Updated: 2014-10-18 05:58:30
Gary C.K. Huang is the first Chinese president of Rotary International that has more than 1.2 million members worldwide. [Photo by Kuang Linhua/China Daily]
President of Rotary International says giving back makes you 'a better and happier person'.
When Gary C.K. Huang joined the Rotary Club 32 years ago, he never imagined that he would become the president of this international organization. Nor did he think much about the charitable services to which it's committed.
"I thought this club has important and successful people. I wanted to be part of it because it would be good for my business," says Huang, 69, current president of Rotary International and a member of the Rotary Club in Taipei.
He was right about that. But it was committing himself to the charitable endeavors later that has given him the greatest sense of achievement and satisfaction, says Huang, the first Chinese to be elected as the head of this century-old organization, which was founded in Chicago in 1905. On a recent visit to the mainland, he shared his stories and visions for the club at a Beijing Rotary Club event.
Rotary International is a service organization that brings together business and professional leaders in order to provide humanitarian services, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and help build goodwill and peace in the world.
There are more than 30,000 clubs and over 1.2 million members worldwide. Club members, known as Rotarians, usually meet weekly for breakfast, lunch or dinner. These are social events as well as opportunities to organize work on service goals.
Huang still vividly recalls how he started thinking about Rotary service in the wake of a terrible typhoon.
When one of his fellow Rotarians told him about an orphanage building outside of Taipei that was devastated by the storm, Huang drove with another Rotarian there to give aid.
He was shocked by the poor conditions of the buildings, home to about 60 kids. The orphanage didn't even have enough money to buy diapers for babies, he says.
"I tried for a few minutes to imagine my children living in this place. But I didn't imagine it for too long. I didn't want to even think about it. Instead, I said, "OK, we have to do something here."
The Rotarians not only fixed everything damaged by the typhoon, including the roof, the kitchen and the walls, but also bought a refrigerator and an air conditioner. They also created a fund to buy diapers for the babies, Huang recalls.
"This was more than 30 years ago. But for me, it was the beginning of Rotary," he says.
"I learned what Confucius was trying to teach me. Helping others is also helping yourself. It changes who you are. One thing you learn in Rotary is that if you find you have a little extra - more than you need for yourself - you enjoy it more when you share it. It makes you a better and happier person."
A graduate of Eastern Michigan University and holder of an MBA from the College of Insurance in New York, Huang has worked in the security business all his life.
Huang resigned his other positions to fully engage himself in the Rotary Club after he was elected as its president.
Huang was born in southern China's Fujian province and grew up in Taiwan. Huang has traveled to the mainland many times for his business.
His relationship with Rotary clubs on the mainland began a long time ago, when he delivered the provisional club charter for the Beijing club when it was established 19 years ago. "It was a big honor for me," he says.
Huang is eager to establish more clubs and attract more members in China. He is also working hard to make Chinese one of the official languages for Rotary, which he believes will both attract more Chinese to the club and make the club more open to Chinese communities.
The first thing he did as president was approve 10 more provisional clubs in China. The organization is now applying to establish Rotary clubs in several Chinese cities, including Chengdu and Tianjin.
"To increase our membership, we must go beyond borders to wherever we see growth potential, such as the countries of China, Mongolia and Vietnam. I will put an emphasis on increasing female and younger members," Huang says.
Rotary clubs in Beijing and Shanghai have been involved in charitable programs including disease prevention, education and aid for women and children, according to Piper Tseng, president of the Rotary Club of Beijing, which has about 50 members.
For example, their Gift of Life project has helped fund the treatment of more than 440 children in China with congenital heart diseases, Tseng says.
Huang hopes the current club members in China will build a positive public image for Rotary so that China will become fully open to it.
"Rotary is only going to be a good influence for China," says Huang, who is impressed by the fast growth in the past few decades and believes Chinese people are ready for Rotary.
"China already has so much business and so many entrepreneurs. Rotary is a way for successful people to make a difference.
"It is also a way to help people who need it. We have millions of intelligent, creative people. Why would China not want to have them working for it, for free?"
Huang's efforts in humanitarian service have had profound influence on his family: His wife and three grown children are also Rotary members. They often share their experiences and discuss the community services their clubs provide, Huang says.
"We do Rotary work together. Then doing good becomes a family event," he says.
Mike Peters contributed to this story.