Rotary is a family that unites

Wilson in South Africa

Mark Wilson during his Rotary Youth Exchange in South Africa.

By Mark Wilson, Rotary Club of London

After a long flight from London, I arrived in Durban, South Africa, in 2011 to begin a short-term Rotary Youth Exchange, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Canterbury Sunrise and hosted by Westville Rotary. I did not know what or who would be greeting me, so I had a bit of anxiety which I can clearly remember to this day. Continue reading

What does it mean to be human?

Misaki Otani

Misaki Otani, an Interact member in District 5170 (California, USA)

By Misaki Otani, member of Interact in District 5170  (California, USA)                 

Interact members in my district are raising $120,000 this year to aid Syrian refugees overseas and refugee resettlement in the San Francisco Bay Area. We are also raising awareness, planning service projects, and working to break the stigma associated with refugees.

Why did we chose this project? Continue reading

When I give to Rotary, I get so much more back

161027_witkowski1

Stephanie Witkowski, middle in blue shirt, during her Rotary Youth Exchange in Slovakia. 

By Stephanie Witkowski, Rotary Club of Honolulu Pau Hana

At 28 years old, I decided to become a Rotarian, because Rotary changed my life.

I grew up in a small town in Oregon, USA, and was a young leader in my school. When I was 15 years old, I applied to attend a Rotary Youth Leadership Awards event in Rotary’s District 5110 to learn more about myself and what leadership meant to me. During that amazing week-long experience, I learned not only about how to be a better leader for my school and community, but about Rotary itself.  Continue reading

Rotary scholarship worth the ‘calculated risk’

Avenida del Libertador, Buenos Aires

Avenida del Libertador, Buenos Aires

By Christine Cloonan, former Rotary Scholar

I first heard about the Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarship during a coffee meeting with a fellow member of a women’s business network now known as Ellevate Network. My life path prior to that had been clear, but not always direct.

My goal was to study to get the best education I could with the ultimate purpose of getting a “good job.” But to the bafflement of my older relatives, landing on that good job took a bit of exploring. My first job was with a law firm, which convinced me not to go to law school. Accepting a one year teaching fellowship, I began a five year teaching career and earned a Master of Spanish at Middlebury College. I then developed an “itch” to go abroad to perfect my language skills and explore new places. Continue reading

Rotary Youth Exchange tour reunites 25 years later

Rotary Youth Exchange students from 1991 reunite 25 years later.

Rotary Youth Exchange students from 1991 reunite 25 years later.

By Emma Naas, a former Rotary Youth Exchange Student from Sweden

In the summer of 1991, 377 Rotary Youth Exchange students boarded eight buses and journeyed around the American continent for five weeks. Those weeks were for all of us unforgettable, and a fantastic end to our exchange year. The time we spent on those buses was so special, it created an unforgettable bond between us and a wonderful memory. We never thought we would ever meet again. But we were wrong. Continue reading

A member of Rotaract, and Rotary too

Rotaract Club of John Tyler Community College

Alexandria Ritchie (seated under banner), with the Rotaract Club of John Tyler Community College.

By Alexandria Ritchie, a member of the Rotaract Club of Virginia Commonwealth University and the Rotary Club of James River, Richmond, Virginia, USA

Recently, two Rotary friends shared with me the decision taken by the Council on Legislation to allow Rotaractors to also join Rotary. (The Council is where Rotary members gather every three years to discuss changes to the policies governing our organization.)

So I thought I’d give it a try. I am 21, and now also a member of the Rotary Club of James River. Let me tell you a little bit about my experience in Rotary and its young leaders programs from the perspective of a brand new young Rotarian. Continue reading

Rotary Youth Exchange has touched my entire family

Linda Mulhern, daughter, and Chile Exchange Student

The author, far right, and her daughter with a former Rotary Youth Exchange student from Chile.

By Linda Mulhern, a member of the Rotary Club of St. Paul, Minnesota, USA

When you become a Rotary Youth Exchange student, you never imagine how it might affect you in the long term. In my case, my exchange has connected my family in more ways than one.

As a Youth Exchange student to Sweden in 1979-80, I learned a lot about what I was capable of doing on my own, my strengths and weaknesses, and what it took to overcome obstacles. I had an incredible year in Sweden, and still speak Swedish fluently. I have contacts with many friends and communicate regularly with my host parents and host sisters. Continue reading

16 ideas for breathing life into your club

Participants in the summit draw their ideas on paper.

Participants in the summit draw their ideas on paper.

By Anabella Q. Bonfa, District 5320 membership chair

How do you breathe new life into your Rotary club? We held a young professional summit recently in southern California, USA, attended by 52 members of Rotary and Rotaract — some new and some with many years of experience — who came together for half a day to share their thoughts. Everyone had fun, and many creative ideas surfaced. Here are just a few:

Plan events that are family-friendly to engage members with young children. Continue reading

What does a Rotary club designed by younger members look like?

Members of the Rotary Club of Metro Savannah

The leadership team of the Rotary Club of Metro Savannah with the author (seventh from left in white shirt).

By Gordon Matthews, past governor of District 6920 (Georgia, USA), Rotary Club of Savannah East

A panel of three young members spelled out for us the issues that block young people from joining Rotary during our spring assembly a few years ago — scheduling, cost of dues, and rules.

I’ve been active in developing leaders in our community and have worked with our Group Study Exchange teams in the past, so I know the energy and potential in this “under 40” generation that we need to tap for Rotary. But I’ve also seen several Rotary clubs try to do this with limited results, because they stayed too close to the traditional model and dues structure. Continue reading

A South African’s Youth Exchange to Denmark

Ronan Morgan and South African flag

Rotary Youth Exchange student Ronan Morgan holds up the South African flag.

By Ronan Morgan

I had just arrived in Denmark after a 13-hour flight from South Africa, tired, but not exhausted. I was excited and ready to face a year of surprises and challenges as a Rotary Youth Exchange student from District 9400. It was not until I moved into my new home where I would spend the first five months of my exchange that it fully hit me – I was not in Johannesburg anymore, or anywhere familiar. Continue reading