"How Can I Help?"


1994 Pulitzer Prize photo by Kevin Carter.

The first time I saw this photo was while training to be a District Governor. It was shown as part of a session led by Helene Kalfuss (District Governor 2006-2007) about how The Rotary Foundation responds to disasters.


The universal reaction by our entire group, and by Rotarians everywhere, was, and continues to be, "How can we help?"


But there was another tragedy in this story.


Kevin Carter, a photojournalist from South Africa, took this picture—which appeared in The New York Times on March 26, 1993—to document the situation going on in Sudan at that time. The child, who is a boy but was believed to be a girl at the time, was struggling to reach a United Nations feeding center when he collapsed, weak from starvation.


Carter took the picture of the emaciated toddler with a vulture standing nearby and received the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography in 1994. The image immediately evoked harsh criticism of Carter, who many condemned for taking a picture instead of helping the child.


Carter was working in a time when photojournalists were told not to touch famine victims for fear of spreading disease. Carter estimated that there were twenty people per hour dying at the food center. The child was not unique. Regardless, Carter often expressed regret that he had not done anything to help the girl, even though there was not much that he could have done.


Carter was so distraught and depressed from a feeling of helplessness about what he had witnessed that only months after receiving the Pulitzer, he took his own life.


The Rotarian Difference


Whether it is about famine and hunger in South Sudan, or the current crisis in Ukraine, Rotarians are motivated to help.


This is how Usha Saboo, spouse of RI President Rajendra Saboo (1991-1992) spoke of her Rotary journey:


Sharing in abundance is ordinary.

Sharing when you have nothing is generosity.


Immunizing our own kids is ordinary.

Immunizing all the children of the world is Rotary.


Traveling for pleasure is ordinary.

Traveling on medical missions and giving vision, mobility, and life to others is Rotary.


Making homes, toilets and providing fresh water for ourselves is ordinary.

Making homes, toilets and digging water wells for deprived people is Rotary.


Giving education to our own kids is ordinary.

Building thousands of schools for poor children is Rotary.


Donating blood for a loved one is very ordinary.

Starting blood banks for the communities is Rotary.

This transformation - our rising from Self to Service Above Self is the power and soul of Rotary.