Coming as it did after the very serious two-day meet packed with sessions on polio, measles, rubella and tuberculosis, the mood had to be lightened several notches for the youngsters who had assembled for a Rotaract conclave in Delhi, attended by the DRRs and DRCCs (District Rotaract Committee Chairs). And RI Director C Basker did just that by commenting that as the action had shifted from the senior Rotarians to a young group, “Let’s all relax and have a fun day.”
Saying that he was a firm disbeliever in the adage ‘one size fits all’, Basker first sought views from the assembled youngsters on why they had all been invited for such a meet.
Some of the answers:
- To share ideas
- To improve coordination between Rotarians and Rotaractors
- Better networking
- To inspire each other
- Rotary has realised it is incomplete without Rotaractors
- To build the future of Rotary and make Rotary younger.
While some of this was true, the rest was off the mark, said the RI Director, adding, “we want you to use this opportunity for self-development and self-improvement by partnering with Rotary. Rotaractors are in the age group 18 to 30, and you are here to understand the ongoing programmes of Rotary and how you need to strengthen the Rotaract movement in your district and ensure more youngsters join your group for their own self-development, networking and to pick up leadership skills.”
He urged them to utilise the great opportunity they had to rub shoulders with the district governors who were present at the meet. Basker said that last year when he had assumed charge as director, he represented three zones (from 12 countries) of the 34 zones that RI has. “I found there was not much cooperation between Rotarians and Rotaractors for many reasons. Maybe the DG was not spending enough time with his DRR. Or the DRR was not that enthusiastic to reach out to Rotarians. So we decided to bring in a synergy between Rotarians and Rotaractors and let me assure you that this was well before RI President Barry Rassin told us to do it.”
If such a synergy could be established, “India can be showcased as a country of youngsters who have a direction for economic development, build visionary leaders and look at humanitarian services in our communities.”
So last year he had organised a training event that involved regional leaders, DRCCs, DRRs and DGs. Following its success, a similar meeting was being organised this year too in Delhi.
Basker said that considering the estimated 257,577 Rotaractors in the world of which only 145,861 were reported, India could take pride in the fact that we had 45,041 Rotaractors. “So with one-third of the Rotaract population in the world, we will have to devise a strategy on how India is going to be a leader in this area.”
Giving another statistic, he said that of the 35,000-odd Rotary clubs in the world, only 10,182 clubs had ever sponsored a Rotaract club. Turning his attention to the DGs in the hall, the RI Director said, “please find the clubs in your district which have never sponsored a Rotaract club and encourage them to sponsor one this year.”
Basker disclosed that when it comes to Rotaract, RI gives two figures — reported numbers (145,861) and estimated numbers (257,577) of Rotaractors. While the reported numbers are those that the clubs are reporting, the estimated numbers worldwide are only a guess. “In India we have a reported number of only 60 per cent. This was discussed at the last meet in Hyderabad. The DRRs will have to talk to the Rotaract clubs and get the current membership updated in the database. In 2016–17, the reported Rotaractors were only 25,000 in India, but the number has gone up to 45,000 in 2017–18. That shows that the DRRs of 17–18 have done some good work. Let us appreciate them.”
But, he added, even this figure might not represent the true number. “Joseph Thomas, Senior Coordinator, Club and District Support, in the RI South Asia Office, says probably we have captured only 60 to 70 per cent of the membership. We need to now capture nothing less than 100 per cent this year. That is the challenge. If we can do that… the advantages and benefits we can give your members through connectivity via a single platform will be tremendous. Through a single click any communication or great project you do can be flashed across India.”
He added that today, because we don’t have a proper database of Rotaractors we are not able to inspire them or show them the value proposition… “they can make friends, get trained to become leaders, get job and business opportunities.”
Striking a personal note, the RI Director said that he joined Rotary because somebody invited him, and “after that I learned so many new things, got opportunities to travel. I have gained much more from Rotary than what I have given it. That is the truth… also get out of your mind that we are strengthening Rotaract to benefit Rotary. That is not true.”
Elaborating, he said India was a country with the largest youth population in the world; of our 1.3 billion people, 30 per cent of the population was below 25. “How are we going to equip them with skills and make them capable of finding jobs and become competitive in the world? So let’s think it as a service to our community, our country by providing an opportunity to others for skill development and personal improvement. Please remove the idea from your head that Rotaract membership is to strengthen Rotary. Rather it is to build our nation by developing our youth.”
He sought from the DRRs a one-page concept paper after the event on what they were planning to do during their year — 2018–19. But “aspire for something big, and turn something impossible into possible. Just as Steve Jobs did, moving swiftly from pressing buttons and large models to touchscreen, sleek ones. He said he did that because ‘I understood the requirement of a common man’. And he also said that he loves what he does. So whether it is the Rotaract movement or your career, start to love what you do and you will excel.”
PRIP Rajendra K Saboo recalled that in RI his first assignment was as member of the youth activities committee. “In the course of my journey in Rotary I have been so closely involved in the Rotaract movement that I can speak at least for one hour on how the whole training programme has developed over the years and come to this stage.”
He said Rotaractors were already a part of the Rotary family and “they just have to automatically come into Rotary with a sense of commitment and belonging.” Addressing the assembled DRRs, the two Rotary Coordinators Rajendra Rai and Ashok Gupta underlined the urgent need to infuse more youngsters into Rotary.
Said Rai, “We want to encourage DRRs to work with both the district governors as well as the DRCCs. Once upon a time the DRCCs were just namesake appointees but all that has changed now.” He added that RI President Barry Rassin has given a call to strengthen the Rotaract movement and ensure smooth transition from Rotaract to Rotary. “A reason we are here together today is that if we work in tandem and become a single force we will have more impact in our communities.”
He urged the senior Rotarians present in the room to invite Rotaractors to join Rotary at every opportunity and keep in mind that in 2016 RI had allowed Rotaractors to become Rotarians while still in Rotaract (relaxing the joining age to 29).
Gupta urged DRRs to turn their energy and focus on the WinS programme as it had the potential to bring a huge behavioural change in our communities.
Pictures by Rasheeda Bhagat
No of Rotaract clubs in the world – 7,942
No of Rotaract clubs In India – 2,824
Number of Rotaractors in the world – 257,577 (estimated)
Reported Rotaractors in the world – 145,861
Number of Rotaractors in India – 45,041