Members of the Southport International Rotary Club in Indianapolis load boxes of food for a food drop.

By Jeff Lake, Rotary Club of Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

I began to work with the nonprofit organization Chin Community of Indiana in 2016 after our club’s foundation granted them $250,000 over five years, with a three-year extension through 2023. Many Burmese Chin, fleeing persecution in their home country, have chosen Southport as their new home. Almost 20,000 Chin live on the south side of Indianapolis, making it one of the largest concentrations of Chin people outside of Myanmar.

I was asked to be the liaison to the Chin organization and one of the first things I did was to create a Chin Support Committee. This committee meets quarterly to determine what type of additional assistance the Chin residents need. All along, I have worked closely with their leadership. It was decided a couple of years ago that starting a Satellite Club of Chins and non-Chins would help them assimilate into the greater Indianapolis community.

The satellite club meets at The Chin Center, which is the heart and soul of the Chin community. It took some time but in the fall of 2020, they had 22 members and applied to receive a charter to be their own Rotary club. Importantly, the president of this new club, Southport International, is a Chin. Though I’m a member of the Rotary Club of Indianapolis, the host club, I attend most of their meetings, whether in-person or via Zoom.

The Chin club members take great pride in telling people that they are Rotarians. They will hold a Charter Night as soon as all of us are able to meet in-person once again. The Executive Director of the Chin Community of Indiana, is a member. I have done some volunteering at the Chin Center to help them with questions that their five-person staff aren’t able to answer.

When I talk about the Chin community, I find myself saying “we”, because I have developed a deep relationship with the Chins, who are honest, hard-working, and very grateful to be able to live in the Indianapolis area.

Six months or so ago, I was asked to be a member of their Board of Directors, which includes five others, who are all Chin leaders in the community. As Rotary continues to create innovate new clubs, hopefully clubs will reach out to invite those who are from different countries. While there may be a language/cultural barrier at first, with patience, those barriers can be minimized and Rotary’s reach in the U.S. can expand greatly.