Rotaract has evolved quickly in its short but dynamic history. In the early 1960s, Rotary clubs around the world began to sponsor university youth groups as Community Service projects. The 1967-68 Rotary International (RI) President, Luther Hodges, and the RI Board of Directors considered this club activity to have international relevance, and Rotaract was approved in 1968 as an official program for Rotary clubs. The first club chartered was the Rotaract Club of North Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S.A. on 13 March 1968.
Several decades later, the Rotaract program has grown into a strong international network of clubs in over 170 countries and geographical areas, with more than 145,000 members in over 6,400 clubs — clubs organized for young men and women (ages 18 to 30) to serve the physical and social needs of their communities, widen their friendships and professional contacts, and increase their understanding of the world.
Rotaract clubs are part of a global effort to bring peace and international understanding to the world. This effort starts at the community level but knows no limits in its outreach. Rotaractors have access to the many resources of Rotary International and The Rotary Foundation. Rotary International provides the administrative support that helps Rotaract clubs thrive.
Rotaract: A Key Member of the Rotary Family
Rotary International is a worldwide service organization for leading business and professional men and women with 29,000 Rotary clubs and over 1.2 million members. Each Rotaract club is sponsored by a local Rotary club. This sponsorship is a result of Rotary’s concern that young people, or “New Generations,” should take an active interest in community life and have the opportunity for professional development. Rotaract provides a vehicle through which New Generations can find that involvement.
Organizing a Rotaract club is one of the most rewarding activities a Rotary club can undertake in its community. The Rotaract program gives Rotarians the opportunity to mentor dynamic young men and women interested in providing service to their own communities and the global community. Rotarians also serve as resources for Rotaractors who are in the process of becoming professionals and community leaders. In turn, a Rotaract club can bring new energy to a Rotary club, inspire fresh ideas for service, increase support to projects, and help develop future Rotary club members.
Rotaract clubs are self-governed and largely self-financed at the local level. Working in cooperation with their sponsoring Rotary clubs as partners-in-service, Rotaractors are an important part of Rotary’s extended family.
The Standard Rotaract Club Constitution defines the role of the Rotary club sponsor in Articles III, V and XIII.
Activities Undertaken by Rotaract Clubs
You might ask, “What exactly does a Rotaract club do?” Rotaract clubs organize a variety of projects and activities, depending primarily on the interests of the club members. There are, however, three types of activities within the Rotaract program that all clubs undertake in varying degrees: professional development, leadership development, and service projects. Together, these three areas ensure a balanced club program and provide important experience and opportunities for the personal development of each Rotaractor.
A club’s professional development activities should expand the members’ understanding of the work environment and business opportunities within their community. These activities should highlight the Rotaractor’s role in the community’s economic development and illustrate how skills developed through service activities can help in resolving problems in the workplace. Each Rotaract club should provide professional development opportunities to its members through activities such as:
· special professional and vocational forums
· business technology updates
· management and marketing seminars
· conferences on business and professional ethics
· presentations on finance and credit options for business start-up
Sponsoring Rotarians can enhance the professional development of Rotaractors by providing practical advice on entering the business world and overcoming business, vocational, and professional challenges. Making the club’s professional development projects joint Rotaract-Rotary projects can also help Rotaractors get better acquainted with sponsoring Rotarians.
A club’s leadership development activities not only aim to make members more effective leaders in their personal lives, but also teach them how to develop and sustain strong clubs with relevant projects. Important topics to address in training club leaders include:
· improving public speaking skills
· techniques for marketing the Rotaract program to potential members
· building consensus among members
· delegating project responsibilities and ensuring the necessary follow-up
· identifying channels for project publicity and promotion
· finding financial resources for strengthening club development
· assessing project success
Above all other principles, “Service Above Self” is the credo that guides Rotary. A Rotaract club’s service projects are designed to improve the quality of life at home and abroad. These projects often address today’s most critical issues, such as violence, drug abuse, AIDS, hunger, the environment and illiteracy. Each Rotaract club is required to complete at least two major service projects annually, one to serve the community and the other to promote international understanding. Each should involve all or most of the members of the club.
Article VII of the Standard Rotaract Club Constitution outlines Rotaract club activity and project guidelines.
Why Organize a Rotaract Club?
Today’s young people will become tomorrow’s parents, professionals, business leaders and community leaders. With the help of programs like Rotaract, they can gain the tools and skills necessary to develop into responsible, productive members of society. Now is the time for Rotary clubs to focus on the future by challenging the New Generations to test their talents, develop new skills, and confront issues they will face in their lifetime. The Rotaract program can instill in its members life skills that can be shared with others for generations to come.
The District Rotaract Committee
The district governor is concerned with the organization and development of Rotaract clubs and appoints a District Rotaract Chair and the District Rotaract Committee (comprised of Rotarians) to address this issue. This committee works to organize new Rotaract clubs in the district, increase communication among Rotaract clubs, and plan district-wide training for Rotaract club officers.