Rotaract fun or an opportunity for ensuring the Future of Rotary: an eRotary programme for week commencing 14th May, 2015 by Tim Mason, (District 1100 Membership Chair)
Having been to a number of Rotary International conventions and District Conferences in other countries, we were already aware of the opportunities offered by these events to meet different people, learn new things and grow in greater world understanding. So when two of our ex-Rotaract members (now Rotarians) said ‘why don’t you book on EUCO 2015 in Romania this year’ Janice and I did and wondered what it would be like, having never experienced Rotaract as a member.
The first observation was that the handbook provided by the organising group emailed before the event was brilliant in preparing us for arriving at the airport and getting a local taxi to our hotel. Secondly the welcome at the information desk was really helpful and although they were many years younger than us we instantly felt part of what was happening, friendly, lovely smiles and able to answer our questions, as they put on our attendance bracelet.
Our first meeting with some of those attending was at a Wine Bar in the old part of Bucharest. Rotarian Jasper had organised a wine tasting evening, for eClub members and others. Everyone was so friendly and we were meeting Rotaractors and Rotarians from Poland, Norwary, Jordan, Germany, Belgium, France, Spain, Romania, Luxembourg and Sweden. This wasn’t an officially organised event, just adhoc, but it showed us that we were part of a wider family, there to enjoy each others company, discussions, the food and wine that was purchased. Later most of them went onto an all night party, we gave it a miss as the travelling had made us tired (well that’s our excuse anyway!). The next morning we attended the Bucharest Central Library so we could help with the EUCO 2015 Social Project for children to have colourful books, one of which we brought with us as requested by those who had organised the event. Rotaractors joined with children to colour in a huge collage. We then spent a really nice afternoon in the company of a group of Rotaractors from Belgium who were passionate about their Club.
Our final part of EUCO 2015 was to attend the Gala Dinner, if you can image nearly 900 people attending the Bucharest People’s Palace the scene is set for an evening of talk, presentations and speeches, plus at long intervals food. Because we had an early train to catch we missed the dessert as it hadn’t arrived by midnight! An indication of how we felt is that we definitely want to attend next year and for more of the activities. We would encourage others to book as well, in terms of the friendliness and engagement I feel it was better than RI Conventions.
What we took away from it was:
- In the UK we need to consider Rotaract as an important vehicle for getting younger people 18 to 35 involved in the Rotary family. It is fun, social and they are eager to develop service projects.
- As a Youth Worker I learned that young people like meeting in large groups. EUCO and other events organised by Rotaract encourages this philosophy of getting together and networking.
- We need to value the experience Rotaractors have when they join Rotary, they need to be treated as not new starters, but Rotarians with a vast amount of organisational and networking experience. Then as we build our teams we can all learn and develop together.
- I found Rotaractors much more friendlier than when we meet other Rotarians at events, they wanted you involved and easily made you feel at home, part of the fun and it was easy to socialise e.g. no airs and graces, no cliques or formality.
- Apart from the official business meeting, there were no formal group discussions or committee meetings, just spontaneous discussion and creativity.
- We need to encourage Rotary to see Rotaract as a partner and develop projects together, going to EUCO helped me to feel young again, whereas some Rotary events we attend make me wonder whether I have grown old with Rotary?
So thank you to Rotarians Jasper and Mike for encouraging us to book, thank you to all the Rotaractors who organised a great event and thank you to all those new friends we made.
Rotaract is something we need to prioritise in the UK as a way forward to bring in young professionals into the Rotary family and help blow some of our cobwebs away.
- So can our new Flexible and Innovative ways of doing Rotary enable this?
- How about a satellite of a Rotary Club being a Rotaract Club with not so expensive fees?
- Could we have smaller groups of Rotaractors in local Clubs, joined up by encouraging them to attend events like EUCO?