Youth speak out at Rotary-UN Day
Top: Former Interactor Sophia Hameed shares her experience as a National Immunization Day volunteer during a youth panel at Rotary-UN Day 7 November. Bottom: Jessie Fernandez talks about her decision to join the Rotaract Club of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, during the morning's youth program. Rotary Images
Former Interactor Sophia Hameed said taking part in a Rotary youth program was a life changing event, thanks to the encouragement and support she received from Rotarians.
Hameed, a member of the Interact Club of Miami High School, Florida, USA, before her graduation, shared her experience as a 2009 National Immunization Day volunteer with 1,600 attendees of Rotary-UN Day in New York City on 7 November. Speaking as part of an afternoon youth panel, she noted how Rotary helped her initiate Project B4US (Backpacks for Underprivileged Students).
She urged Rotarians to support youth programs.
"Interact and Rotary were the crux of my high school life," said Hameed, who received a standing ovation. "It is an experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life. Rotary sparked in me a passion for service."
This year's Rotary-UN Day had a special emphasis on youth, both during the afternoon youth panel, and through a separate morning program for youth interested in humanitarian service.
Anne-Charlotte Perrin, president of the Rotaract Club of Paris, joined Hameed on the afternoon panel, speaking about a microcredit project her club initiated in Madagascar. The project helped eight poor families purchase a zebu, a type of domestic cattle, as a source of income.
Ambassador Zina Andrianarivelo-Razafy, permanent representative of the Republic of Madagascar to the UN, thanked Perrin for her club's work.
"Rotary is a one-of-a-kind organization. It encourages people to become entrepreneurs. This is very important in a country like Madagascar," he said. "I would urge all clubs and districts to support youth projects like this."
"They [Rotary youth] are ready, able, and surprise us every time we hear what our Rotary youth programs are doing in communities around the world," said panel moderator Helen B. Reisler, alternate RI representative to the UN and past district governor.
During the morning youth program, speakers from Interact, Rotaract, Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, and Rotary Youth Exchange talked about the importance of social networking as a tool to attract more people to Rotary youth programs.
Jessie Fernandez, 26, said she decided to join the Rotaract Club of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, in May because she realized something was missing in her life.
Fernandez, chair of her club's international service committee, shared some ongoing club projects with the more than 700 young people who attended the youth portion of Rotary-UN Day.
She will be organizing the club's 10th annual charity soccer game in 2010, which brings celebrities from across Latin America to play. Her club will also conduct a medical project in which doctors and dentists will travel to poor villages on the Honduras-Guatemala border.
"I came here to network with my sister clubs. But I also wanted to represent my club, my district, and my country," said Fernandez. "I hope coming here will open the doors for more people to attend."
RI President John Kenny concluded the program, telling the youth: "Our future lies in the youth of today, and you are among the brightest promise for a better tomorrow. It is, of course, my sincere wish that each of you should find a place for yourselves within Rotary -- but at the very least that the ideals and service of Rotary may find a place within each of you."