By Simone Collins, past president of the Rotary Club of Freshwater Bay, Western Australia, Australia
I have never forgotten a conversation I had with a Rotarian who was one of our strongest supporters, back when I was still a Rotaractor. Her own children had never joined Rotary or Rotaract, because they didn’t want to belong to something “boring” like their parents did! I was gobsmacked.
What precisely are we as Rotarians telling our children about Rotary? What do they see? Do they just see you going to “boring” meetings? Or do they see what inspires you about Rotary?
Sure, the meetings can be boring (a whole separate issue!), but Rotary is not just weekly meetings. Rotary is much, much more than that. If you truly believe in what Rotary does, the difference it makes, surely that should be communicated to your children.
Growing up in Rotary
I am a second generation Rotarian. I have grown up immersed in Rotary, because my parents have always been passionate about Rotary, and Rotary was an integral part of their life. It still is.
I have a copy of a 1978 photo showing the inauguration of a Rotary project to provide a center for seniors to socialize. I’m toddling under the lectern while my father is speaking. Back then, the average age of Rotarians was much lower. My dad was in his 40s, and other Rotarians in his club had young families. It was a lot of fun to catch up with the children at projects and social gatherings. Sadly, as Rotarians have aged and younger members have not been brought in to those clubs, a lot of the family-friendliness has evaporated.
I’ve grown up seeing Rotary in action, visiting projects all over the world (and many meetings too!). Some of these experience changed my life; like seeing life inside refugee camps in Hong Kong and visiting the Philippines while bombs were being dropped during a military coup. I wanted to be a Rotarian when I grew up. How could I not, after witnessing such need first hand, and seeing what Rotary is doing to help?
And it’s not just what Rotary does – it’s the people too. Most of my parents’ closest friends are Rotarians. Every aspect of our life involved Rotary! And as I grew older, and went to various Rotary camps, joined Rotaract, and eventually joined Rotary, the majority of my closest friends (and two ex-husbands!) likewise have come from the extended Rotary family. I took a three-month break between leaving Rotaract and joining Rotary. Just reading on Facebook what all my Rotary and Rotaract friends were doing around the world made me realize just how much I missed being a part of it.
My own children, now 6 and 5, attended their first Rotaract meeting the week after their births. They have been able to point out Rotary emblems since the age of 3. They do think Rotary meetings are a bit boring, but they enjoy going every now and then, especially when they win a raffle prize! They are particularly looking forward to going to the RI Convention in Sydney next year! I hope that their experiences of Rotary will continue to be positive, so that they too will grow up wanting to be a part of it all.
What impressions of Rotary do your children and grandchildren have?