Talking Rotary

Changing Lives with Mohan Kumar

April 04, 2022 Winnipeg Charleswood Rotary Club Season 2 Episode 13
Changing Lives with Mohan Kumar
Talking Rotary
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Talking Rotary
Changing Lives with Mohan Kumar
Apr 04, 2022 Season 2 Episode 13
Winnipeg Charleswood Rotary Club

This time on  Talking Rotary  we speak with proud Rotarian Mohan Kumar. Mohan is a master trainer, a Rotary champion of health and a diversity advocate.

He changes lives my helping to provide artificial limbs to those in need. Learn more about his work by following these links:

The Ellen Meadows Prostectic Hand Foundation
https://ln4handproject.org

The Health Education and Wellness Rotary Action Group
https://www.hewrag.org

You can also contact Mohan directly at mohan@rotarybangaloreprime.org

Show Notes Transcript

This time on  Talking Rotary  we speak with proud Rotarian Mohan Kumar. Mohan is a master trainer, a Rotary champion of health and a diversity advocate.

He changes lives my helping to provide artificial limbs to those in need. Learn more about his work by following these links:

The Ellen Meadows Prostectic Hand Foundation
https://ln4handproject.org

The Health Education and Wellness Rotary Action Group
https://www.hewrag.org

You can also contact Mohan directly at mohan@rotarybangaloreprime.org

Peter Tonge:

Welcome to this episode of Talking Rotary. I'm Peter chi and I'm a member of the Rotary Club of Winnipeg Charleswood.

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And I'm Mandy Kwasnica the Past President and also a member of the Rotary Club of Winnipeg, Charleswood. We are so happy you joined us here and I are so excited for this new podcast and thankful to our many listeners. Let's start talking Rotary.

Peter Tonge:

Hi, everyone, welcome to another episode of Talking Rotary. And I am here with Mohan Kumar. And Mohan is in Bangalore, India. I can also tell you that Mohan was the charter president of the Rotary Club of Bangalore prime. Welcome Mohan. How are you?

Mohan Kumar:

Thank you, Peter. I'm doing excellent. Nice to meet you.

Peter Tonge:

Nice to meet you. Nice to chat to you. I appreciate your time. And as I was saying, Before, we started looking to start a little bit by telling us something about Bangalore for our listeners that don't know much about it.

Mohan Kumar:

That's lovely. Bangalore is a lovely place. It's in the southern part of India, the population is about 12 million. Quite a big city, okay. And it is known as the Silicon Valley of India. So it is a it hub. Okay. And it's a cosmopolitan city. And earlier, it used to be known as the Garden City, and a lot of trees. And let's say it's a beautiful place. I've been living here for almost about 40 plus years.

Peter Tonge:

So really, yes, you only look like you're 42. So so how many Rotary Clubs are there in the Bangor area?

Mohan Kumar:

Yeah, so I belong to a district, Rotary International District A 3190. Right. And Bangalore is also part of it. And we have about 100 Plus Rotary Clubs in Bangalore.

Peter Tonge:

Wow. And and do the Rotary Club sort of work together on some common themes? Or is everybody's kind of doing their own thing?

Mohan Kumar:

Oh, yes, definitely. There are a lot of common projects that what we work around, and one of the projects that definitely is the flagship project of Rotary, that is the polio eradication program we all get together. Right? We have we have a lot of activities almost on a monthly basis. We have an inter city general forum, where all the Rotarians of the district meet. And so we have a lot of common activities, the bonding, the bonhomie comradery, is at its best.

Peter Tonge:

So those must be relatively large meetings, if it's bringing all those Rotarians together.

Unknown:

Yes, absolutely. If you take if you take our district conferences, now we have numbers of about 2000 to 3000 people participating in that. And if you take th e average district events, it's about 800 - 1000. Rotarians and the families getting together, so it is big.

Peter Tonge:

Wow, . It's certainly a now,, during this COVID period. Were you able to have polio vaccination days?

Mohan Kumar:

Yes. Yes. In fact, just on June 23. I mean, I mean, last week, we had that, and it was quite a successful program. And it still continues, it still continues.

Peter Tonge:

Oh, that's fantastic. Now I know that you are one of the leaders of the rotary Leadership Institute in South Asia. What can you tell me about that?

Mohan Kumar:

Yes, this is something that is very dear to me. The rotary Leadership Institute is basically a grassroot level, learning and development initiatives for the Rotarians where we create hunger for knowledge. And it's an experiential learning and development platform, where we look at this experiential learning, leading to some outcomes as such. So we are part of rotary leaders in short, South Asia, where we have India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Maldives, Bhutan, and I'm the Joint Secretary for the rotary leadership in South Asia. And I'm also one of the six master trainers in South Asia. So I thoroughly enjoy my learning and the sharing he gets with Rotarians across South Asia.

