Why I Am Becoming A Rotarian

I first came across Rotary at a BBQ in front of my local hardware store. It’s just another charity, as far as I was concerned. The guy behind an apron looked like Santa, and I was happy to have sausages and a cold drink as a cheap lunch. After a few cheap lunches, I started to take notice of their unusual name. What is “Rotary”?

I didn’t really act on my curiosity until recently. My life took a turn, and I suddenly found myself desperate for new things to do, new people to meet, and new experiences to try. It was at this moment that “Rotary” popped into my mind.

So what is Rotary?

Rotary-Club

Rotary Australia belongs to Rotary International, which is a non-political and non-religious organisation that has about 35,000 clubs and 1.2 million members worldwide. The members of Rotary Clubs are known as Rotarians. Rotary’s primary motto is “Service Above Self”. Members usually meet weekly to socialise and to organise work on their service goals.

So why am I interested?

I have always wanted to join a community of people who are selfless and who want to make the world a better place. So I set up Canberra Sustainable and Fair Living Meetup. So I network with social entrepreneurs. So I joined Kiva. But I always felt like I wasn’t contributing enough to local communities, and I wasn’t having enough interactions with experienced leaders in the charity/NFP sector. I am eager to learn and engage, but I struggled to find “my people”. I am an introvert, which makes it even more difficult.

Friends have taken me to church, but I haven’t found that calling inside me. Many charities have a religious belief, which makes me uncomfortable to join or volunteer for. But Rotary is different. It is non-religious and non-political. It is one of the most efficient charities in the world in terms of how little money is spent on administration. It has a good track record and it is a large family. I will be welcomed to attend any Rotary club meetings anywhere in the world. The thought of connecting with so many like-minded individuals made me smile.

Which Rotary club am I joining?

IMGP0125

I am joining my local Gungahlin Rotary club. So far, I have been to two meetings and one Christmas party, and I have found Rotarians so friendly and welcoming. In the last meeting, we had a guest speaker, a fellow Rotarian who has served in the aid industry for over 20 years, and I thoroughly enjoyed her honest account of stories that she heard or experienced. I felt inspired.

Gungahlin Rotary club raises most funds through BBQ, and supports a number of local projects like the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards and the National Youth Science Forum. It also supports international projects like Rotary Oceania Medical Aid for Children, Shelter Box and End Polio Now.

As a Rotarian, I will be given exceptional opportunities to do wonderful things for not just the local communities but also international communities, on top of my work as director of Oz Fair Trade.

You all know how passionate I am about fair trade, and how I prefer trade to aid. I believe that aid can be useful in emergency and special circumstances, and if done right, it can be very beneficial. There is a lot I want to learn in this field, and joining the Rotary club opens a big new door for me. I am excited!

A registered charity – a new chapter begins.

Nepal trip Oz Fair Trade

When a good friend of mine heard about Global Handmade at about the same time last year, she suggested that I should register with the ACNC (i.e. the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission) where she worked as a lawyer. I remember my response at the time was that ‘it’s in my plan’. One year on, I achieved this goal.

As any new business owner would know, moving from a sole trader to a company structure requires some guts and money. I made the leap in October last year, as part of the re-branding, because I knew how committed I was to running it for the long term. Even though financially it wasn’t the best time to make the transition, I did it anyway because I wanted the organisation to have the credibility it needs and deserves. I can now proudly call Oz Fair Trade a charity and confidently continue the journey forward.

The next big thing is to be endorsed by the Fair Trader of Australia. It is a lengthy process, but I’m sure I’ll get there!

P.S. you can find Oz Fair Trade on ACNC’s online register here: http://www.acnc.gov.au/