International in scope and local in focus, Winnipeg Rotary Clubs and their youth-focused off-shoot, Rotaract, are all about making connections and helping out where there’s a need.
Winnipeg’s 10 Rotary Clubs consist primarily of business professionals operating under the mantra of service before self.
“Rotary takes on a number of projects, locally and internationally, depending on the needs of the community,” said Jack Wilson, vice-president of the Charleswood Rotary Club. “Rotary International’s main project is to eradicate polio around the world.”
But with a dedication to service comes an element of networking between like minds.
“It’s also a fellowship,” Wilson said. “You get to know people. We promote good business, peace, trust.”
In 1986, members of the Charleswood Rotary Club established and sponsored the Winnipeg Rotaract Club to increase involvement from a younger demographic.
“Rotaract is a subdivision of Rotary for young people,” said Akela Hodgson, president of the Winnipeg Rotaract Club, who is studying international development at the University of Winnipeg. “It’s for people 18 to 30 who want to volunteer and give back to their community at the local level and also do international service projects.”
While the Rotaract Club operates independently from Rotary, the two groups are strongly connected through financial support and mentorship.
“Most people are students and young professionals so they don’t have a lot of money, so there’s a lot more emphasis on doing service projects,” Hodgson said.
Originally a community-based grassroots organization, the Winnipeg Rotaract Club is moving toward a student group set-up based at the U of W, according to Hodgson.
“It gives us a better venue, and honestly most of us are students, so it made it easier to come to our meetings since we’re all mostly at school anyway,” she said.
The club currently consists of only six members, though that number has been as high as 15 in the last few years.
“Most Rotaract clubs are about 15 to 20 members, but some are very big,” Hodgson said. “University of Western Ontario has a group list of 500 people.”
Tsungai Muvingi, the membership and public relations officer with the Winnipeg Rotaract Club, noted that the focus on service was a large part of what attracted her to join two years ago.
“It gives me a structured way of being able to give back to the community, both in the local scene and in the international scene,” she said.
Hodgson also noted that Rotaract’s connection to Rotary offers valuable access to the knowledge and advice of business people and professionals.
The Winnipeg Rotaract Club recently held a fundraiser event at the Forks from Friday, Sept. 17 to Sunday, Sept. 19. Members camped out all weekend to raise money and awareness for Shelterbox, a Rotary organization that provides disaster relief materials to regions around the world.
For more information or to get involved, visit www.rotary.org
Published in Volume 65, Number 4 of The Uniter (September 23, 2010)