Peter Tonge:

Now, how often would you do a training session yourself?

Mohan Kumar:

Oh, Peter, that's a very interesting question. In fact, you will be surprised in the pandemic. Probably in the last one and a half year I have conducted more than 100 Such sessions. So across India and Sri Lanka, such so almost every weekend on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday, I get to do one session. So I have I have one more session today evenings, so my weekends are gone, as far as the roti Leidseplein suit is concerned.

Peter Tonge:

Okay, so you're going to have to have a nap between the time we record this podcast.

Mohan Kumar:

That's that's a long way to go. It's about another eight to 10 hours. Exactly. I have a whole day to work. And my training is from about 415. Nine did set a time.

Peter Tonge:

Now, does the very Leadership Institute to sort of one one level of training or one class of training build on the next one? Is that desert sort of a set sequence?

Mohan Kumar:

Absolutely. Were very interesting question. So basically, if you look at the rotary Leadership Institute, a curriculum, which is actually developed in the United States, by the rotary Leadership Institute, or the headquarters, so it has got basically three parts part one, part two, part three, the Part One looks at not building an individual as a lower rotation, the Part Two looks at know how an individual can take this forward to what club level, the part three looks like, right at the leadership at a global level, where you're able to contribute to beyond a club level as such. So there are totally about a 17 topics in each one of them. Part One has guts, six, part two has got six, and part three has got five topics, so totally about 17 topics.

Peter Tonge:

So typically, how long would it take a Rotarian to go through those 17 topics and, and sort of get their certification from the leadership of?

Mohan Kumar:

Yeah, so So typically, if you take each of the topic, right, we give about a one and a half hours of time. And so so sick topics, especially in the pandemic, what we've been doing is we've been conducting these programs in the weekends, that's on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Okay, so on one particular weekend of Friday, Saturday, Sunday, right, you complete the first part, right? You take some time, whatever you learned, you go back and then implement. And then you come back and then complete Part Two. And similarly go and implement this at your club level. Come back again, for part three. And once you're done with part three, you are a graduate. Okay. And of course, post graduation. Some people do also take up the training to become a discussion leader. And me being a master trainer, right? I do train people to become discussion leaders. I just completed one in person trainings and in a place called Goba. In India, okay, and everybody, we're just waiting, no to beat and we had about 300 or 350 Rotarians come from all over and then meet and go through this process for three days.

Peter Tonge:

Fantastic. You bet it must be must be fine that as the as the trainer to sort of see people grow and develop as they go through the program.

Mohan Kumar:

Absolutely, absolutely. And it is mutual, it is mutual. So what happens is we also learn in the process, we also learn in the process. So we see some budding Rotarians they come they pick up the skills, the knowledge, gone up like themselves, and most of them are successful at most of the leadership's it could be at a president level. And even at a district governor level. It's been very common these days for the district governor elect or the nominees also to take up not these courses. Clearly it is very effective.

Peter Tonge:

Oh, fantastic. That's that's an important contribution to make the rotary but I know you do so much more because I know from reading that you've been named one of rotary International's six Champions of Health. So what's the work you've been doing this brought to you that rather officious title.

Mohan Kumar:

