer blood in the 10% range is attainable. Strategically, the objective is sustaining an active membership and service projects. Governor Parekh suggested several tactical solutions to achieving these goals including grabbing the “low hanging fruit.”  This means seeking out new members who already have knowledge of Rotary and/or a commitment to service. He mentioned transfers, youth exchange beneficiaries, Peace Corps members, and Junior Chamber members who have “aged out” of their clubs.

One of the challenges of his position as District Governor is to try to make the impact of the district greater than the sum of its parts. One of the initiatives that Governor Shafi described was the rebranding of what was once called a District Assembly to an All Clubs Conference and an effort to get more members to participate in these conferences and at the district level generally.

No address by a new District Governor would be complete with mention of Polio Plus, the importance of the Rotary Foundation or the CART bucket push for Alzheimer’s care and research.

Governor Shafi’s personal commitment to service was reflected in three projects he was involved in over the years that were mentioned in Susan’s introduction. These included Gifted and Talented programs he helped establish in three Michigan school districts. He also was behind the promotion of a Rotary Grant that provided surgical equipment for children suffering from cancer in Pakistan. He also initiated a prosthesis program in Pakistan that donated artificial limbs, an effort that was marked by watching the 1000th recipient walk on her own.

As it has been for many years, the leadership of our district appears to be in capable and compassionate hands.

Submitted by Jay Zenner

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