Posted by Michael Craig
May is Youth Service month in Rotary. The elephant in the room is that COVID-19 has significantly disrupted many Rotary youth programs. School closures have shut down Interact clubs. Rotaract clubs have been affected by university closures. The Rotary Adventure in Citizenship and Rotary Adventure in Human Rights programs were cancelled. This year’s Rotary Youth Exchange students are 75% returned home. And 100% of next year’s exchange students are wondering whether they’ll be able to go. The health and safety of program participants is our paramount concern, so these decisions were difficult but necessary.
As you would expect, Rotary’s values have shone through during this process...
  • One example is the great care youth exchange host clubs have shown, making student return decisions that took into account individual circumstances like student health conditions, travel conditions, the prevalence of COVID-19 back home, etc. A terrific example of the thoughtful and caring service Rotarians are known for. 
  • Another example is the number of clubs who responded to the Rotary Club of Ottawa’s request to donate refunds back to help them run their programs, including future Adventures in Citizenship. The recognition of that program’s longstanding value and the willingness to respond despite our own difficulties was admirable.
As People of Action, Rotarians think about what we can be doing right now. Recently, Rotary International President-Elect Holger Knaack sent an email to district RYE leaders around the world. In it, he urged Rotarians to work together to explore flexible options to continue youth programs and to use down time to strengthen our programs. This guidance is spot-on and there are no shortage of things we can do right now:
  • Just like Rotary clubs, the Interact clubs that still want to meet could benefit from the Zoom accounts clubs are using. Contact your Interact club teacher liaison to see if this is something they could use now.
  • District 7820 is beginning to work with District 7810 to move toward shared committees and aligned policies and procedures in support of our Youth Service programs. (This is to prepare for redistricting, proposed for July 2022.) If you are interested in working on this project starting in May/June, please contact Michael Craig.
  • The Rotary Clubs of Dartmouth East, Dartmouth and St. John’s Northwest are working on a project to enable their exchange student from Venezuela to attend university in Canada this fall. They are seeking Rotarian enthusiasm/expertise and financial support. If you are interested in this project, please contact Kevin Connors (Dart. East) or Sharon Barnes (SJ’s NW).
Youth Service is one of our many vital areas of service as Rotarians. Together we can overcome even the greatest challenges and emerge stronger than ever.
Trivia Question: What district are we working with to align youth policies?