Rotaract is a unique international service organisation bringing together people aged 18 and older to exchange ideas with leaders in the community, develop leadership and professional skills and have fun through service.
Members are primarily composed of undergraduate and postgraduate students and young professionals from a wide range of disciplines, professions and continents. Rotaract members decide how to organize and run their clubs, manage their own funds, and plan and carry out activities and service projects. Rotary club sponsors offer guidance and support.
Originally founded in the United States in 1968, Rotaract came to the UK and Ireland in the early 1970s. There are just currently over more than 200,000 Rotaractors and 10,000 clubs across 180 countries worldwide. Rotary and Rotaract members work side by side to take action through service.
The Council is pleased to support the Belfast Rotaract Club with guidance and seed funding and is committed to continue to provide support.
Rotaract Club History
The Rotaract Club of Belfast was originally founded in the autumn of 2006 receiving its Charter from Rotary Ireland District Governor Howard Caskie on 8th May 2007 and the Club flourished under the guidance of the hard working founder member, Laura Garland (a TABU team member 2004) and subsequently Andrew Smith as President.
It was dormant from 2014 but was reconstituted in 2019. The achievements of the Clubs are detailed below and it has been a great pleasure to see Rotary and Rotaract coming together in common endeavours. Most recently the Rotaract Club of Belfast have been very active during the pandemic.
In June some Rotaract members, in association with the Rotary Club of Larne helped the AEL (Access Employment Ltd) with a mural painting preparation at the newly formed Naggy Burn Garden Centre in Larne. They were helped by William Cross from RC of Larne and Rotary Club of Belfastmember John Rea.
They report that they had a great time managing to fully clean the wall getting rid of all the moss and weed growing on the wall and surrounding areas to prepare it for the artist and it was also a great chance to meet people from the broader Rotary family as several members of Larne RC also stopped by during the day to say hello.
They have been in contact with the UK & NI Rotaract E-club and are also hoping to reach out to the Cork Rotaract Club.
The Club is currently focusing on getting more members and hope that by September normal services will have resumed and Freshers’ Week will be restored so that they can reach out to the students at Queens. They also hope that by then the Club should be fully Chartered.
Although they were not able to collaborate with Age Concern by calling or emailing they did offer to help with grocery shopping and picking up prescriptions; the groceries or prescriptions being delivered in front of the house/flat so there was no contact between the people and the safe distance kept as recommended.
They also decided to recognise the unsung heroes of the pandemic - nursing home care workers - by giving a presentation of a “goodie box” containing chocolates and other snacks to several Belfast care homes as a thanks to all the carers and staff for all their hard work and dedication during the difficult COVID-19 pandemic. Many members contributed towards these boxes, which was greatly appreciated by the Rotaractors.
This sector throughout this crisis has been lacking in support and the care homes were delighted with this small gesture and hugely grateful for the recognition. All of the boxes were carefully packed and delivered by the Rotaractors and they note: “it was beautiful to talk to the staff of these care homes while delivering the boxes and even though it is just a box of snacks it is the gesture that counts so much and they really appreciated it”.
As Christmas approached and as a follow-up, Christmas cards were sent to quite a number of care homes in appreciation of their work.
They actively sought out new members hoping to achieve the minimum target of 15 set by both RIBI and QUB as soon as possible and appointed provisional Office Bears with Theo Burton installed as President. QUB have been very supportive and have made available a venue for meetings and a certain amount of funding.
As a first venture Veja Toth and Jack McKinney joined Rotary Club members at the Mitchell House Christmas Party in December and greatly helped with present and juice disbursement.
A team of Rotaractors, which included Belfast Rotary Club member Claire Savage (centre left), completed the Belfast Relay Marathon for their chosen charities.
Presenting the award, President Brian Clements stated he was personally delighted to present this award given his long-standing association with the late John Savage and the Club's connection with the Rotaract Club and their great work.
On Saturday 4th September 2010 a number of members of Belfast Rotaract Club and our own intrepid member Past President Marnette completed a sponsored Zip Line across the River Lagan for MacMillan Cancer support.
A Zip Line involves being raised by a crane to a height of 150 feet and crossing the River Lagan suspended from a wire.
Belfast Rotaract members included Laura Garland and Tony Mairs. Trudy Montgomery, a member of Belfast East Rotary Club and Rotary District 1160 Rotaract Chair arranged it all and did it as well!
In addition, the Rotaract Club donated a number of needed items to the Simon Community Shelter; braved the snow in December to spend an hour carolling in the city centre raising over £100 for school children in Kenya; set up a ShelterBox outside of the QUB student's union raising over £250.
Contributions went to the Simon Community.
In March 2010 they created a Peace Mural! Having been allocated a very uninspiring wall in Glengall St. Club Ambassadorial Scholar and Rotaract Member Borjan Zic designed the mural and it was painted by Rotaract members: Donna Swanson (former USA Ambassadorial Scholar) Bri Symm, Michael Savage, Matt Birch, Graham Rainey, Wen Zhang, Ketao Feng and PP Laura Garland.
Borjan said: "I am particularly proud of the project the Belfast Rotaract Club carried out at my suggestion. The Club's Immediate Past President asked for ideas for a community service project that would also serve as an effective public relations promotion for Rotaract and Rotary. I suggested that we design our own peace and reconciliation mural in downtown Belfast. In this way, I thought we could advance Rotaract's visibility and values simultaneously.
They hosted the District 1160 Rotaract Council Meeting in Belfast on Sunday 2nd March 2009. - to be allowed to host a District meeting so early in the Club's life is a huge tribute to the Club and the recognition it had already received within District 1160.
Reflecting this in June 2009, Rotaract President Laura Garland was presented by Past District Governor Paul Hutchinson with a Rotary International Presidential Citation, signed by RI President DK Lee, for the Rotaract Club's outstanding efforts to make dreams real for the world's children.