Interview of Past, Current and Future Rotaract Leaders, by District Rotaract Chair PP Anita Chan
With Rotary Year 2020-21 well and truly underway, District Rotaract Chair (DRC) Anita CHAN recently caught up with District Rotaract Representative (DRR) Alan YIP, Immediate Past District Rotaract Representative (IPDRR) Tomson CHOW and District Rotaract Representative Elect (DRRE) Luffy CHAN to reflect on their Rotaract journey, how they navigated through challenges in times of uncertainty and their vision for Rotaract in RI District 3450.
Rotaract Experience and Memorable Moments
DRC Anita: I joined Rotaract in 2007 and was also a DRR 10 years ago. In the past, District Rotaract used to hold Joint Presidents’ Meetings (JPM) here at Rotary Information Center (RIC). I still remember that some Rotaractors had to stand outside when not presenting as this room was usually very crowded. We would go to nearby restaurants for late-night snacks afterwards. Tomson, how about your Rotaract journey?
IPDRR Tomson: I joined Rotaract 10 years ago and witnessed the change of Rotaract JPM venue from RIC to Youth Square and then the Wave. As a former Interactor and a past DRR, I would say my journey with Rotaract is a very fulfilling one. Rotaract is a people-oriented place. I think a notable change of Rotaract in the past decade is things have been handled in a more humane manner, which is a good thing.
Difference under Elevate Rotaract
DRC Anita: “Elevate Rotaract” has been a common theme in recent years, highlighting the development in Rotary-Rotaract partnership. Alan, how do you feel about the change?
DRR Alan: I joined Rotaract 3 years ago, as a charter member of Rotaract Club of Central. I worked on service projects with our Mother club and the experience gave me the impression that Rotary and Rotaract can be good partners in services.
The concept of “Elevate Rotaract” was introduced when RIP Barry Rassin moved a motion to the Council on Legislation in 2019, recognizing Rotaract clubs as part of Rotary International (RI), not merely a “program” of individual Rotary clubs. The change is also known as Enactment 19-72.
Thanks to DG Eric, Rotaractors have got more opportunities to participate in Rotary events and to work with Rotarians at different district committees this year. However, I won’t be surprised if some Rotaractors or even club presidents are not aware of “Elevate Rotaract”.
To me, “Elevate Rotaract” is a movement which will take years. It is about how to empower Rotaractors and how Rotarians and Rotaractors can work together as partners. Enactment 19-72 was only the beginning, as a top-down strategy from RI. Going forward, we will need Rotary and Rotaract leaders to work together to actualize it at the district and club levels.
Under the COVID-19 Pandemic
DRC Anita: The past year has been a difficult and unpredictable year with widespread civil unrest followed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomson, how did District Rotaract deal with the “unknowns”?
IPDRR Tomson: Social movement first started in the beginning of the 2019-20 Rotary Year followed by the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020. We were at a loss at the very beginning as these were challenges that we never encountered before. But we soon accepted and came up with contingency plans with a belief that we need to be decisive and hit the target without delay. For instance, with the support of a number of Rotarians and Rotaractors, we changed the format of district events to fit the needs of Rotaract clubs and worked together “As ONE” (our theme last year) to serve our community and fight the virus.
DRC Anita: Although Hong Kong has just contained the third wave of COVID-19 cases, many predicted that the fourth wave could be in store for Hong Kong. Alan, how does District Rotaract get prepared in times of uncertainty?
DRR Alan: Unlike last year, the focus of our work this year probably has to be on contingency planning instead of crisis management. I think people will have higher expectations on us given we all know that the virus will not fade away anytime soon. On event planning, we now take a flexible approach and plan ahead taking into account the severity of COVID-19 crisis so that we can swiftly shift from physical events to hybrid or virtual events when needed. That being said, I do notice that the attention span of some participants is lower when we move things online. Going forward, we will continue to explore and utilize different tools, such as polls and videos, to keep people engaged and focused.
Navigating the Way to Tomorrow
DRC Anita: Now we know that the coronavirus will not subside soon or may never go away. Luffy, how do you as the DRRE equip yourself in light of challenges ahead?
DRRE Luffy: I know that I’m still relatively young in the Rotaract family. So I will take every opportunity to learn from other Rotaract leaders as they are all very experienced and talented. In terms of challenges, I think the biggest challenge for me next year is membership development and succession. We have some very experienced Rotaractors who always stand ready to help when needed, but as they are moving to the next stage of life, we need to identify and nurture young talent for better tomorrow.
For our younger generation, I believe what they need is an opportunity for them to learn, grow and prove their value. Also, the “new normal” of hosting events over video conferencing allows us to reach out to more people without physical barriers. It is also very important that we take this opportunity to offer technical training, such as photo editing and video production, to our young members.
