“The power of youth is common wealth for the entire world. The faces of young people are the faces of our past, our present and our future. No other age group matches the power, idealism, enthusiasm and courage of our young people,” said Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi.
This year marks 50 years since the founding of the first Rotaract club chartered on March 13, 1968. The origins go back in time. Much earlier in 1935, Paul Harris engaged with a youth organisation based on Rotary principles in Australia. In the 1950s many youth clubs were sponsored by Rotary clubs under various names. These included the “Paul Harris Circles” in Europe and the “Rotors” clubs created in some American Universities. By 1965, these organisations experienced significant growth — in part due to the Interact programme created by Rotary International in 1962. Many Interactors, having reached the age limit of that programme, were starting new clubs called ‘Senior Interact’. The new programme’s name, Rotaract, was created by Rotary International and its aim was “to develop leadership and responsible citizenship through service to the community.”
Rotary encourages young leaders to take responsibility for their own learning on leadership skills and commitment to serve the community. This involvement helps them grow their leadership, planning and organisational skills, helping them develop a sense of responsibility and engendering in them a positive outlook. Positive leadership opportunities support responsible transition into adulthood and promotes social and emotional well-being. In short, today’s youth will be the next generation of leaders.
Rotaractors are the key members of the Rotary family who work in tandem with Rotarians as true “partners in service”. Explaining leadership to young people is not easy and there is little literature to learn from. So it’s important for our organisations such as Interact and Rotaract to develop and promote leadership skills in young people. Rotary strongly believes that leadership is about learning to lead.
Rotary clubs can support Rotaract by helping them to promote membership through their business associates, community groups, neighbours and their own families.
Let us celebrate this year by encouraging youth and providing support to Rotary to reach the six focus areas for the benefit of the community. Clubs can join together to plan and promote projects to highlight the golden jubilee of Rotaract.
It is high time to reconnect and rope in Rotaract alumini to your clubs and strengthen your membership base. Rotary truly believes in the power of youth to transform the world. Rotary can achieve its dream of serving the world if every Rotarian contributes to the best of his or her ability in supporting programmes for the youth. Youth is wholly experimental and with the full utilisation of their talent and capabilities, Rotary will become stronger and more meaningful.
Director, Rotary International