Updated: Mar 30, 2020
By Kaitlynn Almeida and Katherine Kirkpatrick-Wahl
Boy! We are sure that we aren't the first, and clearly won't be the last Presidents to say this, but time sure has flown by! We wanted to take some time to reflect on the 2018-19 Rotary year, the year of "Being the Inspiration." With so many club activities and a remarkable amount of enthusiasm over the past year, it is clear that this year couldn’t have happened without an amazing board, club, and the whole community of Rotarians and their families. We hope you will take a few moments to read about our club’s story from the past year, as we celebrated 31 years of continuous service in the community!
When did it all begin?
Shortly after the 2018 Rotary International Convention in Toronto, we got together to reflect on what we learned, and most importantly, create a vision for our Co-Presidency. We set our focus on UNITY: within our club and the broader Rotary International family. Not to tout our own horn, but we truly believe that the club brought this unity to fruition through service, professional development, and dedication to strengthening the fellowship that binds us all together.
We continued traditions, with the goal of stepping up to make a difference.
Yet again, we hosted the Rotaract Club of Toronto’s Annual Fundraiser, keeping with everyone’s favourite tradition of throwing a party to show that having fun can be good for the community. For us, it was clear that we wanted to support a charity that we already had a strong partnership with: Camp Scugog. And with us being able to secure The Bata Shoe Museum as our venue, the theme was clear: Let’s "Step Up for Camp." Because of everyone who supported this event, we are proud to say that we were able to donate $3,000 to Camp Scugog! These funds supported renovations to the dining hall at a camp that believes in "opportunities for education in daily living and that the positive development of attitudes and values is paramount to building a strong sense of self and community."
Over the year, we donated more than $5,000 in total towards local and international charitable initiatives.
Our community service initiatives included a continuation of traditions, such as working with Fort York Food Bank, collecting non-perishable items through Trick-or-Eat, and volunteering with the Rotary Club of Toronto at the Children's Christmas Party. We also came up with new volunteer opportunities to adapt to our community's changing needs, which included participation in a walk to learn about the Fred Victor Shelter, and creating our club’s Minimal Waste Challenge, in addition to many other initiatives!
The international service portfolio also had a mix of tradition and innovation. In support of each of Rotary's six areas of focus, we had awareness projects such as learning to salsa dance in support of the victims of the Guatemala volcano. We also had our bottle drive to support "OK Clean Water Project," just to name a few. We strengthened ties with our Rotary and Rotaract family with the district-wide multicultural potluck fundraiser and screenings of the docu-series "First Contact" with the Rotary Club of Toronto, learning more about Indigenous peoples in Canada and their communities.
We also partnered with the Rotary Club of Toronto to support youth initiatives. The 2018 Youth Leadership Expo aimed to engage and empower 430 students as they heard from civic leaders and community organizations. They also directly participated in volunteer activities including assembly of care packages filled with toiletries and a pen-pal activity with youth-in-need in India. Ryla involved our club members reviewing 40 outstanding student applications for bursaries, and organizing a lunch to recognize the recipients, who are truly inspiring people!
We challenged ourselves to dream bigger, which included the launch of a Mentorship Program with Rotarians.
Professional development in the club was elevated to new heights with the Mentorship Program, with the Rotary Club of Toronto, along with several other initiatives. The year-long program in partnership with our sponsoring Rotary Club and several other initiatives included 19 pairs of mentors and mentees, culminating in a dinner with district-wide attendance to celebrate the program and discuss opportunities for expansion. Additional opportunities for professional development included LinkedIn and presentation workshops, networking events with Rotary and everyone’s favourite: "Members Connect," where our members co-presented on a subject of their choice.
We sought out ways to enhance unity, within our club and the broader Rotary International family.
Throughout the year, several social and wellness activities were held to strengthen bonds between club members. These included a movie screening in the park, visiting the Distillery District Christmas Market, and going to the CNE, along with post-meeting socials and collaboration with the club’s other committees to partner-up on activities!
Our club took part in several events beyond the club-level this year. We had five club members build connections with our global family at the Rotary International Convention in Hamburg, Germany. At home, we took part in several District 7070 events, such as the Rotary District Conference, Rotary AIDS Poker Walk, and Rotaract & Interact District Conference. We ended the year with a bang by walking in the Toronto Pride Parade!
We were thrilled to see everyone’s efforts and enthusiasm pay off with our membership growing to record heights, ending the Rotaract year with SIXTY-NINE MEMBERS in the Rotaract Club of Toronto!
We are fortunate to have continued the club’s legacy of success, and are grateful for the pieces of recognition that came our way!
At the Rotaract end of year celebration, our club had the honour of receiving the District Outstanding Club Award and District Socials Award! At Rotary District Changeover, we were overjoyed to be recipients of the District Internal Communications Award for “providing exemplary communications within and between clubs during the current Rotary year”, and to be one of three clubs to win the district-wide Public Image Contest! And for the icing on the cake: the club achieved the Rotary International President’s Citation for Rotaract Clubs with Platinum Distinction, the highest level of Presidential distinction for Rotaract clubs!
All our accomplishments must be credited to our amazing Board of Directors, our club members, our sponsoring Rotary club, and all of our supportive family, friends, and community members. Our club has made a positive impact on our local and global communities and demonstrated what it means to "Be The Inspiration" for others while becoming further unified throughout the year. It has been our absolute honour to be the club’s Co-Presidents over this past year!
Let’s help Rotary connect the world!
Looking ahead to the 2019-20 year we will spend as PAST co-presidents, we are confident that the new presidents Anisa Nazir (until her move to Ireland) and Stacey Chikoto, as well as the 2019-20 Board and club at-large, will continue to drive unity and growth while serving our communities. As our current Rotary International president tells us that "Rotary Connects the World," we look forward to growing our membership and are excited to see what projects will be in store this year. If you are interested in joining us on this journey, we encourage you to reach out to us and join the team as we work to build connections and embrace this year's presidential theme!
Kaitlynn Almeida and Katherine Kirkpatrick-Wahl are long term members of the Rotaract Club of Toronto and immediate past co-presidents 2019-20.