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||Since 1968, Rotaract has made it
possible for thousands of young adults to live out the Rotary ideal. Today,
some 155,000 members are working together to build a better future in 146
countries. The latest statistics show 6,747 Rotaract clubs worldwide,
sponsored by 6,876 Rotary clubs.
Everywhere in the world, Rotaractors have remarkable humanitarian projects to their credit, and have been able to acquire knowledge they can use for their personal growth within a framework of friendship. In this way, they have been able to meet the social and material needs of their community while striving for improved relationships between peoples.
March 13, 2000 marked the 32nd anniversary of the first Rotaract Club to have received its Rotaract certificate of organisation - the club of Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S. Many events, however, had taken place prior to the official creation of Rotaract.
Back in the 1950s, many clubs made up of young adults or students had been created and sponsored by Rotary clubs. They functioned in a non-official manner and under different names. As early as 1935, Rotary Founder Paul Harris discovered a youth organisation based on Rotarian principles during a trip to Australia.Take, for example, the "Paul Harris Circles" created in Europe and in particularly significant numbers in Belgium and Italy, or the "Rotors" clubs created in some American universities. What these organisations had in common is that they were made up of young people, mostly children of Rotarians and their friends. Their functioning and objectives were similar to those that are the main features of Rotaract clubs today.
As from 1965, these organisations experienced significant growth linked to the creation of the Interact Program by Rotary International, three years earlier. In fact, many Interactors, having reached the age limit, decided to create a new type of club: "Senior Interact clubs". It took very little time for the leaders of Rotary International, particularly then President Luther H. Hodges, to realise the importance of these clubs and of their action. Then, in 1968, the RI Board of Directors decided to adopt the program officially and to make it one of the most important programmes among the different services that Rotary International offers young adults.
The new programme was baptised Rotaract, which comes from the contraction of the words Rotary and Action. The first charter was awarded on March 13, 1968 to the club of Charlotte. Although officially Rotary International announces that this club was the first Rotaract club, and therefore that Rotaract was born in the USA, we should bear in mind that a significant number of clubs for young adults affiliated to Rotary changed names and thereby joined the new organisation immediately after the creation of the club in Charlotte. These clubs were the foundation that allowed Rotaract to spread immediately throughout the world, and to have higher membership today on other continents than in North America.
After its official creation, the Rotaract organisation was for many years considered by Rotary International as nothing more than Rotary clubs´ community programme. The 1990s marked a turning point in Rotaract history with the creation of Multidistrict Organisations in Europe, Australia and South America. These groups, of which ERIC, the European Rotaract Information Centre, is today the largest, have made it possible for Rotaract to become the " Partners in Service " of Rotary Clubs, as described by Past RI President Rajendra Saboo. This change in the way Rotaract is considered by Rotary was enhanced in 1996/97 by RI president Luis Vicente Giay, who made the development of Rotaract one of his top priorities. Thanks to Rotaract, Rotary is now represented in age groups which will be the driving force of communities in less than twenty years, thereby Building the Future with Action and Vision.
In 1959, André Geubel, founder president of the Paul Harris Circle of Péruwelz in Belgium, described his club as "A huge ship sailing toward peace and understanding, flying the flag of friendship, with a rudder of " Service " and a crew made up of all young people of goodwill". Today, this description still applies to Rotaract, which, like Rotary International, allows young adults to Act with Consistency, Credibility and Continuity.
By Magali Füss and Cyril Noirtin
|Elon University Rotary Club, 2002|