A meager but heartfelt donation from a dying woman leaves a lasting impression on a Rotary leader's son.
Every true Rotarian has a story to tell, a defining moment that captures what Rotary is all about. In this issue we offer another installment of "Rotary story," a regular feature in which individuals describe how the hands-on experience of being a Rotarian — putting Service Above Self — has affected their lives.
在阿根廷阿瑞喜斐長大的小季愛雅(Gustavo Giay)，其服務精神便是自小在家中耳濡目染而來的。他經常陪父親季愛雅(Luis Vicente Giay)出席扶輪社例會，會中社員的熱烈討論讓年幼的他醉心不已。這位現年32歲的律師回憶說：我喜愛聽關於他們有意解決的社會問題的演講。使我意識到這些問題的是扶輪，而不是學校。在學校談這些事和在扶輪談不同，少了一個重點：讓我們修正這個問題；讓我們幫助這些人。我非常喜愛這種熱情；我不知道為什麼。」
Growing up in Arrecifes, Argentina, Gustavo Giay absorbed the spirit of service that pervaded the family home. Often, he accompanied his father, Luis Vicente Giay, to Rotary club meetings, where the members' fervent discussions mesmerized the youngster. "I loved their speeches about the problems in society they wanted to address," recalls the 32-year-old attorney. "Rotary, not school, made me conscious of these problems. We were not told these things in school with the same emphasis as you get in Rotary: Let's fix this problem; let's help these people. I loved that passion; I don't know why."
His affinity for Rotary surely was due in part to the influence of his father, who became a Rotarian at the age of 22 and would rise to the rank of RI president in 1996-97. Giay's fondest childhood memories are sculpted in the service motif: assisting his dad in fundraisers for high school scholarships and needy children; helping his mother, Celia, prepare meals and decorate tables for community service events. He also enjoyed the exuberant clamor when his parents' Rotary friends would visit on weekends. "My entire childhood, I watched all these people come into our home for dinner and pleasant talk and camaraderie. They were like another big family. This was the other side of the Rotary coin: While my parents were busy contributing to a better society, they were also gaining friendships for life."
Giay recalls vividly his introduction, at age seven, to Rotary in action. His father brought him along on a special one-day campaign to raise operating funds for a local school for children with physical and emotional disabilities. Every year, the Rotary Club of Arrecifes partnered with private groups on the project called the Million Campaign, which aimed to raise one million pesos. And each year, Rotarians manned the same intersection, encouraging drivers to drop their spare change into the alcancia (money box).
Excited and intrigued, Giay, one of four children, vied with his brothers to hold the treasured box for their dad. A quarter century later, the memory still stirs: "I remember myself very happy, holding the alcancia as people put money in. It made me feel so helpful and important."
At the time, Giay realized that his father did things to help others, especially children, but he didn't fully grasp the significance of this special fundraiser. He learned a seminal lesson at age 10, when Luis Giay brought his sons to the school to meet the children. The young Giay was stunned; he'd never met a disabled child before. Here were children his own age, some struggling on crutches and others trapped in emotional disorders he could not fathom. Yet, he noted, most of them seemed thrilled to have visitors.
"It had an immediate impact," says Giay. "I remember wondering if they had parents or someone to take care of them. When I learned that some had no one, I realized there were people much less fortunate than I was." The experience resonated. At 14, Giay became very active in church in order "to do something personally for the community, especially those disabled kids." Subsequently, he and fellow volunteers visited the school each week to play with the children and "give them the attention they craved." Today, several of those students remain his close friends.
In high school, Giay received his second crucial lesson in humanitarian service. He and some pals operated the school's radio station, and each week they'd dispense corny jokes and trivial talk of school events. Eventually, one of them learned about a local foster home that needed an extra room. The group decided to use their radio forum "to do good for the community" by raising the money. That decision would have a profound affect on Giay's life.
Concerned that the traditional street collection method might be annoying, they created a new approach. When they announced the project on the air, they said they would not be stopping people on the street to ask for money; in fact, it would be just the opposite. "Instead," says Giay, "we would ride our bikes with red flags through the city's neighborhoods. If anyone wanted to contribute, they had to stop us. Or they could phone the station, and we would pick up the money."
The next day, 40 impassioned students on red-flagged bikes plied the city. People literally flagged them down to donate, and the radio station fielded calls all day. On one call that Giay answered himself, an elderly voice pleaded: "Send someone to my house." Giay grabbed the money box and rode into a blighted neighborhood. When he arrived at the address, he wondered: How can these people possibly contribute? But he rang the bell anyway.
