By Darren Lum
Young adults in the Highlands are getting an opportunity to connect with one another and engage with the community through the newly formed Rotaract Club.
The Rotaract Club is a service club that will organize activities and service projects and is open to young people 18 and older to exchange ideas with each other develop leadership and professional skills and work collaboratively to benefit the Highlands.
Members of Rotary and Rotaract clubs around the world often work together in serving their respective communities in 159 countries.
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 20000 other clubs around the world.
The Rotaract committee includes president Rebecca Anderson vice-president Scott Walling and member Melissa Tong who was a YPN member. They’ve held a few meetings and are inviting the public to an upcoming free information night on Wednesday Feb. 19 at 7 p.m. at the Haliburton campus of Fleming College at 297 College Dr.
With Tong’s YPN experience and her role as the eldest of the three she is helping Rotaract make the transition. She said the club will help young adults to make important social and professional connections.
“If you don’t have a lot of money and you don’t have a lot of connections already it’s really hard to find something to do to keep people here so I think Rotaract is a really great asset to the community. In a way it will provide a community for those young people” she said.
When she first moved to the Highlands in 2001 as a 20-year-old Tong had plenty of opportunity to socialize with colleagues at Haliburton Forest and Wild Life Reserve where she worked. However not all young people will be at work with other young adults.
“I see the beauty of the community and I think that there’s so much going on and so much that this community has to offer but if you don’t know where to look and who to ask it’ll be hard to find and so I think this will be a really good asset for that because I love living here and I think it’s a great community and I’d like to expose that and keeping the younger generation involved … we need young people to drive the community right?” she said.
“A lot of people do leave the community because they feel disconnected. They don’t feel like they fit in anywhere. It is hard to find that piece if there is nowhere to go and meet new people” Tong said.
Ideas for the club which meets bi-weekly include guest speakers fun activities and a space for gathering socially. Currently an ice climbing day is being planned with a charitable component. No date has been set.
The annual dues are $20 which covers administrative costs. Dues are expected to rise.
Part of the transition to the Rotaract Club had to do with the name. Tong said the YPN name was a barrier to some people who weren’t certain whether their work was defined as “professional.” The Rotaract Club is more inclusive this way and offers many advantages the YPN couldn’t offer.
“It does have ties with Rotary and the international programs they offer and I think with that coming it also has a lot leverage and lot of support we can use as well from Rotaract and Rotary. I think that will be key in terms of keeping and driving Rotaract. I think that you need to be able to call upon resources if you don’t have that capability within your own group” she said.
The Rotaract Club was originally for people from 18 to 30 but that will soon be changing.
Tong said although this will officially change to include people over 30 in July the local club is already accepting people older than 30 due to the demographic reality of the Highlands population where many are retired.
She welcomes people to learn from current members at the upcoming information night.
“I really want to encourage people to join because I think it’s for a good cause and I think that there is a lot of opportunity there that we don’t even know about yet. You won’t know unless you’re a member” Tong said.
Anderson who is president of the committee and its youngest member is enthusiastic about the club.
“I decided to join this club because it is an excellent platform to fundraise and address some needs of the community meet new like-minded people participate in fun events and get to know my community on a deeper level” the 22-year-old wrote in an email.
Anderson who graduated from Haliburton Highlands Secondary School in 2015 and grew up in Highlands East returned to the Highlands after she graduated from Carleton University finishing with a bachelor of social work in April 2019. She is working in Haliburton as an activity aide at the long-term care facility Extendicare and volunteers for the SIRCH Repair Cafes and the local start-up kombucha home brew company Luc’s Brew.
She said this new addition to the Highlands social landscape is important because it encourages social connections while serving the community.
“This means that young people will feel more connected to their community to each other and feel great about giving their time to things that matter to them” she said. “The club also has a lot to offer young people. In addition to the value this club brings to our community young people will also have the opportunity to help shape the community through community service network with community members attend guest speakers (and aid in the selection of speakers!) be part of a collective input into how to fundraise and what to do with raised money add a respected organization to their resume and school applications potentially travel join leadership positions in the club and participate in as much or as little as they want.”
Her involvement with Rotaract is owed to Rotarian Ted Brandon who talked to her about it the same day she made a presentation to the club ab out her trip to the World Youth Rally in Seoul South Korea in September 2019.
“After hearing of the possibilities and what Rotary members do to give back to the community I was extremely excited and knew I wanted to be a part of something like this” she said.
Her trip to South Korea was partly funded by TravelMaven and the Rotary Club of Haliburton.
Brandon said Rotaract fills a void for young people in the county.
“There is really nowhere for young people to gather to socialize and have fun. Rotaract is designed to be affordable and fit into their busy schedules” he wrote in an email.
Asked about her vision for the future Anderson was focused on the present.
“Our goal right now is to establish a presence in our community to find members who are passionate and excited to serve their community and welcome them into our club.”
For information about Rotaract call Ted Brandon at 705-457-7923 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.