Looking back on my year in London as a Rotary Global Grant Scholar, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for all that Rotary has enabled me to do.
On one level, I was born into a family of Rotary members: my grandmother was a founding member for her club in Streetsville, Ontario, and my grandfather was a Paul Harris Fellow.
On another level, I chose to become part of Rotary when I was asked to reinvigorate my community’s Rotaract Club in Langley, British Columbia.
Service of others was always a family value, instilled in me from youth, but it wasn’t until I was in Peru’s Amazon rainforest on a humanitarian relief trip – where I encountered abject poverty and deep human need first hand – that my love of service became my own.
Becoming Rotaract President fostered that love, and gave me an outlet to channel it.
As Rotaract President, we raised funds for women who were victims of domestic abuse, an organisation which rescues young girls from the sex trade in south-east Asia, a microfinance organisation, and a foundation that trains teachers in post-genocide Rwanda.
It was an honour to represent my Rotary district, club, and community when I was invited to speak about our work to hundreds of young leaders from across the world at the International Rotary Youth Leadership Awards in Sydney, Australia, in May 2014.
Observing the depth of human suffering, and learning about the excellent work of many organisations to alleviate it, I was inspired to be a part of the solution, too.
But I knew I had a lot to learn.
Benefits of a scholarship
As I began exploring opportunities to attend graduate school, my host Rotary club approached me about applying for a Global Grant Scholarship.
Earning the scholarship was an unexpected blessing. I was invited to study comparative social policy at the London School of Economics, where I enrolled in September 2014.
Living in London was an incredible experience. The best part, of course, was my Rotary community.
Throughout my year in London, I was generously hosted by the Rotary Club of Paddington.
The Paddington club was brimming with warmth from the first visit. They even invited me to join them on a service trip.
Rotary Paddington had supported a small northern Italian community in the wake of the 2012 earthquakes, and were planning a trip to visit and meet the people of their sister community.
In addition to being able to serve a community that had been devastated by natural disaster, we also enjoyed being brought into their history and culture!
We enjoyed tasting prosecco, Italy’s famous sparkling wine, in the rolling hills of Treviso, a beautiful area just north of Venice and the home of true prosecco.
We also visited a magnificent villa designed by the great Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio. It was a perfect mix of service, culture, and bonding for Rotary Paddington!
Thanks so much to @Rotary for giving me the opportunity to share how thankful I am for their investment in me to study at @LSEnews. Read on & disc what #Kierkegaard, Prosecco and Palladio have in common!@rotaract RotaryGBI https://t.co/Xwb9KuGop7
— Alexandra Hudson (@LexiOHudson) November 16, 2018
My education and time at the London School of Economics was rewarding on multiple levels. Yet as thought-provoking and educational as my classes were, it was the people I met and befriended through my time abroad – and especially my Rotary community – that made the year the most meaningful.
I am thankful for the friends I made and experiences I had in London, all made possible by being a Rotary Global Grant Scholar.
The great Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once said: “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
Memories make us who we are. Reflecting on memories from my year as a Global Grant Scholar reminds me of the way in which Rotary and its values have increasingly become a part of who I am.
I am overcome with thankfulness for the investment that Rotary made in me, which in turn made these experiences possible.
I have since sought to demonstrate my deep appreciation by being an ambassador for Rotary and its principles of other-oriented service.
One way I am currently using the education that Rotary empowered me with is through a book I am writing on civility and human dignity.
While living in Washington D.C. and serving at the U.S. Department of Education as a special assistant to Secretary Betsy DeVos, I learned first-hand the importance of treating every person one encounters with dignity and respect.
Can you imagine how different our conversations with one another might be if our leaders abided by The Four-Way Test?
If we interacted with a little more grace and a little less fury, and were more inclined to give others the benefit of the doubt?
Many of us want to change the world. But change begins with us – in how we interact each day.
Rotary, in its high standard of conduct it expects of its members, is a model to the world.
Rotary has given me opportunities to serve, learn, meet new people, and travel to amazing places – all of which are now parts of who I am.
I count it a profound blessing to have been a Rotary Scholar and to be a part of Rotary’s global community. From the bottom of my heart: thank you.