A woman opened the door, studying his bike and red flag. Then she said: "Oh, yes. We were waiting for you. My mother is in the bedroom. Please go in." Giay entered the room to find a very ill and frail 85-year-old woman lying in bed. "She had a moneda, a 50-cent coin, and she put it in the collection box. She said, 'I know I will die, but these children will have a better life if I do this.' I was very grateful. I had tears in my heart. I said that the children would appreciate this very much."
The students raised 4,500 pesos, 1,500 more than their goal and enough to cover half the cost of the new room. "That was a great success," Giay says proudly. "It showed that even if people are not asked, they will give anyway. I also learned that more people cared about helping others than I thought."
The experience prompted the teenager to ponder his future in a new light. "I wanted to live in a better world," he recalls thinking. "A world with solidarity, justice, peace, and opportunities for all. I realized I had to team up with people who shared my goals and were willing to make them a reality."
Thus, Giay joined his school's Interact club, becoming its president at age 17. He says Interact not only helped him make friends but allowed him to hone his social skills. For instance, he recalls meeting with the town mayor to ask permission to block off streets for a student fundraiser. "I had to convince him that although we were teenagers, we truly wanted to do good for the community. I also had to lead 40 young people and channel their energy for a common cause. How many people have the opportunity to lead people at that age? That's what Interact gave me."
Giay knew he was on the right path. In fact, his enthusiasm was so compelling that he became a volunteer firefighter in his hometown. "When I was a kid and the big alarms sounded for an emergency, I would wonder where my parents and brothers were," he says. "I was scared they might be suffering in an accident, so I always ran to the fire station to ask what happened. One day, I thought: If I come every time the alarm sounds, I should do something myself, to be sure my family is safe."
He says the personal satisfaction he derived from his Interact activities and his work for the fire department "closed the circle of my life and I sensed my destiny. I realized that I belong where the need is."
In 1989, Giay's parents took him to the RI Convention in Seoul, Korea. It impressed him that so many different people from varied cultures were pursuing the same goals. "After the convention, we were walking in Tokyo when a Japanese man noticed my father's Rotary pin," Giay says. "He stopped us and said, in English, 'You're a Rotarian!' My father said, 'Yes. Are you a Rotarian?' 'Yes!' They shook hands and the man invited us all for lunch at his restaurant. His wife joined us, and for two hours they treated my parents like old friends. That was the most impressive sign of international friendship I had ever experienced."
不久之後，小季愛雅開始就讀布宜諾斯艾利斯大學的去學院。在法學院畢業後，他返家不久後，終於加入他父親所屬的扶輪社。他很快搬遷到布宜諾斯艾利斯，在阿根廷最大，也是南美洲規模數一數二的MOM法律事務所任職，專攻智慧財產權法(最近他成為該事務所的完全合夥人)。2001年，他協助成立專屬於年輕專業人士的科斯坦那拉北區新世代(Costanera Norte-Nuevas Gineraciones)扶輪社，並於2002-03年度出任社長。去年，他經歷服務生涯另一個決定性的時刻。
Shortly afterward, Giay enrolled in law school at the University of Buenos Aires. After earning his law degree, he returned home briefly and finally joined his father's Rotary club. He soon moved back to Buenos Aires to practice intellectual property law at Marval, O'Farrell & Mairal, the largest law firm in Argentina and one of the largest in South America. (He recently became a full partner.) In 2001, he helped establish the Rotary Club of Costanera Norte — Nuevas Generaciones, a club geared to young professionals, and served as its president in 2002-03. Last year, he experienced another defining moment in his service career.
A club member reported "a huge need" in a poor neighborhood outside Buenos Aires, so the club investigated and found, in Giay's words, "the poorest village imaginable." Families lived in ramshackle huts. Electricity and fresh water were scarce. Unemployment was rampant. A small facility called Casa del Anciano (House of the Elders) each day provided a meager free lunch to the community's elderly residents. The bill of fare was a thin, rice soup called olla popular (common stew), cooked in an old oil drum over an open fire.
"It reminded me how blessed I am in life," Giay says. "I felt obliged to help. As long as people lived like that, it wasn't the world I wanted to live in. I know it is impossible to eliminate all injustice in life, but if I can always find ways to help someone else, at least I will feel at peace with myself."
Giay's club organized fundraisers and has applied for a Matching Grant from The Rotary Foundation of RI. Meanwhile, the Rotarians provide food every month and make sure it is prepared properly.
Giay is now in a position to ponder, for the first time, the value of his Rotary journey. "Rotary dignifies me," he says, "and it reminds me that dignity lies more in serving than being served, that generosity knows no boundaries. It also gives me the opportunity to work for a better world. And I know I'm not alone; there are at least 1.2 million people doing the same. Rotary gives the needy a chance for a better life — that's the main reason I will be a Rotarian all my life. I just hope we help many more young people to feel the same way."