Oh, this was a very nostalgic moment when I received the email communication from Holger neck then the RIT recently I've been nominated as the Champions of Health as part of our peoples of action. And it was a great moment to be. So it all started in about 2007 When I was the club Secretary of my former club, because the foundation in the US called the ln metals, prosthetic hand Foundation, alright, so they had come down to Bangalore, and they were looking down for Club, which could probably take up this prosthetic hand project. And somebody suggested that our flub, but now would be the best club. because up till date, we've been conducting a limb cam, where in the first week of January, we have people coming over from all over South India. And these are people who are basically afflicted by polio. And now because of amputations due to diabetes and accidents, they receive lower limbs are typically below knee above knee, crutches callipers, wheelchairs, try cycles. And we also extended this project he went to conducting polio corrective surgeries, we have conducted about we are conducted about 875 polio corrective surgeries. And I also had the fortune of extending this project to hip replacement surgery to support 70 hip replacements have been conducted. So for the past 20 to 23 years, about 45,000 people have benefited from this prosthetic limb project. So when did the foundation people team came and met us in Bangalore, we were the ideal choice to take up this project. So we took up this project and a couple of years, we just tried this in our annual limit camp. And I had an opportunity wants to go to Thailand for our international convention, okay, and then happened to me to Jim Yoder, one of the vice presidents of this island metals prosthetic hand Foundation, and then we got confidence that we could do so much more. So I traveled across India, speaking at district conferences, district as a leash at the local club meetings and building capacities. And so, what is to happen is once we go and speak, people knew that yes, there is a lot of need as far as artificial hands is concerned. And in India, about 75% of these people who basically have lost their hands are in the rural parts of India. And even if we look at the official census, which says about 2% of Indians are differently abled, and within that to 2%, we have at least about 4% of the people who have lost their hands. So lost their hands could be because of a congenital issue, or probably it could be because of some industrial accident working right in the agricultural farm equipment. Or it could be an electrocution, or it could be you know, road and train accidents or such. Sure. Okay, so so so what happened was when we started this in about 2007, we found that people live alone access and affordability towards a prosthetic hand, they didn't have even information what to do, right if you have a missing limb, for any other reason. So so it was quite a challenge for us to reach out to those people. And the rotaries network is one of the biggest assets. So what we did was we went and reached out at the grassroot level, by various means write off the public image as such. So we use print medium, we used the electronic media we use to social media. And in some cases, actually, people went down on a door to door campaigning, and then we were able to reach out. First time a camp is conducted, then the local clubs actually go and support the nearby Rotary Clubs when they intend to take up this project. And in the whole process, since we started about 2007. So far more than about 24,000 people have benefited from this particular project, and probably this almost equal into about at least 12% of India's artificial needs sense.

Peter Tonge:

Wow, that's amazing. Please tell me a little bit more for the clinic day. If if you're having a clinic day what happens on that day?

Mohan Kumar:

Typivally what happens is the project is publicized, and then people actually register. So the registration processes, they send the pictures of the hand, right through WhatsApp. And then we qualify people because one of the criteria to receive this free below elbow mechanical LM for a prosthetic hand, is you need about four inches of radius recipient stump below the below the elbow. So we do shortlist these people, they come down on the assigned day. So on this particular day, on this particular day, the there is a process where initially they come and register. And it's completely free, of course. And in the registration process, all the basic demographic details are captured their name, age, sex, what's the location, what the reason for the loss of limb and all those sort of things, then there is a qualification process. So we have a team that will look into whether they will qualify. Basically, as I told you, as this is a below elbow prosthetic hand, so we will look at whether there are about four inches of stump. And if they do qualify at the club that the next processes are like, we take a picture of them without right the prosthetic hand. And then later, they go to the table where the actual treatment is done. And these are again volunteers, and they are competent in their profession, and most of them are Rotarians, they fit the hand. And then they also get trained, trained in terms of how to use the prosthetic hand, it could be putting a pen and then writing it would be right using a spoon or a fall using a knife to cut up fruit or probably take a mop stick and then how to mop right use probably a mug and try to no bait. So these sort of trainings are provided where the individual what they will do is right, they will actually try to fit the hand to themselves. So that when they go back home, they are comfortable as such. So once the training process is completed, then we have one of the most critical processes where we also provide counseling, counseling is very important because these people would have lost their hands 1520 years back, and they've been completely depressed in life, because they have absolutely no hopes as such. So the product can do good to there. But then you need to motivate them telling that the life's can be better when this particular prosthetic hand. So we have professional counselors who come and then counsel them on a on a on a one to one basis. And postdoc counseling, all of us feel good that when whenever we go anywhere, we like to take back something so like a brownie thing in a bike, we put them give them some books, some any articles that can be of some utility value. And some Rotarian sponsor, whatever they have. And then they go back smiling.

Peter Tonge:

So just throw you under understand soon. So the actual fitting and training and practice are all done right there on that on the clinic day.

Mohan Kumar:

Absolutely, absolutely. So typically, typically it is a one day process from morning to evening. We start about 830 in the morning, and probably about four or five o'clock. It again depends on the size of the beneficiaries, the smallest of the camp, that what we have done is for about 35 people who have benefited. And last November, we had a very big gap, probably one of the largest in the world, I could say where we had 1279 people benefit from this. So because of the COVID protocols restriction on the huge numbers, we spread this over a period of three days. So if you so if you take about the 1002 79 we had at least about 300 or 350 volunteers know who made this happen.

Peter Tonge:

Wow. I think that's remarkable that it all basically hits good standard in a day what a transformation for somebody that arrives without a limb to the point where they're, they're at least starting to use the new lemon the same day. Absolute absolutely, absolutely remarkable.

