Our speaker this month is eRotarian Mike Ziedins who has become a member through Rotaract a group for Rotarians aged 18 to 30. Here in conversation with John Isles, Mike shares his experiences of working within Rotary as a young person.
John: Mike, can I start by asking you tell us a little about yourself:
Hi my name is Mike and I am single and will turn 32 this year. I currently live in corner of North East Hampshire and work as a Software Engineer. At the moment I try to spend a lot of my free time on professional development and my hobbies and interests are travel, hiking, networking,, athletics, rugby and of course volunteering.
John: What originally attracted you to Rotary?
I was initially looking for a way to meet new people after returning from Loughborough University where I studied Computer Science. Many of my school friends had moved away, and set up families of their own and so on so the initial attraction was as a chance to meet new people, to network and to take a break in spending time away from a computer screen.
So during 2011 I looked up organisations in the local area and was pointed to Rotaract, which I didn’t know even existed at the time. In the first few months I got involved with a small number of projects, for example helping out on a water station at the Fleet half marathon visiting Epsom Rotaract and taking part in a race night and around Easter went on a club camping event before helping with the organisation of a Barn Dance.
During my second year I became a member of the clubs committee as Social Secretary and Vice President and started to get involved with Rotaract at district level and beyond with my first international Rotaract trip to Turin in 2012 after which I was invited to stand as a proxy Representative for UK and Ireland at the European Rotaract Convention held by European Rotaract Information Centre, a large information exchange (an MDIO) which focuses on Rotaract activity in Europe.
So during my third year I took on the challenge of the roles of Club President, District Rotaract Representative and European Rotaract Representative. (I don’t recommend any Rotaractor attempts all three roles at the same time! It was at this point I realised how big of an organisation Rotary is and how active in many aspects it is and at this point discovered my main interest which is international projects and how important and rewarding networking really is. At the end of my third year I was elected by my district (1140, which is Surrey and South West of London) to continue as District Rotaract Representative and RGBI re-elected me as Country Representative.
My third year, being involved in the Rotary family, ended with my first experience of a Rotary International convention in Lisbon and met many more members from Rotary from overseas. This was an invaluable experience and a must for any Rotaractor or Rotarian to experience. The workshops, breakout sessions, hall of friendship and the ceremonies were all useful and enlightening experiences and were all good motivation to go further. During 2014/15 I attended the German Rotaract conference, Deuko in Aachen with over 800 attendees mainly from Germany and also the Weekend de Coordination Nationale, which is the French national conference where I learn a lot about how Rotaract differs in these countries.
This past summer I attended Interota which took place in Toronto and Montreal again another valuable experience which any Rotaractor could gain a lot from finally 2014 was rounded off by helping with the organisation with Rotaract Model United Nations which was an interesting experience to learn about the activities of the UN and the experiences were very useful to learn about the challenges of organising large events.
As a recent Rotaractor I have a number of tips and ideas that are both relevant to Rotary and to Rotaract most importantly I think is too make sure that you make the most of the opportunities to visit other clubs and build your network and in order to be noticed make sure that you are using social media and technology as an effective way for promotion and to keep Rotary accessible to all.
John: Is there anything our e.Club should be doing that it isn’t doing?
Mike: I can’t fault the promotion and eClubs are still a learning experience I feel we need to continue to push traditional clubs to realise that the way forward and that there is need to keep up with modern times, both to be attractive and to keep Rotary up to date. I feel that a monthly speaker slot on skype/google hangouts or another virtual meeting host would bring the club closer together and bring more “face to face” meetings. Sometimes a concept which a lot of traditionalists don’t always seem to understand… is how eClubs do projects and meet so I feel this needs to be prominent as it could be one of the main obstacles to change.
John: If time and money were no object what Country would you most like to visit and why?
Mike: I have plenty of countries left in the world to explore including the whole of Australia, Africa, Asia and South America. I think that a road trip to Australia would be good way to see that particular country, something like a hiking trip in Nepal to experience the extremes and a trip to southern Africa or South America a good opportunity to get involved in many different projects.
John: Mike, thank you for sharing this with us and it is clear to everyone that you are extremely enthusiastic and I’m sure will go a long way in Rotary.