Are the workings of The Rotary Foundation (TRF) mysterious to you? Tusu Tusubira describes how, while serving with Rotary in Uganda, he answered, "What is The Rotary Foundation?" 
Spoiler alert: "It is not the staff in Chicago. It is not all the rules and regulations and policies. It is not the Trustees. It is dedicated Rotarians around the world, pouring themselves into service to help those who are in need."
Click Read More to enjoy his story.  
Uganda has been running a vibrant Rotary Leadership Institute (RLI) program through the dedicated leadership of one Andrew Muguluma, fondly known as Headmaster. What I have found very interesting is that even among the veteran RLI faculty in Uganda, there is a general avoidance of dealing with topics related to our Foundation, The Rotary Foundation (TRF).
And who can blame them? TRF has been presented to most of us in such complex and confusing terms that it takes on the appearance of some scary god-beast in our minds. We are then harassed to give this beast money in ways that make it sound like sacrificing to a deity for our Rotarian wellbeing and recognition. If you fail to sacrifice to this god, you are apparently less than a Rotarian. Do you feel like this about TRF? Do not worry – you are in very good company. 
I must admit that this was my own perception of TRF for a long time, trying to figure out the SHARE System and matching and such like. I heard about Major Donors and the Arch Klumph Society before I even had a car. I heard about the Bequest Society when I did not have anything to my name. I was confused by investment cycles, percentage this and percentage that. TRF sounded like an exercise in mathematics, economics, and the stock market.
“Triple PHF George Kasedde-Mukasa” was mentioned with awe and reverence: he had given $3,000 to TRF! Wow! I was struggling just to keep up with my dues, and if I could find $3,000 somewhere, I would buy a fourth-hand car (which incidentally I eventually did – a smoky Violet that required one foot across both the accelerator and brake pedals simultaneously to function, and which my family absolutely loved. UXM 983) and be saved from the Gayaza road matatus (14-seater public transport vehicles characterized by the reckless abandon of drivers who all have a death wish. At that point in time, you could see the murram of Gayaza road – and indeed get to taste it because the dust gushed into the vehicles through gaping holes in the floors of the matatus). 
Then I had one of those rare opportunities in life: When I was club president, then DG Nelson Kawalya identified me to the TRF as someone who could carry out an advance site visit to be the eyes and boots on ground for the TRF staff and Trustees in evaluating a proposed 3H grant. (Yes, I know – Health, Hunger, and Humanity, or 3H, was the name for the largest grants TRF gave at the time, with grant-amount ceilings of $300,000 if I remember correctly.) 
Excuse me DG Nelson, I asked my Rotary mentor: What is 3H? What is the work of an Advance Site Visitor? "Don’t worry," he assured me. "TRF will send you all the literature you need to understand what you are supposed to know and do." And this I got in large volumes and, academic that I was, read diligently. And this, my friends, is how I became a volunteer for the Rotary Foundation Cadre of Technical Advisors... but more of this in another article. 
Aha, you will think, all that literature from TRF helped me to understand TRF. I am afraid you are wrong. Being an Advance Site Visitor helped me begin to understand what TRF is, but it was not the reading. For the first time, I met Rotarians who were totally dedicated to the service of humanity, and here I refer to Rotarian Faye Cran, fondly known as Mama Kuku by the Arusha communities, and the humble PDG Amir Somji. Of course they were somewhat amazed: They expected a portly PDG with a generous bulge around the mid-riff as the Advance Site Visitor, not an athletic and fit Rotarian of 40 who wanted to visit all project locations including going up the lower slopes of Mt. Meru. I visited Upendo, a community of former lepers producing crafts and verdant vegetables, wielding hoes with hands that in most cases had no fingers. I had been involved in projects before, but I had never felt deep inside the great impact that TRF funded projects, however simple, have on people we normally never even meet. 
This was my first real lesson about what TRF is. It is not the staff in Chicago. It is not all the rules and regulations and policies. It is not the Trustees. It is dedicated Rotarians around the world, pouring themselves into service to help those who are in need.
Through my volunteer work, I got to see more of this kind of person, and for each location, I felt the human experience, I felt the spirit of great Rotarians. I felt this in the Nandi hills as a post-project evaluation volunteer; as an Advance Site Visitor in the Ethiopian highlands, welcomed and treated to sumptuous feasts by otherwise poor families – and here I remember the warm company of another great Rotarian, Yemane Bisrat; when welcomed like royalty because I was sent by TRF as a Shelter Monitor in Nana Karodia, Gujarat, after the great earthquake that shattered lives in this region – and here I remember the dedication of Rotarian Deepak whose only interest was service to communities; in Abia, Aba, Nigeria, with Rotarian Ude Ikeotuonye, now himself a member of the TRF Cadre of Technical Advisors. 
Once I understood this, the rest was easy. Having felt, and having seen; how could I not give? A person who feels other people’s needs always has a coin to spare, not once, but always. Having felt and given, how could I not be involved in projects in my club? And yet I believe I am a greater beneficiary of TRF than the communities we serve: Service makes me feel complete as a human being. It gives me energy that I pour into other areas of my life, to my great benefit. 
TRF is a thing of the heart, a crystallization of how we feel for other people and reach out to those in need. TRF is about developing and implementing effective service projects on the one hand, and supporting our Foundation through our donations on the other hand. The two march hand in hand. Indeed, as I have said to many, feel TRF first through service; feel the people and the communities we work with as individuals; feel them as part of you, as part of your family. The next step: giving, becomes inevitable, it becomes a habit. 
Finally, if you have felt, and you are giving from the heart, try to understand the mechanics of TRF – if you have the time. Like love, our Foundation, The Rotary Foundation, starts with the feeling in the heart, not the giving of things.