I just spoke to someone about the challenges of starting up and maintaining a Rotaract Club, and he asked “Why not join a Rotary Club?”
I understand where he comes from. Rotaract IS a hard organisation to manage. 18-30 years old move around a lot. We’re busy trying to climb up the corporate ladder. We’re trying to juggle work and our social lives. We want to make a difference but too often are scared to take the lead…usually because we don’t know how. Young adults willing to be called leaders are in short supply. So, when we have a couple Rotary Clubs in the area that are specifically geared to young adults and their interests, PLUS have the backing of more experienced Rotarians to guide them, I can understand why people think we should just join Rotary.
But that doesn’t mean Rotaract should be taken out of the equation. Rotary organises a bunch of programs that target under 25 year olds and there needs to be a place to keep them involved in the Rotary family. Rotary making an effort to be more encouraging/open to younger members is great but that’s not enough.
Speaking from experience as a former Interactor, sometimes it’s too daunting to get more involved with Rotary once you “graduate” from these programs. Even though we had a relatively young Rotarian advisor (he was ~30 years old with a full head of black hair), I still saw them as the “old group”. And that group fell into the same category as my parents so there was no way I was going to hang out with them. I remember feeling that generation gap would be too much and I would be misunderstood or my voice wouldn’t be heard.
But one day was enough to start changing that perception when I attended an Interact Board Training Day. For the first time, I met Rotaractors who led the training session, and they were fun and vibrant and made me realise that there’s more to come after Interact. And I wasn’t the only one. EVERY SINGLE BOARD MEMBER felt that way and that was why we made an effort to visit Rotaract when we graduated from high school.
The fact was I wasn’t mature enough to stay in contact with Rotary once I left Interact. But getting involved with Rotaract, especially as my views of “older people” changed, has made me more inclined to become a Rotarian in the future.
TL;DR: Rotaract is a bridge between Rotary and its youth programs. Without it, we stand to miss out on engaging a huge group of Rotary alumni.
Here’s another reason why I’m so keen on getting a Rotaract Club in the CBD happening: Even though I did not stay with Rotaract at 18 because I was too busy enjoying the freedom a car gives, a year later, that interest was rekindled. But this time, I was overseas and there wasn’t a single club in my area. So for 4 years, I wasn’t involved with Rotary at all. I wanted to but I didn’t want it enough to travel 40 minutes out of the city every other week. And I still had the impression that Rotarians = old people so there was no way I was going to meet up with them once a week.
So many Rotaractors travel around the world. In fact, a whole bunch of ex-Interactors travel too. If you’re lucky, they would contact a local Rotary Club to say hi and get involved. But chances are they won’t. I definitely didn’t as an 18 year old. A bunch of Rotaractors on working holiday visas haven’t. Neither have my ex-Interactors friends who are in town. In fact, half the team I’m working with at the moment have been part of a Rotary program overseas and haven’t been in touch with Rotary since they got here.
TL;DR: International Rotaractors are a great resource, with the experience they bring from their home club and with their desire to make a difference in the communities they’re visiting. If we don’t have a community-based Rotaract Club in this city, this becomes a missed opportunity.