By Sophie Richter, 2012-13 Rotary Youth Exchange Student
As a Rotary Youth Exchange Student, I spent a year in Thailand. This experience changed my life and my view of the world. When I returned to Germany, I wanted to give something back to Rotary because of how incredibly thankful I was for the opportunity I had been given. Joining our district’s Rotex club was my way of doing that.
A Rotex club is an organized group of Youth Exchange alumni that stay involved in Rotary by working closely with Rotarians in their district. Our Rotex in District 1800 was founded in 1989 and has around 80 active members. We organize about six weekends each year for inbound and outbound exchange students.
Nine countries in three weeks
One special weekend is our Outbound Orientation, where we prepare students for their experience abroad in different workshops that deal with intercultural communication, stereotypes, life with host families, attending a new school, and other challenges. We also hold a three-week long Europe Tour with inbound students, which is completely organized and run by about a dozen Rotex members each year. Our adventurous tour takes us through nine countries and 14 cities!
We enjoy doing these activities year-round. But a tragedy last year taught us we had the power to do even more.
In April 2016, a massive earthquake struck Ecuador while three Ecuadorian students were on their exchange in our district. They weren’t able to communicate with their families for days and were going through a difficult time. Sadly, one of the students even lost an uncle in the disaster. Our Rotex and the current exchange students wanted to help in any way we could. As one of our inbound students explained in a letter to the Youth Exchange chair, “whenever one part of a family is in a difficult situation, you stand together even closer.”
Every Rotary district should encourage alumni to give back. By taking action, our Rotex is living the principles of Rotary.
The exchange students, in cooperation with Rotex and the Youth Exchange team, reached out to Rotary clubs in our district. In addition to receiving donations from many clubs, we organized a day of service. Exchange students helped by baking cakes to sell at their schools, and even raised money on the street.
In the end, we were able to raise more than 20,000 euros (about $23,000) for victims of the earthquake. One of the students from Ecuador, Camila, later wrote, “seeing people who I only met recently move mountains for others filled my heart.” It was gratifying to know that our Rotex could help accomplish such a big task for Camila and the others.
A new project every year
Since then, we’ve undertaken a new project every year. This year we raised money for a school in South Africa and Zimbabwe, and met one of the South African Rotarians we partnered with at the Rotary Convention in Atlanta. It was so touching to meet him in person.
Rotex allows us to stay involved in our community and helps us do more through Rotary than we could as individuals. Every Rotary district should encourage alumni to give back. By taking action, our Rotex is living the principles of Rotary. Now that we have officially chartered as a Rotary alumni association, we are excited to see what the future will bring!
For more information about Rotex, or about chartering Rotex alumni associations, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.