By Tamara Gojkovic, past president and treasurer of the Rotaract Club of Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Before I joined Rotary, I had only heard of it by name. I didn’t know anything more. Then one of the assistants at my university asked if I’d want to join their club. He noticed how active I was at university and with several nongovernmental organizations, and he thought Rotaract would be a great fit for me. I’m really grateful he did, because that created a whole new part of my life. That was almost four years ago now.
One of the things I love about Rotaract and about our Rotary community in my city is that we work together a lot. We have meetings at the same time as our Rotary club, in rooms next to each other. We have great communication, collaborate often, and several times a year members of our Rotary club come to our meetings to give us lectures on subjects like investing, business, economy, and art.
One of my favorite things about Rotary is the incredible projects Rotary does every day worldwide. Locally our club helps at an animal shelter, donates sweets to kids during the holidays and placed distance markers in front of major institutions in Banja Luka during COVID. Internationally, we donate funds for building wells in Africa and to Move for GECAF (Give Every Child a Future) by Rotaract Oceania. Another of my favorite things is the amazing people in Rotary and Rotaract whom I wouldn’t have the chance to meet any other way. I’ve met students and professionals in business, medicine, economics, art, music, fashion, diplomacy, and many other areas.
This past September, at Global Citizen Live in Paris, I was part of a “social squad” put together by Rotary International President-elect Jennifer Jones. The idea was for our group of four – Mona Mousa, Pauline Amiel, Hanh Minh and me – to take over Rotary’s Instagram Stories so we could showcase Rotary’s involvement in global events.
Before the event, our squad delegated tasks to make sure we were prepared. We reached out to multidistrict information organizations (MDIOs), Rotaract clubs, and members of Rotaract and Rotary to spread information about this event. Mona did a great job making posts and adding captions, while I shared them on pages I manage for my Rotaract club and the World of Rotaract. Also, because of my passion for photography, I took photos and videos during the event.
I take pride in my organizational skills, something I developed through several NGOs I was involved with before I joined Rotaract. Since joining Rotaract, that skill has evolved even more as I faced the challenges that come with different projects. One of those challenges included taking over as the president just a year after joining. Another was hosting and managing massive online conferences and events that had 300 or more participants, sending all those participants to different virtual breakout sessions. I have also been managing several social media pages for years now, so those two elements were a perfect combination for the social media takeover. All the members on the team brought something important to the table and it brought us to a great collaboration.
I’ve been surprised at how Rotary members can still make such strong connections during a pandemic. At the outset of COVID-19, a Rotaract member from Italy, who’s now my dear friend, purchased a Zoom license and made a room open 24/7 for any Rotaract members who wanted to join, hang out, and feel less isolated during these tough times. I had joined not knowing anyone and didn’t know what to expect, but hadn’t intended to spend a lot of time . However, I found a welcoming community of amazing people and I kept coming back.
Since then, I’ve been asked to take over that Zoom account and join the team. We’re organizing talks every Sunday, where we bring someone from Rotaract or Rotary to talk on a certain subject. One of our first speakers was President-elect Jennifer Jones. We’ve also had parties every Saturday with several DJs, we’ve organized movie nights, dancing lessons, quiz nights, Zumba, concerts, workouts and so many other things. We have almost 900 people who have registered, and I’m proud to say that Zoom room is still live several days a week.
Thanks to our success, other Rotary clubs wanting to convent their in-person events to vitual ones have reached out to us for help. My amazing World of Rotaract tech team and I have helped with organizing online EUCO (European Convention), MEDICON (Mediterranean Convention), two REMs (Rotaract Europe Meeting), Rotaract Oceania’s Kickout 2020 telethon, International Assembly closing party and more. Aside from professional experience, this brought all of us connections from all over the world. The Zoom room group has become great friends – I’d even call them my second family.
Learn more about how Rotary creates meaningful relationships across continents and how you can provide meaningful encounters for people in your Rotary club by downloading our new Action Plan resource guide.
About the author: Tamara Gojkovic works as a piano teacher at a music school and is pursuing two master’s degrees simultaneously: one in music theory and the other in music pedagogy at Academy of Arts, University of Ban