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Rotaract club in Bangladesh rocks on, raises profile


It started with a bit of small talk. Several members of the Rotaract Club of Dhaka Orchid in Bangladesh’s capital city were telling fellow members about a rock concert they had attended a few days earlier. They were especially struck by the energy and enthusiasm of the younger music fans. As the excitement spilled into that conversation back in January 2023, the club’s charter president, Saddam Hossain Roni, got an idea. Not a fan of rock himself, he nevertheless saw the potential in having the club organize a concert of some of the top rock and metal bands in the country to boost Rotaract’s profile, attract members, and raise funds for projects.

“I felt like this was huge,” Roni recalls. “This generation of youth in Bangladesh is crazy about concerts and musical events. I felt that if we did something really big it would let people know about us and the activities we have been doing for the past 50 years. They would see that Rotaract is not just a local club — it’s part of an international movement.”

Members of the Rotaract Club of Dhaka Orchid, including (from left) Didarul Alam, Ahanaf Adib, Tahsin Miti, Saddam Hossain Roni, and Faysal Kanan, use popular music to boost Rotaract’s profile, attract members, and raise funds for projects. Several club members have formed their own band.

Image credit: Reza Rahman

The Rotaractors were excited by the idea, even though the upfront costs of staging the event were daunting. On 2 June, after a few months of research and planning, 12,000 young music fans streamed into a Dhaka convention center for the charity concert the club called Empathy 2023.

On the lineup were nine of the country’s top rock and metal bands, including Artcell, Warfaze, Shironamhin, and Ashes. Lights flashed from the stage, guitars wailed, and the crowd sang along. Most importantly for the club, concertgoers got a primer on Rotaract and many received T-shirts featuring both concert and Rotaract logos.

Play loud, be heard

The Rotaract Club of Dhaka Orchid has these tips for raising your profile through pop culture events large and small.

  • Piggyback on popular culture. Create an event celebrating your community’s popular music, art, or food.
  • Enlist influencers to promote your event. Young people all over Bangladesh heard about the club and the event through the performers’ social media channels.
  • Don’t forget the merch. For weeks after the event, T-shirts with the club’s logo could be seen on the streets of Dhaka.
  • Bring the fun. Tahsin Miti, a vocalist who plays the harmonium, is one of several club members who formed their own band and jam after meetings. “Members always want us to sing and play,” says Miti. “It has been attracting people, and our members increase day by day.”
  • Dream big. Some were skeptical the Rotaract members could pull off a major concert. They decided to try anyway. Since then, more than 670 people have inquired about joining the club.

After the event, more than 670 people contacted the club to express interest in joining Rotaract, Roni says, and plans were made to charter more than 30 clubs in the city. The nine bands promoted the concert and Rotaract to millions of followers on their social media channels, and the club saw a spike in its own social media traffic. Numerous media outlets covered the event. “For weeks after the concert, we would see youth wearing our T-shirts in the streets,” says Roni.

The Rotaract Club of Dhaka Orchid was chartered in 2015 after Roni moved from the eastern city of Comilla to Dhaka to study electrical engineering. He had by then become active in Interact, serving as treasurer of the Interact Club of Comilla Lalmai, then president of the Gomoti Interact club. His election as district Interact representative further expanded his contacts and leadership skills. “I made new friends, received support from others, and was inspired to develop myself further to bring change to my community,” he says.

One of those new friends is Faysal Kanan, who shares Roni’s passion to get young people involved in service. Prior to the concert, Kanan says, members had to spend a lot of time explaining to people what Rotaract was and how Rotary is dedicated to the eradication of polio, among other causes. “I felt if we could interest more young people to serve in Rotaract clubs, we could show them how they can serve everywhere at any time,” Kanan says.

The Rotaractors have demonstrated just that through their passion for helping communities affected by flooding or other disasters, especially in hard-to-reach parts of the country. In 2016, they provided clothing and supplies to Santal people who lost homes during ethnic clashes over land rights. In 2019, they traveled to the remote Kurigram district in northern Bangladesh to provide flood relief in the form of food, clothing, and medicine.

Roni remains connected to Interact through the Interact Alumni Association of South Asia, which he helped found. In 2022, he joined with Tahsin Miti, then a district Interact representative and past president of the Interact Club of Dhaka Paramount, to organize Interact and Rotaract clubs to deliver flood relief in the city of Sylhet after summer monsoons.

Some of the money raised through Empathy 2023 helped provide winter clothing to families. The club is planning a bigger event for 2024 in an open-air stadium that they hope will raise enough money to build permanent shelters for people affected by flooding.

The club received help at the concert from other young people. Miti, now a Rotaract member, organized volunteers and encouraged Interactors to promote the event. “I think we succeeded in showing many people a different image of Rotary,” Miti says.

Roni is using industry connections he made to line up other celebrities, including a well-known comedian and magician who joined the club last year. Several club members, including Kanan and Miti, have formed their own band, Shadow, which has performed at Rotary and Rotaract events. The group plans to take the stage at the stadium concert this year.

“If we can promote our own band in the music industry, I think we can get even more youth interested in Rotaract,” Roni says. “This generation is so busy with their studies and their careers. But they are hungry for culture. If we can use music to show them Rotaract, we can get them excited about service and show them the difference it can make.”

This story will appear in the April 2024 issue of Rotary magazine.

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