July 2008

A message from 2008/09 President D.K. Lee

Dear fellow Rotarians,

The beginning of the Rotary year is always an exciting time, with new club and district officers, a new theme to work with, and a renewed sense of purpose for our service projects. The beginning of this particular Rotary year is, of course, especially exciting for me as I look forward to meeting Rotarians throughout the world and seeing firsthand the many remarkable projects you are carrying out.

In planning how your club, and each one of you, can Make Dreams Real this year, I ask you to consider the millions of children who never even have the chance to dream. Every day, more than 26,000 children under the age of five die from preventable causes. As appalling as that number is, it is a decrease from the figure of 30,000 that first caught my attention and spurred me to bring this matter of grave concern to Rotarians.

UNICEF's State of the World's Children 2008 report states that "by 2006, the most recent year for which firm estimates are available, the annual number of child deaths globally fell below 10 million, to 9.7 million, for the first time since records began." I would guess that some of the improvement in child survival rates can be directly attributed to Rotary projects that have been successfully addressing problems related to health, hunger, water, and literacy for a number of years now. So I asked myself: "What would happen if 1.2 million Rotarians focused their service efforts on keeping even more children alive?"

I think we already know some of the answers. If Rotarians provide insecticide-treated bed nets, fewer children will succumb to malaria. If we dig wells and address sanitation problems, more children will have clean water to drink and more hygienic surroundings. And if Rotary clubs carry out effective nutrition projects, we can save some of the almost five million children who die each year from undernourishment.

UNICEF estimates that fully two-thirds of the 9.7 million deaths in 2006 were preventable. With Rotarians working to provide vaccines, oral rehydration therapies, accessible health care for mothers and newborns, and other relatively simple interventions, I'm confident that many more babies will not only survive but go on to live healthy, productive lives. Let's Make Dreams Real by giving these children the chance to grow up and have dreams of their own.

Dong Kurn (D.K.) Lee
President, Rotary International