South Asia, with 1.2 lakh Rotaractors, has nearly 22 per cent of the world’s total strength, but only 16 per cent of it is reported to RI. “In my opinion, we’re underutilising the power of Rotaract and not giving opportunities for them to grow higher and develop into good leaders. The South Asia Office at Delhi too does not have the exact Rotaract data, nor do they have the statistics of Rotaractors-turned-Rotarians.”
With these words RI Director C Basker set the ball rolling for an orientation meet for District Rotaract Representatives (DRRs) and District Rotaract Committee Chairs (DRCCs) held at Hyderabad recently to commemorate the golden jubilee of Rotaract.
He had conceptualised the programme in consultation with RI’s Membership Development Director Brian King and the Rotary Coordinators.
“The late RIPE Sam Owori used to say that Rotaractors are the life insurance of Rotary. Yes, you all are the future of Rotary. With right guidance, I’m confident, you will take Rotary’s legacy to the next generation and the next century. I sincerely wish each one of you become Rotarians and continue to serve humanity with more dedication and vigour,” said Director Basker.
There is lack of coordination between the DGs, DRRs and DRCCs which is detrimental to both Rotary and Rotaract, he added. Citing the involvement of Rotaractors in Africa, Basker said that Africa has become a separate zone largely due to Rotaractors who are undertaking quite a lot of service projects there. “Owori led the way. He had a great passion for Rotaract and wanted to give it a huge thrust during his term in 2018–19.”
The RI Director called for a homogenous structure for training Rotaractors, just like the training structure of district leaders had been standardised this year. “Take the message from this meet forward and create a ripple-effect among the huge battalion of youngsters out there whose energy is still untapped. Make them realise the potential of this magnificent movement which they are a part of,” he advised the DR₹
Host DG J Abraham (D 3150) said that he was happy that his dream of hosting a Rotaract event led by Rotarians has come true. “Building a strong Rotaract and creating leaders is the best takeaway from here,” he said.
Aptly named Spoorthy (Telugu for ‘get inspired’), the two-day event was an inspiring workshop for the DRRs and DRCCs, and a good opportunity for the ARCs and RCs to understand the aspirations and strengths of Rotaractors. It was attended by 33 DRRs including those from Nepal (3292) and the Northeast (3240), 31 DRCCs and 12 ARCs led by RCs Ashok Gupta and Rajendra Rai.
“The DRCCs — a ceremonial post until now — are the missing link between Rotarians and Rotaractors. If your committee is strong, you can do wonders,” said Sam Patibandla, the programme convener. The Hyderabad meet is even more special in that the Rotaract club of its twin, Secunderabad, is the world’s second oldest Rotaract club, next to the one in North Carolina, he said.
When he asked how many DRCCs have DRRs as their co-chairs, just two hands went up. “It is imperative that all DRCCs appoint DRRs as co-chairs and have a balanced Rotarian-Rotaractor membership in the committee,” he observed.
Rai, a past Interactor and Rotaractor, listed out eight points (see box) that will help in better Rotary-Rotaract coordination, which Basker applauded with a suggestion that they be shared with all Rotary clubs. Rotarians have a big responsibility as role models for Rotaractors. There is a synergy between both the mottos — ‘Service above Self’ and the Rotaract’s ‘Fellowship with Service’. We have to work together as partners in service and not underutilise Rotaractors as just volunteers,” said Rai.
Developing a vision
Rtn Ram Seshu of RC Bangalore and motivator of D 3190 engaged the audience through a dynamic presentation on ‘Discover your vision’. It was an exercise that culminated in the DRRs drafting a vision statement for their districts. Dividing the group into four teams he had them all on their toes as they interacted with other teams to find answers to questions such as how do we enhance Rotary-Rotaract
Rotary engagement; how do we make Rotaract more attractive for the younger generation; three things to make Rotary the natural destination for Rotaractors and; how can they be trained to become effective leaders.
Helping them to prepare their vision statements, Seshu said, “Your vision should answer these questions: what’ll you be remembered for; how do Rotarians feel after interacting with you; what’ll you highlight about Rotary on social media; what community projects you’ll take up this year.”
A mixed bag of projects
When the floor was thrown open for DRRs to voice out issues they faced in their interaction with Rotarians, they brought out a list, no holds barred, and even suggested to the RI Director to recommend to the Board for a concessional rate for RI events. When ARC ISAK Nazar called for innovative projects done by Rotaractors, they came up with a mixed bag. “Sponsoring heart transplant for a cardiac patient gave us a real high,” said DRR Nagarjuna (D 3202). The Rotaractors are also implementing holistic development in 13 tribal villages around Tirupur near Coimbatore; while another district has provided RWH facility in several homes and
D 3291 has its own Rotaract building. A suggestion by Rotaractors to install community-based clubs instead of university-based clubs was well-received.
While discussing strategies to attract Rotaractors, PDRR and past president of Rotary South Asia Multidistrict Information Organisation Rajesh Subramanian recalled his experience saying, “we would encourage Rotaractors to bring their friends to meetings or project sites, to get them interested in Rotary. As Rotaractors, we also enjoy placement preference in some organisations.” When his parents asked what was in Rotaract for him, he countered it by inviting them over to an awards event. “When they saw me receive awards, they were super thrilled.” And the best part, he says is that “Rotaract has transformed me for the better.
I used to be so unorganised, impatient and irresponsible. But now I’m proud of myself and whatever little I do for the society,” adds Subramanian.
In an earlier meeting with the twin city club presidents, assistant governors and membership chairs, RID Basker focused on membership development. “Delegate work and engage your members to sustain their interest in the organisation; give the right job to the right person. That’s how you develop leaders,” he said. Now that Rotary in India has significantly improved in numbers, it’s time to shift focus to quality. “If your team does not perform, don’t mince words. Tell them so,” he added.
Rural clubs must invite people who can afford to be a Rotarian, in terms of both money and time; stewardship for global grants to be tightened; Rotary clubs to forge relationships with corporate to utilise their CSR funds for community development are other issues that Director Basker highlighted. Calling for generous contribution for the Polio Fund, he said, “Countries across the world are pitching in liberally for the End Polio Campaign. It is imperative that we Indians, the largest beneficiary of the programme, enhance our support for the campaign.”
A postal commemorative stamp in memory of late RIPE Sam Owori, designed by Rtn Hari Kishan Valmiki, was released by the Director.
Pictures by Jaishree
PDG H Rajendra Rai listed out these points to establish a cohesive working relationship with Rotaractors:
- Treat Rotaractors as your partners-in-service
- Don’t interfere in their day-to-day activities. Give guidance when sought
- Don’t use them for physical activities; Use their creative resources to strengthen your projects
- Allow them to organise projects using your club’s funds
- Organise more professional development programmes
- Create a support system within Rotary to provide them career guidance/opportunity
- Recognise and reward outstanding Rotaractors
- Invite them to join Rotary at the right opportunity.