Ramkumar Raju of India and Winfred Karungi of Uganda have never met, but they have a great deal in common. They're both Rotaract club members and district Rotaract representatives. They're also promising young community leaders who helped plan successful Presidential New Generations Conferences in their countries.
Rotary International President Ron Burton hosted the conferences, which were held in Chennai in October and Kampala in November. (A third conference took place in Rosario, Argentina, in March.) The goal of these international conferences was to bring together young community leaders and Rotary members to share ideas for attracting new members and engaging young people.
Raju, a member of the Madras Central Rotaract club, and Karungi, a member of the Kampala City club, were asked by Rotarians in their areas to be part of the conference planning committee. Both describe the experience as a great learning opportunity. "I learned decision making and communication skills, how to be a team player and handle crucial situations, and last but not least, I learned the power of Rotary," Raju says.
Karungi says she also improved her relationships with Rotary members in her country and learned that "with proper planning, anything can be executed, even a task as great as organizing a conference, a service project, or a dinner for President Burton."
Improving their communities
Each conference included a community service component. Rotaractors in India chose projects that focused on education and disease prevention. They collected thousands of donated books, which will be used to establish libraries in rural areas. They also collected more than 300 units of blood, held a rubella awareness camp hosted by a panel of local doctors, and offered free vaccinations.
In Uganda, Rotaract members also focused their efforts on fighting preventable diseases and promoting child and maternal health. Working alongside community leaders, they organized a hand washing campaign and classes on soap making, distributed mosquito nets to children and expectant mothers, held blood drives, and offered cervical cancer screenings.
"We formed committees to identify a suitable Rotaract community project that President Burton could visit and worked to get at least 1,000 young people to attend the conference. We ended up with almost 3,000 attendees," Karungi says.
Guinness World Record
Rotaractors in India took time out from their humanitarian projects to take on another global challenge, breaking a Guinness World Record. Raju and his fellow Rotaractors organized the "world's biggest high-five." A total of 7,084 people participated in the challenge, which was recognized by Guinness World Records in the category Largest Human Image of a Hand. He says the hand served as a symbol of their theme for the year: Let's Be the Change.
"We have always had this dream of breaking a Guinness World Record but didn't have the funding," Raju says. "I.S.A.K. Nazar (District 3230 governor-elect from Chennai) proposed that we attempt it. With the help of Rotary, all the guidelines were met and we received the certification that we are officially amazing."
Although they didn't break any world records in Kampala, Karungi says that talking with President Burton was the highlight of the conference for her. "I was able to hear his views about Rotary and how young people can make an impact in their communities," she says.
In a speech to conference attendees, Karungi shared her transformation into a young professional eager to serve her local community through Rotaract. "Visit a Rotary club today, and stand a chance to be transformed in ways that you could never imagine your life could be."
Plan now to attend the Presidential New Generations Celebration in Sydney
Read Raju's blog post from the conference
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