Article by Rotarian Sam Kebongo

It is a good and fitting thing in indeed that as RC- Kigali –Virunga celebrates it is tenth anniversary we will also be simultaneously celebrating the charter of our third ‘baby club’, the Rotaract Club of SFB Kigali that is based at the School Of Finance and Banking in Gikondo, Kigali. We still hold the distinction of being the only Rotary club that is a ‘mother, club to three Rotaract Clubs in Rwanda (we are a mother/ sponsor club to Rotaract Clubs of KIE (at the Kigali Institute of Education, Kimironko) the Rotaract Club of KIST (at Kigali Institute of Science and Technology, Kiyovu).

But what is Rotaract? Rotaract is a diminutive for ‘Rotary in action’. On March 13th, 1968, Rotary, pursuant to its objective of giving back to the society started a university based club for the youth. This was after a realization that Rotary cannot give back effectively to the society without involving its youth. This is especially true in the Rwandan context where a majority of the population is youthful.

Is Rotaract, therefore, a younger version of Rotary? Yes and no. Yes because like Rotarians, they want to give back to the society. In fact, by definition, Rotaract is an association of young people (18-30 years) who want to make a difference in their communities. However, the fact that they are in a developmental age, limits this capacity to give back in comparison to Rotarians who will most of the time are business and professional leaders. Thus, focus of Rotaract is in leadership and professional development of its members…so that they can sustainably give back better in the future. Thus the motto of Rotaract is ‘Fellowship through service’.

The last two years seen growth of activity in the Rotaract Clubs. Rotarians of KIE revamped and reorganized their club and undertook community and vocational service projects in and out of their campus. Notably, they organized a public lecture on education and invited our very own Past President James Vuningoma to be the key speaker. They also had a very practical careers day that was run in the form of ‘training clinics’ by their counterparts from Rotaract Club of Kigali. But the biggest achievement of all is that they championed the founding and set up Of Rotaract Club of SFB- Kigali, which is now chartered. I reckon that their organization with the support of a few of our own Rotarians is what occasioned the Rotaract club of KIST’s revival. They are in the serious stages of reorganization. Rotaract SFB- Kigali is already a very vibrant club. On July 3rd 2010, for example, they had a public speaking and confidence building talk in their campus that went so well that the university administration asked them to organize another one for the whole student community. They also have interns with DOT Rwanda and have had a number of community projects.

However, Rotaract movement as part of rotary does face one major challenge that Rotarians in the mother clubs and indeed all Rotarians need to help them with. Rotarians come up with projects and need guidance and seed money. Rotarians and corporate leaders could help by sponsoring their functions through their companies and more importantly providing them with guidance (after you do want your rich experience enriching the next generation, no?). Guidance and encouragement’s need cannot be under estimated. The RI president recognizes this and that is why he says that Rotaract should be the responsibility of every Rotarian and not just one Rotarian and a small group of Rotarians. This would ring familiar to African Rotarians (remember the African saying that it takes a community to raise a child?). Mentorship and even inspiration of our young people to go further than we have gone is our duty. No wonder Rotaract is a vital service project in Rotary.

As a guide Rotarian I will tell that it has been very interesting working with Rotarians. The way you give a small hint of an idea and the next time it has been ‘grown’ into a wonderful project is quite refreshing. The enthusiasm with which they undertake their activities is infectious and well, just nice. I have no doubt that if they carry on this way we will have a wonderful group of professionals. I make a special mention of PPs Raj, Zephyr and Masterjerb Rotarian Violette and Ndekezi who have been quite supportive to the Rotarians. Don’t stop ladies and gentlemen and everyone is invited.

The youth are forever being told they are ‘leaders of tomorrow’. In Rotaract they are ‘leaders of today’. We are specifically working on leadership training and development programs this year and will, naturally, ask for your support all round. You are invited to visit these clubs and make up. Rotaract SFB- Kigali meets on Thursdays from 1800hrs to 1900hrs at School of Finance and Banking, and Rotaract KIE on Friday at KIE, Kimironko from 1700hrs to 1800hrs.

“ A lot has been done…a lot more can be done. ”