Doris Grimm, who is also German, was living in Spain when someone told her about Rotaract. “They said, ‘You’re going to meet friends. You’re going to improve your Spanish. And you’re going to do something good in the world as well,’” she says.
Grimm went to a meeting and was struck by a project the club was working on in the village of Gambasse, Guinea-Bissau. “They built a school there,” she says. “They built a nutrition center. And it was sustainable. It wasn’t just that they came, gave money, and left again. I was so impressed by Rotary, and Rotaract, that I joined.”
After she returned to Germany, Grimm joined the Rotaract Club of Mannheim. And when she moved abroad again, she maintained her connection to Rotaract. She was a member of a club in Switzerland and later advised a new club in North Carolina.
Growing up in a small city in Colombia, Santiago Gómez had been a member of Interact. When he moved to Bogotá for college, he helped found the Rotaract Club of Bogotá Bicentenario. There, he and his fellow Rotaractors worked with the Rotary Club of Bogotá-Santa Barbara to secure a global grant for a Positive Peace program. Through the program, they have conducted workshops to train young people across the country in leadership, Rotaract and conflict prevention, and conflict resolution skills.
Recently, Gómez joined the Rotary Club of Bogotá Centenario, and he is working on another project to help women who were victims of conflict start a clothing company.
Like many of his peers, he has retained his membership in his Rotaract club and thinks Rotaract’s new status is a major step forward. “I think it is an opportunity to increase trust between Rotarians and Rotaractors,” he says.
Grimm, who now belongs to the Rotary Club of Hockenheim, Germany, also has some insights into the difference between Rotaract and Rotary clubs. “In my experience, there are a lot of prejudices on both sides,” she says. “If you ask Rotaractors why they don’t want to join Rotary, they say people just sit there and don’t do anything. And Rotarians think Rotaractors are too young and don’t have any experience. I think both are wrong.”
Gómez agrees that there are changes to be made on both sides. “I think our Rotary clubs need to be more flexible,” he says. “Some Rotary clubs here in Colombia keep traditions that are not really necessary right now. And Rotaractors need to change their mentality, too, because the administration of Rotaract clubs and Rotary clubs is too different.”
Rassin and others hope elevating Rotaract will help to bridge that gap. “We want to give Rotaractors a greater feeling of respect and inclusion, so they feel integrated into the organization,” he says.