Rotary Excellence Award

I have been the Brand Ambassador for Rotary International District 3211’s project for 2010-11. The theme of the district project was ‘Enable the Disabled.’ The activities of the project have been going on for the last 6 months and it will continue for the next 6 months and hopefully after that too.

Yesterday, 22nd January 2011, was the first day of ‘Sougandhika,’ the conference of the Rotary District 3211. I was a speaker at the conference. It was the first public function that I attended in the last 18 years.

I was presented with the PDG Ravi Karunakaran Memorial Rotary Excellence Award at the function. The award consists of a crystal plaque, a citation, as well as a cash prize of Rs. 50,000. The following is the speech that I gave at the conference.

Rotarians, ladies, and gentlemen,

A very good afternoon to you all. I am honored to be here today and I express my gratitude to the organizing committee of Sougandhika for giving me an opportunity to meet you all.

I am also thankful to you for awarding me the PDG Revi Karunakaran Memorial Rotary Excellence Award.

It is really gratifying to know that the project of Rotary district 3211 for the year 2010-11 is enabling the disabled. Paul Harris said, “Rotary’s supreme purpose is to serve; never has service been more appropriate than on the present occasion. How and where we shall serve remains for you to determine. May wisdom characterize your deliberations!” I congratulate you for choosing such a relevant and worthy theme for the project. Surely wisdom has characterized your deliberations!

You have already done a wonderful job under the wise and able leadership of your district governor Scraia Jose. He told me that you have already spent over 4.5 crores towards the district project. A limb camp for 500 and a project for providing wheelchairs for 1200 people are in the offing with the help of Rotarians from UK and USA. I salute you and those good men for the goodwill and kindness. I am sure you will produce spectacular results in the coming months. I wish you success in your mission to touch the lives and give wings to the dreams and aspirations of hundreds of disabled individuals and their families.

It was James Barrie, the Scottish author who said that those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves. I am sure that you are enjoying the sunshine in your lives by bringing hope to hundreds. May God be with you in your endeavors and guide you and aid you to achieve more and serve better.

According to available statistics, around 90 million Indians are disabled. Out of the millions of disabled people, only a small percentage gets proper education and healthcare. Even less people get employment.

Enabling and empowering the disabled means giving the disabled children proper education so that they grow up to become confident, capable, independent, and self-sufficient adults. Adults who suffer from disabilities should be properly rehabilitated making them employable so that they can look after themselves and their families without depending on others.

For empowerment to happen, the disabled people should be given education, training, healthcare, equipments, and opportunities. Education is critical to expanding the life prospects of people with disabilities. Generally, disabled people have much lower educational attainment rates. In even the best performing states, significant shares of children who do not get education are those with disabilities. For example, in Kerala 27 percent of disabled children are not getting their education.

Healthcare is another priority. Disabled people often find it difficult to get proper medical care as the local hospitals do not have the facilities to cater to the special requirements of the disabled. Lack of qualified healthcare professionals with special skills, knowledge, and expertise is another problem. These factors make it very difficult for the disabled people especially those from the economically backward sections to get proper medical care at the right time.

Prevention of disabilities involves improving the awareness among the general public about the causes and how to prevent them. The medical causes of disability are rapidly changing in India—from communicable diseases in the past to non-communicable diseases and accidents. Awareness improvement programs on safe working habits, road safety, safe driving habits, proper handling of accident victims, etc. can save people’s lives or at least reduce the gravity of the injury. Workshops and awareness programs can be conducted with the help of subject experts to improve the awareness levels of people.

Improving the quality of life is another area that should be addressed. Equipments and accessories like hearing aids, crutches, and wheelchairs will go a long way in improving the quality of life, mobility, and independence of the disabled. Accessibility is another critical factor. The buildings, buses, trains, and other public places should be made accessible and disable-friendly.

There is enough sympathy going around to make a lame man walk, but the disabled people do not need sympathy. They don’t need charity. What they need is empathy. And what you should do is service. It is like teaching a hungry man how to fish rather than giving him a fish. In the second case you feed him for a day, but in the first case you feed him for life. Similarly by enabling and empowering the disabled you are making them self reliant and self sufficient.

The disabled are more than capable of delivering the goods in the workplace, provided companies take the trouble to identify areas where the abilities of the handicapped can be put to productive use. From the experience of Titan Industries, which is a pioneer in enabling the disabled, the results are very positive. Four percentage of Titan’s workforce are disabled. Titan has realized that the disabled members of its family are more loyal and far more focused on the job. Despite the physical shortcomings of these employees, productivity and quality have never been issues. In Titan the disabled are no longer classified as disabled, but merely as ‘differently-abled’. Titan’s experience should be an inspiration to others for employing the ‘differently-abled’ people.

