By Patricia Mackenzie, 2017-18 president of the Rotaract Club of NoBorders
As a young professional, I found myself being short on time. I was starting my career, making new friends, and I really didn’t have time to meet in-person multiple times a week. I tried a traditional Rotaract club for just over three years, but always felt guilty when I missed a meeting because I was traveling or working late. I really wanted to be in the Rotary family, but I needed flexibility.
So I decided to look into other options, and evaluated what was most important to me in a Rotaract/Rotary club. Outside of service, I discovered that club culture and structure was what was most important to me. After a bit of a search, I stumbled across the Rotaract Club of No Borders, which has members from around the world and meets exclusively online. A new club, it had just chartered a few months before I joined. They had members from three countries and half of the members spoke English; the other half Spanish. That sounded like an interesting challenge to me.
There are three main things that I love most about being in the NoBorders Rotaract club outside of our flexible schedule.
Creating friendships. With my past experience in Rotaract, it felt more like a work relationship than a friendship. We met regularly, talked about Rotaract stuff, and then went on with our lives. With NoBorders, we’re always communicating through email and social media. We keep up with what’s going on in each other’s lives and share congratulations or offer support. We also encourage members to build relationships with traditional clubs near them, especially for volunteer opportunities. This gives us a great chance for even more friendships.
Building international understanding. With the NoBorders club, I have the ability to work cross-culturally on a daily basis. I email, chat, and regularly video chat with people from around the world which helps me build my communication skills as well as my international understanding. Our club has had members from over six countries and with each of those countries comes a new way of thinking and interacting. In the world today, it’s extremely important to work on building international understanding so that we can all coexist peacefully.
Overcoming challenges. Online clubs are challenging. International online clubs are especially challenging. It’s not for everyone. It requires you to be proactive and it requires you to solve problems that have never been solved. Online clubs need people who love to solve problems and thrive in those settings. It’s really hard to build a team through a computer screen – but it’s possible.
Being in a club that meets online isn’t for everyone, but it is for me. They are great for people that are short on time, and they open opportunities for so much more than that. It may be hard work to build friendships, do projects, and create a club that is inviting to all when your membership is spread across the world. But as Neale Donald Walsch said, “Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.”