The youthful Priyesh Bhandari, District Governor, D 3053, is the perfect poster boy for Rotary International’s passionate endeavour to strengthen the Rotaract movement, increase the number of Rotaractors, and above all, ensure a smooth transition from Rotaract into Rotary. If this happens, it will address in a big way Rotary International’s major concern to bring down the average age of Rotarians, particularly in the western world.
Bhandari, a successful handicrafts exporter, qualifies for all the above criteria. At the moment, he is the youngest District Governor in the Indian subcontinent, which has a whopping number of 40 Rotary districts.
He was only 19 when he heard from a group of his friends that a new Rotaract club was being formed in Kolkata — then Calcutta — called the Rotaract Club of Calcutta Lakes. “I had just joined St Xavier’s College in the city and with great enthusiasm all of us joined this new club,” he says.
Even though a new club, theirs was a very active club and “we did a lot of projects, most of them related to education and health care. We worked with schoolchildren and teachers and hospitals; we were all so enthusiastic and involved in doing these projects that within two or three years of our club being set up, we were ready to take up the challenge of organising a huge District Rotaract conference called Melange,” recalls Bhandari.
He stayed actively engaged in his Rotaract club for eight years, till his family moved to Jodhpur in 1998. This means that even after he finished his college education and graduated in B Com Honours, he continued with Rotaract.
So what did this experience in Rotaract teach him?
“Oh, it gave me a huge opportunity to acquire so many skills. Prior to joining this Rotaract club I used to be a very shy youth, I would always stay behind the scenes and hesitate to talk to people I didn’t know. You could say I was really an introvert.”
But after joining Rotaract, says Bhandari, there was a big transformation in him. “I started meeting people, including from corporates and as I started working with the other Rotaractors on various projects, the kind of confidence that gradually came into me was phenomenal.”
Another aspect that Rotaract unveiled in him was the leadership quality that has taken him towards the path of becoming a district governor today. “Had I not come to Jodhpur from Calcutta in 1998, I would have certainly become a DRR, because I had really worked very hard in my club and district,” he rues.
Rotaract to Rotary
But in Jodhpur, around the corner, was waiting another opportunity. The very next year, in 1999, Bhandari joined Rotary, becoming a member of RC Jodhpur Midtown. There is no doubt in his mind that it was his experience and close involvement with the Rotaract movement and the kind of opportunities and skills that it gave him, along with joy and a sense of belonging, that led him to join Rotary within a year of moving to Jodhpur.
He firmly believes that Rotaract is a great platform for the making of future Rotary leaders.
“I would say that today we unfortunately lack Rotarians who have Rotary in their hearts. But that can come to you easily if you have been a Rotaractor. My eight years in Rotaract taught me so much.”
Thanks to that experience, during his stint as DG so far, Bhandari has already added 400 new members, installed three new clubs with five more in the pipeline, and is all set to raise $250,000 for TRF, a record high for the district. And in this, the DG himself has contributed $50,000.