From Australia to the Netherlands, Rotary youth programs have shaped me

Taylor Randall with the pins she’s gathered from Rotary events.

By Taylor Randall

My journey with Rotary actually began before I was born.

I’m the fourth generation of my family to be connected with the Rotary Club of Nerang, Queensland, Australia. My great-grandfather was charter president, my grandfather was a charter member and past president, and my mum – the first woman invited to join the club in 2000 – became the club’s first female president in 2007.

Then there’s me. When I was one year old, I made a splash in the World Swim for Malaria community swim. I’ve been a proud participant in Interact, Rotary Youth Exchange, Rotex (Rotary Youth Exchange alumni) and the National Youth Science Forum, of which Rotary is a founding partner. Ultimately, Rotary youth programs have had a significant role in shaping who I am today.

My school-based Interact club held Paint Your Pinky Purple activities to raise awareness of Rotary’s work to eradicate polio. Barbecues and raffles were a common occurrence. But I wanted to leave a bigger mark on the world; I wanted to further my international understanding.

Do It In A Dress

After talking to friends here in Australia and across the globe, I learned how the access to and quality of education varies greatly around the world. As a young female in Australia, I was lucky to attend school. I wanted to make sure my peers knew how lucky they were, too. My Interact club started the program “Do It In A Dress” to support One Girl, an international charity raising funds for and promoting awareness of equality in female education.

In under a week, our club raised more than 2,000 Australian  dollars (US$1,330) by encouraging students to do physical activities like arm wrestling, basketball, wet sponge throwing (corn hole), and sumo wrestling – all while wearing dresses or tutus. To celebrate reaching our goal, we held a fashion parade where our teachers modeled their most fashionable gowns. Even our male school principal got involved – dress, wig, make-up and all! It was a sight to see!

Having this under my belt inspired me to see where else Rotary could take me. A year later, I found myself in Groesbeek, a small village in the Netherlands, on a Rotary Youth Exchange. This experience produced the most impactful and life-changing moments in my life. I had already had the privilege of meeting Rotarians from all around the world at the 2014 Rotary International Convention in Sydney, and again in Toronto in 2018. I had collected pins and stickers from people in the House of Friendship as well as Rotarians I met on buses, trains, and trams. Gaining the courage to talk to strangers built my confidence and encouraged me to push the boundaries of my comfort zone.

I left Australia for my exchange year in January 2020. After two exhilarating months of living my best exchange life, challenging my comfort zone, discovering a new culture, and learning a new language, the Netherlands went into lockdown from COVID-19. School, Rotary, Church, Scouts, and everything else was online… and in Dutch!

Rotary Youth Network

To keep meeting new people with a love of serving others, I joined Rotary Interactive Quarantine (now known as Rotary Youth Network). I met with 800 Interactors, Rotary Youth Exchange students, and RYLA attendees from approximately 30 different countries. I didn’t just get to know Dutch culture, I got to know cultures from around the world – all from my bedroom.

Due to the pandemic, I returned to Australia only five months into my exchange year. But I was grateful that I got to experience a smidgen of the Rotary Youth Exchange life in person.

Since returning from exchange, I’ve wanted to give back to Rotary for everything it’s given me. I’m a charter member and current president of the Southern Star Rotex Club in District 9640 and a member of that district’s Rotary Youth Exchange committee. I also have the honor of serving on the inaugural Rotary International Youth Advisory Council representing all Rotary Youth Program participants and alumni around the world. I support youth voices in all aspects of what I do and encourage other alumni to reconnect with the Rotary world.

I’m here today because of the Rotarians who believed in me and the power of Rotary youth programs. To them I say: Thank You!

Celebrate Rotary’s Youth Service Month in May. Learn more about our youth programs.

1 thought on “From Australia to the Netherlands, Rotary youth programs have shaped me

  1. Pingback: From Australia to the Netherlands, Rotary youth programs have shaped me - Rotary Club of Medford Oregon

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