When I was selected to be a Rotary Youth Exchange student in 2000 and to travel to Germany, I had no way of knowing how much it would alter the course of my life.
But alter it, it certainly did!
It wasn't until my Dad was given a Rotary Youth Exchange application form to pass on to me by a work colleague of his (who was a member of the Rotary Club of Chadstone East-Malvern), that things actually got serious! Having previously taken part in a Rotary Youth Leadership Award camp I was well-aware of Rotary - and at aged 17 I was sponsored by the Club to be a Youth Exchange Student.
11 years after my return from Germany I still think of the Bavarian town of Augsburg as my other home.
I refer to my host-families as my family; often confusing people greatly when I talk about the 4 brothers they never knew I had!
I still speak German, have traveled back to Germany several times and have been thrilled to welcome German friends and family into my own home in Melbourne.
There aren’t words to adequately explain the impact that that wonderful year, or the people that I met during it, continues to have on my life.
The difference Rotary can make in the life of an individual and, by extension, their families and friends, is a privilege I’ve seen and experienced first-hand.
I kept up my association with Rotary after my Youth Exchange year and for 5 years chaired the group for returned youth exchange students who assist with camps, recruitment and orientation of new exchange students. When I traveled around Australia with the exchange students as chaperone on 2 of the annual Safari tours, we shared many wonderful experiences. I also participated in a Rotary-sponsored Group Study Exchange (GSE) to Sweden in 2009.
Other opportunities have also arisen from time to time. Last year I attended a dinner and book launch hosted by the Rotary Club of Toorak with one of my GSE teammates. The (then) District Governor, Iven Mackay, asked me if I would be interested in acting as MC for the 2011 Rotary District 9800 Conference to be held in Adelaide. Would I ever!
Having just launched my own business as a civil celebrant I saw this as a marvelous opportunity to utilise my skills and brush up on my Rotary knowledge. And what an opportunity it was! I met wonderful, inspiring people and learnt even more about some incredible Rotary programs. I was further honoured when the current District Governor 2012, Keith Ryall, invited me to MC his Changeover lunch with over 800 people in attendance. I jumped at this too!
Although other things in my life kept me busy I could never quite let go of Rotary and what it meant to me.
Put simply; the people that I met and the things that they were achieving through Rotary, continued to inspire me.
Here were people of different ages, backgrounds, beliefs and professions - all brought together by the simple goal of ‘doing good in the world’.
I knew for a long time that it was never a case of ‘if’ I joined Rotary, but when.
That moment came in June this year (2011) when I was inducted into the Rotary Club of Central Melbourne Sunrise. I was 28 going on 29 and the first Rotarian in my family!
The attraction to the Central Melbourne Sunrise Club was made up of many factors –
The activities that the Club gets involved in are real-life, tangible actions, which you can see the results of first-hand. There are also international projects that we work on; but meeting the people whose lives we are able to change towards a better future is a real thrill!
I was also impressed that the Rotary Club of Central Melbourne Sunrise had a range of age groups involved, as do other Rotary clubs.
I know there's a movement towards attracting young people to join Rotary, but I already know a lot of young people and have several outlets/occasions to meet more. What I don't have is many opportunities to meet people of varying ages and experience. Being a new business owner, learning from and being mentored by these other Rotarians was very attractive to me.
With access to such a range of mentors, professionally and personally, I’m confident that if ever I need assistance or advice I’ve a number of people I can call on readily. I've been warmly embraced by so many within the club and my partner is always made to feel welcome whenever he attends with me.
As a proud Rotarian I am surrounded by people who want to leave the world a better place than they found it. People who want to take positive action to make this a reality.
I hope that through the projects and programs we undertake locally, nationally and internationally we can influence and change the life of another girl like me; and maybe, just maybe, inspire her to do some ‘good’ in the world too.
I’m just so excited and honoured to be a Rotarian.