By Darren Lum
It’s been more than 365 days since Rotaract started in the Highlands.
Members reflected about what has been and will be for the future of the service club for young adults over 18 “who are dedicated to finding innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges while developing leadership skills and making friends from around the world.”
The club came from a partnership between the Rotary Club of Haliburton and the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce following months of discussions to transition the chamber’s Haliburton Highlands Young Professionals Network, or YPN, to a Rotaract Club, joining more than 20,000 other clubs around the world.
Rotaract president Rebecca Anderson said the club has evolved rapidly since it started.
“In March 2020, we held an information session and had 30 people sign up on the spot, which brought Rotaract to life. Fast-forward one month and we had already established our board, director positions, and other leadership roles within the club to keep us organized,” she wrote in an email.
“Over the next year, Rotaract continued to take on more responsibility, as we worked toward our primary goal: service above self. Rotaract adopted two kilometres of road on County Road 21, ran a Trick or Treat initiative where we delivered candy on Halloween to doorsteps all over the county, used a grant to provide 36 large boxes filled with personalized basic needs to local families, partnered with SIRCH to provide much-needed technology to locals, lent a few helping hands to Haliburton Rotary with their monthly Good Food Box initiative, Rotaractor Kelsey Redman sewed 60 masks in the first few weeks of lockdown to give out for free, and 60 more masks were created by locals using recycled materials from the material drop-off we set up. And we did all of this in the face of the global pandemic. We’ve only ever had one in-person meeting.”
Christine Carr, who serves the club as its services project director that coordinates service projects, was one of those first 30 who joined at the end of the first information session.
“I was kind of surprised how many young people there were that came out and it’s an area that’s lacking in the county, so I was excited to meet new people and get involved,” she said.
Although her parents live in the area, the high school teacher for the past five years within Trillium Lakelands District School Board welcomed the opportunities to not just give back to the community during the pandemic, but appreciated the social opportunities, even if it was virtual.
“It kind of gave a social outlet. You know we had bi-weekly meetings where we got to hang out and socialize and chat and get to know each other,” she said.
Highlights in the year as a club member included the long-term effort related to offering residents in need with the essentials given in the basic need bags, as funded by a grant given by the United Way. She also liked performing the cleanup of a section of road the club adopted.
There has been a development since joining the club as far as her connections with the community and within herself.
“I’ve made connections with SIRCH. I’ve made connections with United Way, like all these different organizations and just the confidence to go out there and help and make these connections,” she said.
The Haliburton Highlands Secondary School teacher works with high school student members of Interact, which is a similar service club, but for students. Since joining Rotaract, she has become their district representative. From her Rotaract experience, she not only offers her Interact members her insight about her experience to contribute to the community, but also a glimpse into what is possible after high school.
Carr said Rotaract has partnered with the Rotary Club of Haliburton, but it is a distinct club because of its membership, which includes people from all of the Highlands, who have a diverse set of backgrounds, who work in education and the arts.
The Rotaract president said this past year was an incredible learning experience for the club and personally.
“We’ve seen firsthand how generous and tightly knit community members are. We’ve learned how capable each of us are individually and what can happen when we bring our strengths together and collaborate. We’ve discovered how creative we are as a group as we continue to navigate around ever-changing COVID restrictions. Personally, I feel as though Rotaract kept me moving forward while the rest of the world came to a standstill. When it felt like nothing was happening in the world or in our community, Rotaract members were virtually meeting to figure out what we could do and how we could work together during the most challenging times. Naturally, social connections formed too and our meetings morphed into a fun social space, which was a blessing throughout the most isolating times of the pandemic.”
Anderson adds the club is planning another outreach effort and hopes to perform its third roadside cleanup for May. For the future it hopes to add more members, fundraise, apply for grants to bring more money into the community, increase connections with the Rotary Club’s of Haliburton and Minden, and HHSS Interact – the student Rotary club, and brainstorm to use resources to benefit our community.
Anyone who is interested in learning more about the club or in becoming a member can email email@example.com.