Mohan Kumar:

Now he does he doesn't stop there. So what happens is what happens is once they go home, right, they are very excited. Now they ride a bike and they use it to to have the fruit or ladies no rolling bread or something like that. They come back and then they share this videos and that is where we are so happy that our work has translated and Thinking back that smile at the club back. So so that's the beauty of the whole process. Yeah,

Peter Tonge:

I think that's pretty basic. Yeah. I'm also wondering is do do the people that have taken part in the clinic, if they're from the same area? Do they tend to just stay in touch and sort of support each other as well, they've had that kind of feedback.

Mohan Kumar:

So yeah, we were trying to we're trying to create the self help group where they can actually be in touch with them, and probably share their experiences, etc. And we also do have some of them who actually come back and then volunteer for the camps. So we have, we have one volunteer from a place called the Puna in India, and his name is Hassan, Mir, and he has lost writers times. And then what happens is, he's very good at training. So he actually comes and then trains people to say, look, I didn't have a hand before. By using this process, they can learn so much that what I can do, and he brings him back that confidence. So many people also do come back and then say, Can I do something I want to give back for what you guys have done to me, and that's what people come and participate

Peter Tonge:

that great.

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Peter Tonge:

Now are the are the limbs manufactured locally in India?

Mohan Kumar:

No. This limbs are basically the parts are manufactured in the USA, okay. And these parts are then assembled in corporate training events as part of the team building exercise, very unique, it's very unique. So, about four to six people sit on a table and these people assemble the hands and then what happens is they go back to the US and it comes back to countries like India. So presently, this team building events take place by a company called Odyssey which is supporting us through the foundation that the ln metals plus that they can foundation. So these events are conducted in USA, Australia, UK, Germany, and they're also by exploiting and this is provided to us at absolutely at no cost and be to intern provide the prosthetic hands at no cost to the beneficiaries Great.

Peter Tonge:

Now, if there are other Rotary clubs in the world that would like to become involved in this project or work with the foundation how would they go about doing that?

Mohan Kumar:

So today if you take it there is a rotary action group called hHEWRAG does health education, wellness or Rotary action group. So I've been driving this prosthetic limb at a global level through this Rotary action procure right so they can get in touch with me. You have my email and I will also provide my email. My email is mohan@rotarybangaloreprime.org So I would be very happy to assist any Rotary club that would like chili like to take it up. So if you take our journey, it was a wild ride beyond India. I've sent I've supported Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, and I was in Zambia a couple of years back before the pandemic, so to conduct the camp, and initiated the process in the pandemic virtually where we have initiated this, Mauritius and Jan 23rd. We were supposed to go to Nigeria for a clinic, but it got postponed because of this pandemic. And now I'm in the process of supporting Tanzania and Nepal too. So anybody at any given point of time can reach out to me and I represent this foundation as a global ambassador for the alignment of prosthetic hand foundation. I will be very happy to extend our services making such

Peter Tonge:

Fantastic no you and I became connected because of your interest in Diversity Equity and Inclusion and I I take it that that came out of this this work with prosthetics

Mohan Kumar:

Oh absolutely. So, if you look at it, even look at it that Rotary has speaking about Diversity Equity and inclusivity of play. And if you look at most of the combination communication of the practices, they are more right internal to rotary. So, basically, I'm a Project man, then I said another D AI has to be extended external to routing. So, that is where that is where if you look at the prosthetic limb project, so when we speak about diversity, so we are talking about diversity, right off the recipients, right, diversity, right off the volunteer diversity, write up the thought process that come actually to solve a particular challenge that what we have, and then when it comes to equity, there is some amount of customization that will be required. So that is where we ensure that even though people sometimes can't use the standard prosthetics right, there is a lot of right innovation and creativity that happens because of the localization process. By this by this What are you doing is I mean, you are ensuring right everybody is able to use the prosthetic, because one size does not fit all. So that is where the equity part comes in. The inclusive part comes in where you make them feel comfortable telling that yes, we are here for you to care, you are not isolated. So today, if you look at it in the month of April, as part of the Rotary International presidential conference, in a city called Hyderabad in India, we are actually gonna pay even for the travel of the volunteers to come and receive this prosthetic hand, this is the inclusive part. So people here what happens is because of their core economic conditions, you will know this is being offered, they may not be able to come and then receive the issue because they will not have the money to travel. So this is how this is how you bring inclusively into this project. So and I did write about this on the Rotary International blog. I've been blogging quite frequently, both on projects and other things. And I did write an article recently on strategic planning to. And so when we look at strategic planning, there is a fellowship group on strategic planning called strategic planning, offer the Rotarians fellowship group, and I'm the director for South Asia for that. So do conduct a lot of trainings on strategic planning. So if you look at the actual plan, the action is at the ground level, w hether it is knowledge, or it is a project. So it is transformation at the end of the day,

Peter Tonge:

Absolutely and I know that you've written passionately about the fact that the diversity equity inclusion has to be a key part of Rotary. So I can you tell me a little bit about that, why I agree with you. But I want you to tell me why you believe that's such a key part of what we do.

