April-May 2018 | Features

Happy Birthday Rotaract!

Happy Birthday Rotaract!

Tom Silverson from Littlehampton, West Sussex, is the Chair of Rotaract GBI. As the organisation celebrated its 50th birthday in 2018, Tom reflects on its history and the relevance of Rotaract today.


Dolly in Dreamland

April-May 2018

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It’S hard to believe that Rotaract has been going 50 years this year! Rotaract is a unique international service organisation for people aged between 18 and 30-years-old.

It offers a wide range of activities, to try something new, while getting to meet others and have a great time.

The purpose of Rotaract is to provide an opportunity for young men and women to enhance the knowledge and skills that will assist them in their personal development.

We are also about addressing the physical and social needs of their communities, and to promote better relations between all people worldwide through a framework of friendship and service.
It all sounds a bit like Rotary!

I started my journey in Rotary in 2009 when I took part in the District 1250 Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, gaining valuable skills and developing my understanding about Rotary and the opportunities it offered.

My journey continued in 2010 where I was a founder member of INSIGHT, the Rotaract Club of Littlehampton, becoming Club President in 2013/14.

In 2014/15, I took on the role of District Rotaract Representative in 1250 and in August, 2015 became the Marketing and Communications Officer for Rotaract in Great Britain and Ireland, focusing on re-branding Rotaract GBI online with the new logo and creating new marketing materials to engage clubs with Rotaract GBI.

I was elected Rotaract GBI Chair Nominee in 2015 and became Chair Elect in 2016/17 progressing to Chair in July 2017. I am very enthusiastic about representing Rotaract in Great Britain and Ireland, continuing to support Rotaract Clubs nationally and work in partnership with Rotary.

Throughout the last half century, civilisation has continued to see a vast amount of change and benefitted hugely by the efforts of the Rotary family all over the world.

In 1968, Charlotte North Rotary Club chartered the first Rotaract Club, University of North Carolina, Charlotte, in an effort to increase the involvement of young people in the Rotary movement.

Already, Rotary ran youth programmes, including Interact which was established in 1962 and catered for high school students. Rotaract stands for ‘Rotary in Action’ and originally came from a combination of Rotary and Interact.

Since its inception, Rotaract’s membership has continued to rise.

In the UK, the 1980’s saw a particular membership boom and a wealth of club and district activities throughout the country. In 1993, Rotaract in Great Britain and Ireland established itself as a Multi District Information Organisation with the purpose of providing support and resources to Rotaract clubs across the UK.

In the last 20 years, it is fair to say that there has been a gradual decline in membership in the UK.

The biggest contributing factor for this was and still is the barrier between Rotaract and Rotary clubs.

The limitations in membership to a Rotary club meant that when Rotaractors reached the age limit of 30, Rotary was not as suitable as other organisations and therefore the progression failed.
Fortunately, in the last few years, a number of changes have occurred which is steadily improving the picture.

Rotaract clubs are becoming more flexible, with different types of clubs such as Community, University and e-Clubs as well as a greater choice of Rotary clubs to join to suit individual needs and cater for lifestyle.

Furthermore, the relationship between Rotary and Rotaract has improved with better communication, equality and the understanding of joined up Rotary and how this can be achieved.

With the changes made from the 2016 Council of Legislation, Rotaractors can now be Rotarians at the same time which emphasises how Rotaractors are being valued within the Rotary family allowing for flexibility and the best chance of sustaining the Rotary movement.

At present, Rotaract GBI has over 60 clubs with this Rotary year seeing five chartered to date.

Additionally, there has been a huge shift in the mindset of Rotarians and the reality of an ageing membership. There is now a clear commitment from everyone that we have to work together to sustain Rotary.

Shockingly, still only a small percentage of Rotaractors join a Rotary club but there are simple things that can encourage members to continue within the movement, such as:
Simply ask them to join your club;

  • Value their knowledge and experience from their time in Rotaract;
  • Give them leadership opportunities within their first year in your club;
  • Suggest they open a satellite club if your club is not suitable;
  • Support and mentor them;
  • Allow change to happen.

Moving forward, our focus at Rotaract GBI is to continue to sustain existing clubs, providing support as needed, grow membership and facilitate formation of new clubs as well as strengthen our relationship with Rotary in Great Britain and Ireland to achieve our joint goal of a joined up Rotary.

Rotary Magazine