It was just an hour-long meet, but for the DRRs, “it was 60 minutes of opportunity to get charged. He is just superb, so full of life,” said one DRR, while another commented, “he is like one among us.”
In Mumbai, District Rotaract Representatives (DRRs) of India had an exclusive meeting with RI President Elect Barry Rassin on the sidelines of the District Rotaract Zone Institute. The meet was coordinated by Rajat Menon, a past DRR and a member of RC Bombay Downtown Sealand, D 3141.
“It’s a pleasure to attend a Rotary meeting where I can take my jacket off,” said Rassin, as he began his brief address to the DR₹ While polio remains the top priority, his next priority is to double the number of Rotaractors. And significantly improve community-based Rotaract clubs across the world to ensure a smooth transition from Interact to university-based Rotaract to community-based Rotaract and finally into Rotary. Less than five per cent of Rotaractors make the transition to Rotary, he observed.
“Rotaract is the secret weapon in Rotary which we’ve ignored for so long. You are not workers; you’re leaders, you’re the future of our organisation,” he said, and listed out all that the Rotaractors expected in Rotary: “I know that basically you don’t want to go to a lot of meetings, you want to be efficient when you go to a meeting; you want to do service, you don’t want it to be expensive, and you want to enhance your leadership skills.” He called for Rotary clubs to consider these points in order to attract Rotaractors. “Treat them as equals. Involve them as partners in your community service programmes,” he said.
To the Rotaractors, he added, “Look for a club that satisfies your needs. If you don’t find one that’s engaging you, start your own Rotary club. Do it the way you want to do it with your friends so that you don’t lose the passion for Rotary. Our rules are very flexible today; so it can happen the way you want it to be.”
He announced that a new programme is being designed for Rotaract in association with Toastmasters International and the content will have more of public speaking and leadership skill development and will be launched in July. He related how petrified he was when he delivered his maiden speech on community service. “I was standing there behind the lectern, holding on to its sides, reading my speech, cut to the bottom of the page and waited for the lectern to turn the page for me. Rotary has helped me to stand before an audience and speak. I want every Rotaractor to have that opportunity… to develop as an individual.”
What I want from you is to take the lead and go to a Rotary club and say, ‘we want you to be involved and we want to involve with you.’
– RI President Elect Barry Rassin
The long-term goal will be that Rotaractors will enjoy the same rights and privileges as Rotarians. Currently, Rotaract data is being updated at Evanston with help from Rotaract club presidents. “I understand from the RI that we have over 10,000 clubs but less than 40 per cent have confirmed their existence. We must know the exact data so that we’ll know what you are doing and how we can help you.”
A big applause greeted his announcement that in the long range he’d like to see Rotaractors have the same access as Rotary clubs to global grants.
Answering a question from DRRE Kiran Raj, D 3190, on Rotary clubs not mentoring Rotaract clubs after chartering them, Rassin said Rotary clubs can’t just start a club and walk away. Rotarians must invite Rotaractors to their weekly meetings and they should also attend Rotaract meetings. They must be around to help and teach them. “When Rotaractors from the Rotaract Club sponsored by my club come for our meeting, they don’t sign in as guests, they sign in as members,” he said.
To another DRRE’s suggestion for a coordination meet of Rotary and Rotaract club presidents, on the lines of PETS, Rassin explained that the accommodation is a challenge as the hotels where the PETS are organised have limited space, “but we are working out something which we hope to finalise in a couple of years.”
To a question on what he liked about Rotaractors and what he expected out of them, Rassin quickly replied: “Well, I love your youth. Your energy and optimism are fantastic. I want to spread that to Rotary. What I want from you is to take the lead and go to a Rotary club and say, ‘we want you to be involved and we want to involve with you’. Be proactive; don’t wait for Rotary to come to you.”
Addressing the DRRs, RI Director C Basker said, “There should be a connect between Rotary and Rotaract so that both partners can work in tandem. That’s why we had the coordination programme with the DRRs and the DRCCs and it is shaping up well. He appealed to the incoming DRRs too to keep updating the Rotaract database. “The contact details of all Rotaractors are vital to us for better connectivity. Together we can do so much more,” he added.
Referring to the newly-born Rotaract News, the RI Director urged the DRRs to send action photos and reports of their projects to Rotary News. “That is your magazine specially designed for you. Showcase your wonderful projects to the entire world through it.” He added, “Together you are a force. Don’t think you are young. You can make a difference.”
He announced that he has offered to be the Liaison Director for Rotaract in 2018–19, which RIPE Rassin acknowledged in his speech. Quoting an African proverb, Rassin said: ‘When spiders web unite, it can tie up a lion.’
Pictures by Jaishree