As the uncertainty of 2020 seems to be stretching far into 2021, Rotary International has decided to host all their major events virtually, one of them being the International Assembly, dedicated to training the incoming district governors and officials.
Since Rotary and Rotaract are on the path of strengthening their bonds according to the achievements of the Elevate Rotaract initiative and Rotary’s long-term vision, selected Rotaractors were also among the invitees. The current Vice President and President-elect Jad Salame attended the program on behalf of the Rotaract Mediterranean MDIO.
An unprecedented virtual experience
The Assembly, focused on the impact of our service, the power of Rotarians and Rotaractors to do good in the world, the importance of telling our story, growing our membership, and empowering each other, took place on a virtual learning platform and consisted of numerous (breakout) sessions, discussions, activities, and challenges.
“I have attended many other online conferences lately, but this one was exceptional,” says Jad, who can not stress enough the amazing virtual experience RI offered their future global leaders and the effort they put into its organization.
Attracting and engaging youth is a trend
“It amazed me that Rotaract had an important role at the Assembly. It was mentioned in every session; there were videos, projects … In the breakout sessions, Rotaractors were encouraged to speak; the engagement was impressive,” he adds.
Investing in youth by treating Rotaractors as equal partners, inviting them to district committees, working together on projects, encouraging them to open new clubs, as well as ensuring them a smooth passage to Rotary, remains one of RI’s priorities, for they have come to realize that Rotaractors bring energy and enthusiasm Rotarians can learn and benefit from. Or, as RI President Holger Knaack put it, one should adapt to the world that is changing, rather than resist, otherwise they’ll be left behind.
However, in their conversations with DGEs, Rotaractors shared the opinion that most Rotarians are still not aware of the true value of Rotaract, which results in not giving Rotaractors the opportunity to live up to their fullest potential. “The reason we join Rotaract is not the same as the reason they join Rotary,” says Jad. “At this age, we want to learn and invest in ourselves. Instead of asking us to do things we already know, give us something worth our time and money. Create value for youth,” he emphasizes.
What’s in for Rotary in 2021–2022
RI President-elect Shekhar Mehta of India and his team chose Serve to change lives to be the theme of the Rotary Year 2021–2022. Among their top priorities are the so called DEI; service, particularly when it comes to tackling homelesness, poverty, illiteracy, eradicating polio, fighting COVID-19; environmental care and growing our reach.
DEI stands for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion which the Board of Directors describes in an official statement as key to creating an organization that is more open, inclusive, and fair to all, no matter their background. We can expect initiatives such as female empowerment within Rotary, greater inclusion of new members, leadership skills development from early on, etc.
The aim to grow membership is now stronger than ever, for numbers show it has been stagnating for the past 20 years. Therefore, each of us is encouraged to bring one new member to Rotary, so that, ideally, we will have been 1,3 million by July 2022. Members are also invited to continue opening new clubs – a novelty in that field are cause-based clubs that only focus on one field, such as, for example, art or nature.
Rotary will also increase its engagement in solving global issues, such as the environmental crisis. Just recently, Environment has been added to our Areas of Focus. For that purpose, Rotary Foundation will be issuing grants for long-term projects. As Jad pointed out, RI might as well take inspiration for further environment-oriented projects from Rotaract. After learning about medNATURE – an important part of the Rotaract Mediterranean MDIO since 2014 –, they are now keen on knowing more about similar projects Rotaract has carried out altogether.
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BY Nina GOSTIŠA