A 50th birthday bash in Rotaract’s birth city Charlotte

Did you know that the first-ever Rotaract project was the planting of a tree? “To honour our history, we’ve decided to paint a forest of trees for kids in the hospital who can’t receive balloons, flowers, or other cheery items due to medical restrictions. Caring Canvases proves a fun, inspiring way to brighten their days! Join us on Saturday morning as we gather to paint fun sayings and images on canvas. Locals will later deliver these canvases to the kids.”

RIPE Barry Rassin, Esther, RI Director David Stovall, DG Scot Van der Linden and other Rotarians and Rotaractors at the Rotaract anniversary celebrations.

This was one of the fun activities that marked the 50th birthday of the Rotaract movement in the city where the first Rotaract club was set up 50 years ago — Charlotte, North Carolina, US.

The three-day birthday bash had incoming RI President Barry Rassin, one of whose focus areas during his presidential year will be a deeper engagement with Rotaractors and an all-out effort by Rotary clubs across the world to strive for a maximum conversion of Rotaractors into Rotarians.

Another highlight of the birthday party was a picnic on the lawns at a scenic spot in the city. Said the programme booklet: “Grab a blanket, some food and may be a Frisbee or two and hit the grass with your new found friends.”

While RI is these days focussing in telling the world that Rotarians are “people of action” did you know that the word ‘Rotaract’ stands for ‘Rotary in Action’?

It is interesting to note that Rotaract originally began as a Rotary International youth programme in 1968 at the Charlotte North Rotary Club in Charlotte, RI District 7680. Over 50 years it has now blossomed into a powerful organisation with 11,153 Rotaract clubs all over the world having over 256,000 Rotaractors.

Rotaract focuses on the development of young adults as leaders in their communities and workplaces. While in India the membership is mainly concentrated in the student community, in the developed world Rotaractors form some of the most promising and powerful young professionals in their cities.

RI President Barry Rassin and spouse Esther with Rotaractors.

While RI is these days focussing in telling the world that Rotarians are “people of action” and this branding strategy has taken firm root at the RI headquarters in Evanston, did you know that the word ‘Rotaract’ stands for ‘Rotary in Action’?

RIPE Barry Rassin has been very clear in every interaction he has had with Rotarians that if Rotary’s membership has been stagnant at 1.2 million over long years, one of the reasons is the failure of Rotarians to ensure that Rotaractors make the transition into Rotary once they pass the threshold age of 30.

Rotaract originally began as a Rotary International youth programme in 1968 at the Charlotte North Rotary Club in Charlotte, RI District 7680.

He spent a lot of time at the Charlotte conference and addressing the assembled Rotarians told them that Rotary considers them as an important arm of the organisation and gave examples of how his own club — RC East Nassau — makes it a point to invite Rotaractors for their club meetings where they are not guests, but sign in their attendance just as members do. Also, as the younger people anywhere are more adept at technology and social media, Rotarians could benefit a lot by learning these tricks of the trade from Rotaractors.

Rassin spent much time listening to the Rotaractors and the concerns they raised and they in turn listened intently during his presentation, where he gave his outlook and vision to inspire Rotaractors to better utilise their passion and energy to do good in the world.

There was also a question-answer session where an “RI Board of Directors” comprising Rassin, RI Director Elect David Stovall and RI Director Ron Ferrill answered questions from Rotaractors. Addressing the youngsters, District Governor Scott Van der Linden spoke about the future goals for Rotaract and the need for Rotary clubs to be more inviting to Rotaractors.

Later, he told Rotaract News that “though the first Rotaract club was chartered here in Charlotte 50 years ago, we have not been as active with our Rotaract clubs as you have been in India. I know this because the current President of the Rotaract Club of UNC Charlotte was in a big Rotaract club in India, and speaks highly of the Rotaract culture in your country.”

(From R) RI President Barry Rassin, RI Directors David Stovall and Ron Ferrill and D 7680 DG Scott Van der Linden.

There were interesting discussions in various sessions on marketing, social media and membership strategies, the huge advantage that can be garnered by forging strong partnerships and how to create sustainable service projects. But above all, great stress was laid during the whole conference on devising new and innovative strategies to help Rotaractors and Interactors make a smooth transition into Rotary.

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