By Luke Addison, a member of the Rotaract Club of University of Winchester, England
Two years ago, two members of the Winchester Rotary Club gave a talk at the University of Winchester. I was so inspired by the work they described and their own personal reasons for joining that I stayed to ask them how I could help out.
Eventually the experience motivated me to seek out other students and form a Rotaract Club. The club took off amazingly, and through our local and international service projects, my eyes were open to the amazing work Rotary and Rotaract members do. I developed a passion for the world outside Winchester and a strong desire to make a difference.
Two months ago, I was invited to be part of a PeaceJam conference in Monaco. I had never heard of the organization, but I knew it would be an incredible experience. Their conferences are organized around Nobel laureates who spend two days working with youth, sharing their skills and stories. Without a doubt, the highlight of the experience was meeting and listening to Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu. His ability to connect with young people is amazing. He tackled issues of grave importance, and those of a less serious nature, with equal skill, switching back and forth in a way that totally engaged his young audience.
I had been asked to lead one of the afternoon workshops that follow the keynote address, and I used my background teaching drama to design an interactive session. I had the young people welcome each other in different cultural greetings, and then create their own ‘Declarations of Independence’ for their own desert islands!
I was so inspired by the weekend, that I contacted PeaceJam and my own University to see if I could organize one of the conferences in Winchester. And they agreed. We are working on establishing a local PeaceJam department, or hub, that would be responsible for organizing a series of conferences, events, and fundraisers in the area which would go beyond a single weekend experience and have a longer-lasting impact.
I am confident these events will inspire students on multiple campuses to work hand-in-hand with non governmental organizations, charities, and support networks to have a positive influence in their communities.
My goal now is to run PeaceJam Winchester for three years, gaining experience in all areas of peace and international development, as a precursor to applying for a Rotary Peace Fellowship. None of this would have been possible without the dedicated help, support, and enthusiasm of my local Rotary club.
On 21 September, millions of people around the world will celebrate the International Day of Peace through activities, events, concerts, and festivals. What will you or your club be doing? Let us know below, and learn more about how Rotary Peace Centers equip leaders to be catalysts for peace in their communities.