According to Rotary International Website, Rotary is a club with more than 1.2 million members whom come together to create positive, lasting change in their communities and around the world. These members’ efforts are supported by The Rotary Foundation, which turns generous donations into grants that fund different projects all around the world. Rotary is committed to making the most out of every dollar they receive, which is why they spend more than 90% of their funding for program expenses, and the rest is used for fundraising and administrative expenses. This huge organization was started with the vision of one man, Paul P. Harris. He created the Rotary Club of Chicago in 1905, where professionals with diverse backgrounds could exchange ideas and form meaningful, lifelong friendships. Rotary’s name came from the group’s early practice of rotating meetings among the offices of each member. Only 16 years after being founded, Rotary had clubs on six continents. Today they are working around the globe both digitally and in-person to solve some of the world’s most challenging problems.
Rotarians gather at least once a year the celebrate Rotary in their Districts. This year I had the privilege to join Rotarians and Rotary Youth from District 5040, in order to celebrate the end of the 2013/2014 Rotary year. District 5040 spans from Tsawwassen in the south to Prince Rupert in the north of British Columbia with 52 Rotary Clubs, 24 Interact Clubs & 7 Rotaract Clubs.
The Conference began on May 23rd (Friday) and ended on May 25th (Sunday). The first thing we did on Friday evening after signing up was attending the BBQ dinner, which also had a vegetarian option. I had a lot of good food, and at the same time met many Rotaractors. Rotaract originally began as a Rotary International Youth Program in 1968 in North Carolina, USA. Since then, it has grown into a major Rotary Sponsored organization of over 9,539 clubs spread around the world and 219,397 members. To be eligible for membership, prospective members must be 18-30 years of age and show that they are of good standing in the community.
After the amazing dinner, all the youth attendees of the conference were transported to Quest University Canada. Each of them got their keys, and headed to their rooms. Since I am already living on campus, there was no need for me to pack. After everyone was assigned a room, we all headed to the MPR (Multi Purpose Room). The District 5040 Governor, Garry Shearer, welcomed us all and even taught us the song “Get on Board.” We performed this song first thing the next morning, right before the conference started. We ended the night with a Talent Show, where students from all over the world performed sketches, sang different songs, and even told jokes. I laughed a lot, and got to meet even more students.
The next morning (Saturday), we were all up early and headed for breakfast in the cafeteria. After breakfast, we were all transported to the Roundhouse. The CN Round house & Conference Centre, is located at the West Coast Railway Heritage Park in Squamish, BC. According to their website, this new venue offers 21,000 square feet of open event space. There were many great speeches such as different Rotaractor groups talking their projects and different groups funded by Rotary Foundation. However, one speech that stuck to my mind, was given by Alvin Law. Law is a motivational speaker whom was born without arms as a consequence of his mother’s use of thalidomide while pregnant. His birth parents put him up for adoption, and he was raised by foster parents Hilda and Jack Law. Alvin Law reminded me that anything is achievable as long as you work hard and believe in yourself. He even played the drums and the piano in the stage. By the end of his speech most of the members of the audience were crying. He truly is one special person! After Law’s speech we were transported to Quest, where we had lunch, and then I attended a few Rotaract presentations.
*Alvin Law performing on stage. Photo retrieved from the District 5040 Conference Website.
It was a long weekend, but full of excitement, great speeches, and amazing conversations. I made new friends from all over the world, talked to different exchange students about their experience in Canada, and even shared the story of Kosovo with a few. I am very thankful that the Rotary Club of Squamish gave me the opportunity to attend this conference, and cannot wait to attend it again next year.