By Maricler Botelho, a member of the Rotary Club of Marilia-Pioneiro, and assistant governor of District 4510
When I share my Rotary story, it is one of recognition, support, and acceptance. I believe it also tells the story of Rotary’s commitment to inclusion.
I was born in Tupi Paulista, in the countryside of São Paulo, and grew up in the northern part of the state of Mato Grosso, in the city of Juara. I come from a simple family that set a high value on respecting others. I had to move about 600 miles away from my town to pursue my desire to be a lawyer. I’m the first on my mother’s side of the family to get a college degree. Our socioeconomic status created real limitations, which is why I grew up accepting a feeling that I didn’t really belong. Then I was introduced to Rotary.
I first discovered Rotary through my husband, Laércio G. Domingues, who had become a member. I was already participating in various service projects when I was invited to become a member. When I joined, I received great support from the club, and was encouraged to become involved in all sorts of activities; they had a calendar with different initiatives aimed at the goals set by Rotary International.
Within my first year of becoming a member, under the direction of our club president Sandra Craveiro and Governor Márcio Cavalca Medeiros, I was nominated to become president of the club for the 2021-22 Rotary year. This was my first feeling of inclusion, the trust that the club placed in me.
In July of 2020, I was invited to be on a video about the eradication of polio in Africa. I never imagined that I would be chosen for the video. I didn’t feel I was good enough to be a part of it. For those of us who come from great hardships, it is normal not to feel worthy. But my feelings were unfounded and as I worked on the video, it further awakened my sense of belonging.
I started learning more about our organization, and joined Rotary Action Groups to meet other members and learn about their work. I was welcomed in every group. I discovered a Women in Rotary Group founded by Julia Gangwani and took part in their online meetings. We shared our experiences and information about the work that was being carried out around the world. At the very outset, I asked about my ability to participate in this international group, as I am not fluent in English. But Julia reassured me that they very much welcomed my participation. She encouraged me to invite someone who could interpret for me whenever I felt I needed translation. My language abilities were not a barrier.
It was also through another Rotary Action Group that I learned about the work of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force, and what had been done in Brazil. I was invited by Caio Cruz to meet the group – a team of Rotary members with extensive experience and talents. Even among so many talented people, I was heard and able to share my ideas. And I was involved in the development of a wonderful initiative that resulted in the creation of the DEI Committee in Brazil. Murillo Alvarez Alves, 2022-23 district governor, invited me to be the DEI district chair during his year in office, another demonstration of inclusion in trusting such a role to a new member.
On another occasion, Ann Frisch and Helen Peacock introduced me to their work in the Rotary Action Group for Peace and, even though we don’t speak the same language, we were able to align our efforts and actions. Our virtual meetings were very encouraging and inclusive. Once again, I found my language abilities did not present a barrier. I was able to connect with other distinguished members from all over the world.
Rotary has shown me that we are diverse – that we have limitations precisely because we are diverse. But it has also shown me that these limitations cease to exist when we unite. We break down barriers, distances, and differences.
Rotary has instilled in me a sense of belonging, not only to a single club, but to a great, international organization of people committed to taking action to create lasting change in the world.
Committing to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion — This Learning Center course will help you learn more about Rotary’s DEI statement, what DEI means, and how you can put it into practice to create positive experiences.
This post is adapted from its original and is also available in Portuguese.