Arvind Phukan, originally from India, came to Alaska in 1974 to design the arctic section of the Trans Alaska Pipeline.
Nearly thirty years later, Phukan was elected to preside over Rotary International's largest geographical District in the world, District 5010, which includes Alaska, Yukon Territory and Far East Russia. There are 70 Rotary Clubs within the vast area, and Phukan will visit each one before his year as District Governor is finished. On the Kenai Peninsula there are Rotary Clubs in Homer, Kenai, Soldotna and Seward. Phukan returned to the Kenai Peninsula recently to complete his pledge to visit each club in his District, and congratulated members for the work of Rotary locally and worldwide.
While the concept of volunteerism is catching on in former communist Russia, Phukan believes that it is the next generation that will embody Rotary's premise of service above self. "I was amazed to see that it is the young people that are learning what volunteer service is. They are the future and they are now learning through Rotary what is voluntary service and what it is to give back to the community where they live," said Phukan. In Vladivostok, a community of some 700,000, there are now 3 Rotary Clubs. "But there are so many needs, and we need more members who understand the value of working together in their community to help the poor and the disabled and we are making progress. It's slow, but with the youth catching on we have great hope for what will happen in Far East Russia," said Phukan.
Locally, Rotary Clubs have been active in helping with humanitarian projects in Russia since the first club was founded in Siberia some ten years ago. Local Rotary members have contributed medical supplies, computers and thousands of volunteer hours. Soldotna Rotarian Jerry Near has hosted many Russian exchange groups and traveled on several occasions to Far East Russia. "It's changed my life and the things that are important to me," said Near, who has been nominated to become District Governor Elect. Near will be returning to Russia in April to assist with the health programs that were started by the Homer Rotary Club in Russia.
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