By Georgi Kardzhaliyski, a member of the Rotaract Club of Boston, Massachusetts, USA
My love affair with Rotary started when I was a junior in high school and was selected by the Bulgarian-American Fulbright Commission for their United States Achievers Program. One of the participants told me about Interact during the break of an SAT prep course and sparked my interest in getting involved. Feeling inspired, I went on to start my high school’s first ever Interact club, which I ran successfully with my co-president and about 10 members for a year until I graduated.
I got a scholarship to attend a college in Massachusetts and moved from my small town of Septemvri, Bulgaria. After several flights, I found myself in the U.S. on 17 August 2009. Imagine being 19 years old, coming to a different country, with a completely different culture, not knowing anyone, and no one speaking your native language. This moment symbolized my departure from a world that was familiar and comfortable; I realized I had left my family, homeland, and culture behind to discover a whole new community, country, and new friends.
Blanketed in kindness
Within the first few days of my arrival, I was accepted and blanketed in warmth and kindness from the Rotary community in District 7930 (parts of Massachusetts and New Hampshire). My 3.5 years in college were exceptionally amazing because of everyone in Rotary who welcomed me. A Rotarian named Sue, a retired K-12 teacher, kindly offered to take me under her wing and introduced me to the Rotary community.
She invited me to Rotary meetings and conferences and included me in Rotary activities. Sue invited me to her house for supper, corrected my English and let me use her phone to call my parents. There were many more random acts of kindness and she asked nothing in return. She was a compassionate friend and a caring mother. Today, I call her my U.S. godmother.
Ever since then, I’ve wanted to return the same sentiment in some way. I participated in Rotaract throughout college and have been an active member of Rotaract in Boston for the past two years. I love being part of a group of young people who represent a cross section of the world having many different backgrounds. They are genuinely excited to volunteer, make friends, and provide Service Above Self.
But still, I felt something was missing. I wanted to give back but was unsure how. Then I started running. I ran my first half marathon (21 km) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in November of 2017 and my first marathon in Toronto in October of 2018.
This year, I decided to challenge myself with a goal of running four half marathons in the summer and participating in the Chicago Marathon in October. While running the distance of over 120 km, I will be raising money to support Teach for Bulgaria, an organization very dear to my heart because of their mission – quality education for every child, regardless of where they live or what their socioeconomic status is.
By supporting this cause, I want to make sure that more students are going to have role models like Sue. This is my way of paying it forward to her and Rotary.
I became a Rotaractor because I believe collaboration toward a common goal leads to stronger ties within communities and promotes cultural and economic advancement. I believe in Service Above Self. It’s easier to make a positive change when you have the world of Rotary working together.
I have been grateful for the support I have received from my club and from the Rotaract Club of New York at the United Nations, the Rotaract Club of Manhattan NYC, the Rotaract Club of Toronto, Club Rotaract de Québec, Rotaract Bulgaria, and District 7930.
Learn more about Georgi’s effort to support Teach For Bulgaria.