We can follow the example of organizations in countries like Vietnam where the disabled people have been successfully rehabilitated and employed. For example, the products by the organization Handicrafts by the handicapped by the Vietnam War victims are of highest artistic value and provide livelihood for many disabled people. The performance of the India chapter of the association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists, where they generate revenue by selling the paintings of the members is an example of the success of such efforts in our country.

There are millions of disabled people—people with varying degrees of disabilities. These people face many hardships and problems every day. Only God can make these issues disappear with just one touch of his hand.

But we, as individuals, can do small acts of kindness. It need not be very big. It can be small things like taking an accident victim to the hospital, sponsoring the education of a disabled child, providing employment for a disabled person, or giving a pair of crutches or a wheelchair.

The cumulative effect of these acts can be dramatic. As Leo Buscaglia, the famous American writer and motivational speaker said, too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.

An institution like Rotary with its vast resources can do much more. As the members of Rotary you are the people who create policies, make decisions, and take actions. The efficiency and effectiveness of your decisions and actions will make a difference to the disabled people of your district.

I wish you wisdom and courage to make the right decisions and the strength and stamina to execute them. I wish each and every one of you all the very best in your personal, professional, and social lives. I wish the conference all success.

Thank you.


  1. Bindu said,

    January 23, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    Congratulations!! No one deserves it more than and I am so happy for you!

  2. Bindu said,

    January 23, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    I meant no one more than you. Was very excited 🙂

  3. Paresh said,

    January 23, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    Congratulations! You desevre this recognition & the every other coming in the future. 🙂 I envy your capability to research & use it in such an inspiring manner. 🙂

    God bless you.

  4. Alexis Leon said,

    January 23, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    Bindu: Thank you Bindu for your wishes.

    Paresh: Thanks buddy.

  5. Jane said,

    January 24, 2011 at 8:14 am

    Congratulations Alexis, on the award. That was a good speech you gave. Wishing you the best and may you continue to be an inspiration to others.

  6. Susan said,

    January 24, 2011 at 9:51 am

    Congratulations!!!!!!!!!!!!! The speech is very touching.

  7. Maya said,

    January 24, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    Congratulations Alexis!!! I was there at the function. Your speech was great. I wanted to meet you, but by the time I came down you were already inside the van. Missed you by seconds. But once again my congratulations and best wishes.

  8. Rahul said,

    January 24, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    Congratulations Alexis on your achievement.

  9. Alexis Leon said,

    January 24, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    Jane: Thanks Jane.

    Susan: Thank Susan.

    Maya: Thank Maya. You could have called me, it would have been nice to meet you. I met a couple of my schoolmates there after a long gap of more than 25 years.

    Rahul: Thanks buddy.

  10. Biju said,

    January 25, 2011 at 10:34 am

    You desrve it ………. congrats……… Biju RC Puthuppally. 9447798831

  11. neermathalam said,

    January 26, 2011 at 1:37 am

    Congrats chettayi….way to go… !!!

  12. Sweetha said,

    January 26, 2011 at 4:24 pm


    Im soooo happy…..the Rotary has finally done something i really applaud!

    wish i was there on your first public event after such a long time….

    Congrats achach!….may the best always be yours.

  13. TME said,

    January 26, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    Congratulations, Alexis. The speech is really moving.

  14. Reji said,

    January 30, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    Well said and congrats Alex.
    Reminded of how seldom we reflect on or respond to the not so fortunate among us.
    Proud to tell all that Alex is my fiend from the good old days.
    Love always

  15. Alexis Leon said,

    January 31, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    Biju: Thanks Biju…

    neermathalam: Thanks buddy…

    Sweetha: Thanks Sweetha.

    Thulasy: Thank you Thulasy.

    Reji: Thanks buddy…

  16. Sheeba said,

    February 5, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    I proudly salute u, Alex !
    My hearty congrats for this prestigious Award presented to u, by Rotary International District 3211, and also for the great speech u delivered on that ever memorable occassion. After reading ur wonderful speech, I really wished, if I were one among the audience.there. I know, time never rolls back. But, I am sure I will see u again, delivering speeches on more and more esteemed rostrums, before curiously listening great audience.

    The amazing spark of positive energy in u, is spreading miraculous radiance of optimism n emotional strength in the lives of those who are thrown by fate to the gloom of agony n pain. I do pray to the Almightly to shower on u, the blessings of good health, immense happiness, peace and long life. We all love u, Alex..

    Lots of love n prayers for ur sweet wonderful family too…

  17. Alexis Leon said,

    February 24, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    Sheeba: Thanks Sheeba for your wishes…