Mohan Kumar:

Absolutely. So today, if we look at it, we are talking about we are talking about no when we're talking about gender, so we're looking at no more than a women to be part of our rotary journey. So if we look at the global average of about 21 to 23%. And India is about 70 to 80%. So we'd like to have right Whoa, more women not come on join. So we're looking at gender diversity. We're also looking at no age diversity by more and more rotaractors actually coming and joining right us in the rotary journey as such. So today, the numbers are not that good. But with so much of emphasis being given on the road tractors, I'm sure we will be able to make right a difference. And at the end of the day, there is so much of learning from the road tractors today. If you look at the gender diversity in protractor, it's more than about 50%. So Rotary has a lot to learn from protractors. Right. So so so that's how we're going to look at the diversity part and declare that and I'm sure the inclusive part makes a lot of difference. Because if every Rotarian is engaged, then what happens is we are not going to have the sort of iterations of what we have hired since the past 15 years. So our numbers will definitely change With so much of emphasis being given by the president RI President Shekar Mehta of each one, bring one at some given day, we're going to see that numbers change at the club. So I think from that perspective, di is very, very essential. We need to make sure that diversity that what we have fit is also a strength appropriate from the classification principle of the vocational deputy of salvation. Right. But what we keep emphasizing will make a difference we Zabi right across all other service organizations and apart

Peter Tonge:

Right I agree with agree with you I have absolutely during quite a different year than most expected. Thanks to your support children box has been able to support almost 200,000 People in 2020. Working in 11 Different countries across 70 different projects, you will help families affected by tropical storms, flooding, growth, earthquakes and conflicts. All these families work to stay safe from the risk of the Coronavirus. This year Shelterbox. Honored Rotary International with the global humanitarian service award in recognition of your outstanding partnership throughout the years. We cannot thank you enough for your support as Rotarians, you are helping to create a world where no family is without shelter, after disaster. To learn more about the work of Shelterbox, Canada, please visit www dot Shelterbox canada.org. Now I, I only have one standard question in my podcast and you've heard it on this episode. You could be giving all this time and energy to many organizations. Why Rotary? Why do you keep doing it?

Mohan Kumar:

Probably my first answer to this will be I've been transformed. Because of my exposure to rotary. Probably there would have been a big wide if there was no rotary in me. Okay. Rotary is probably one of the best universities now that what anyone can come across. So every day, every day, you are graduating in propre. And last but not least, there is so much of gratification in the whole process, that you're able to bring back smiles. I have had I have had many times it's so common to us that people come back and then say no, you are God to us. We have never seen God because that other sort of difference or what we make to other people's life. So it is so gratifying. Right? Once in one of our limp campaigns a club that right one person came and then he tossed her feet in gratitude and recenter Thank you very much for what you do. I said that? No, it's nothing. It's part of a life no wait to be able to continue to do that. He said no. Can you ever imagine that you stand on right one limb for five minutes. So today our whole life? Can you imagine our situation, what a difference your other limb that what you provide is gonna make it worse. So so so there is a sense of purpose, there is a sense of relevance. And at the end of the day, so when we speak about service about self, it is looking beyond yourself. And it is only R otary that can provide the platform and extremely happy to be part of it.

Peter Tonge:

I can tell I can tell you're a very proud Rotarian. And clearly you've had an impact. But I also get the impression that when you started with Rotary, you didn't realize all the opportunities that there were is that fair?

Mohan Kumar:

Absolutely. Absolutely. I had no clue that this is Rotary. So just gotten to say probably, yes, it's good to be part of Rotary. And it's been about 17 years. And each day now that you interact each day, you probably get to meet somebody new, then you know, right, there is so much to Rotary. And that's where it is so relevant. Even when we speak about fellowship. Having traveled to conventions, having been part of many fellowship groups, having traveled across projects across so many countries at UCLA, that you've got such an extended family, you are never alone to yourself. That's the beauty of Rotary.

Peter Tonge:

That's very true. It's very true. Mohan. Thank you very much. This has been a wonderful conversation.

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