DRC Anita: Talking about our young members, how do you see the relationship between Rotary and Rotaract, Luffy?
DRRE Luffy: I think the relationship between Rotary and Rotaract is intriguing. Some seem to be very close like friends while others may appear to be more authoritative. I know that we will have more Rotaractors joining various Rotary committees over time. As Rotaractors, we should always be prepared for new opportunities and never look down on ourselves. District Rotaract should also act as a role model for our fellow Rotaractors.
DRC Anita: From being a Rotaractor to a Rotarian and now becoming a Rotarian taking an advisor role in District Rotaract as the District Rotaract Chair, I think I’m obliged to set a good example for Rotaractors to follow too, as well as to demonstrate that a Rotaractor will never forget his/ her roots. I hope my personal story of a Rotaractor evolving into Rotarian will also help to build trust in Rotary-Rotaract collaboration. Tomson and Alan, can you share with us your expectations as regards to Rotary-Rotaract collaboration?
IPDRR Tomson: “Rotaract” stands for “Rotary in Action”. I think this has withstood the test of time. In a team, members have their own roles and strengths. As we all know, Rotarians are more experienced and resourceful while Rotaractors tend to be more creative and energetic. I think the best way to collaborate is to create a culture of mutual respect and maximise each other’s strengths.
DRR Alan: Building up trust in a relationship takes time, patience and work. The first step is to establish mutual understanding and recognize the importance of different roles. This is a marathon, not a sprint. I therefore encourage Rotaractors to take the lead in initiating conversations or join our upcoming Rotary-Rotaract mentorship programme as a start.
In a diversified team, effective communication is very important. We should acknowledge and embrace diversity. For myself, I know that I am different from Gen Z or Rotaractors from university-based clubs. In order to keep up with the times, my team and I have been proactively listening and will continue to listen to our fellow Rotaractors sharing their stories and thoughts on various issues.
Removing the Age Limit of Rotaract
DRC Anita: We know that Rotaract’s upper age limit of 30 has now been removed. Tomson and Alan, how do you see this evolution of Rotaract or will you stay in Rotaract after the age of 30?
IPDRR Tomson: Turning 30 has always been a deadline many Rotaractors set for themselves. It also symbolizes that one may have to start focusing on other priorities in life, be it your family or career. I think for some Rotaractors, the intangible age limit is still there. The positive side of this change is that you can continue to stay in your club and join Rotaract events as a member when you turn 31. This also reminded me of a sharing by PP Uncle Fok of Rotary Club of Peninsula South before this change. During the event, PP Uncle Fok shared with us that transitioning from a Rotaractor to a Rotarian is a critical time in your life where you have to start to think of how you can give back to society and Rotaract.
DRR Alan: I’ve never thought of whether to stay in Rotaract or become a Rotarian after the age of 30. To me, this is not a concern as we can always act together as a group. Time flies. With 7 months remaining until the next Rotary year, I will continue to grow with Rotaractors in areas ranging from leadership to vocational and personal development. I know that many Rotaractors have been casting their bread upon the waters in different ways. So I hope together we can go further in terms of growing social impact too, especially under the pandemic.
My mission this year as the DRR is to create more opportunities for sustainable collaboration between Rotary and Rotaract. However, I also understand that with massive opportunities available, we need to beware of our capacity and sometimes choose to focus on a few important things. To me, Rotary or Rotaract is a life-long commitment and July next year is not the end date of our work for sure. For things that are still in progress, I will pass to our DRRE Luffy and continue to serve as a Rotaractor or a former Rotaractor.
DRC Anita: Luffy, as the youngest Rotaractor in the room, you are certainly far from being there. Can you share with us ideas you have in mind for the future instead?
DRRE Luffy: Sure. When I decided to run for DRR, I already knew that I want to grow membership and bring Rotaract to more people. This year, I am the chair of Training and Education. As many of our fundamental training sessions have been moved online this year, we also recorded those sessions and uploaded to our shared drive so that more Rotaractors or potential Rotaractors can watch, learn and grow together. In future, we will offer more online tools to facilitate the development of Rotaract clubs and reach more people in the community. We hope to grow to meet new needs and help build a supportive network in the community.
DRC Anita: Alan, Tomson and Luffy, thank you for being here today. I am thrilled to hear that you all have been enjoying your Rotaract journey and grown to become leaders in fostering Rotary-Rotaract collaboration. On top of elevating Rotaract, I hope that we can continue to provide support in furtherance of our Rotaractors’ whole person development and elevate our Rotaractors to outside Hong Kong.