Open Arms  

Written by Brittany Hesmer, Rotaract Co-Chair, District 7040

Brittney Hesmer.jpgDuring the last week of June, I attended my very first Rotary International Convention in Toronto, Canada. I had just finished my university degree in Ottawa, Canada and was finishing out my term as District Rotaract Representative for District 7040. I’ve been involved with Rotary for 8 years, since first becoming a part of the Rotary family when I was fifteen and applying for the Rotary Youth Exchange program. After spending a year in Sao Paulo, Brazil, I came back with full intentions to stay involved with Rotary in some capacity - little did I know I would return to start an Interact club and serve as President for two years, move to Ottawa for university only to help revitalize a club there and serve two more years as a Club President, as well as serve as my District Rotaract Representative. All-in-all, it’s clear that my involvement and commitment to Rotary International has only grown with the time I’ve invested and the leadership opportunities I’ve been able to take advantage of.

 In June, I attended my very first Rotary International Convention in Toronto, Canada. I knew very little about what to expect and had only heard amazing things about attending an RI Convention. It was hosted at the Toronto Metro Convention Centre, one of the largest venues the city had to offer, and with so much going on and over 20,000 attendees, it was hard to know where would be the best place to meet new people and connect with old friends. I soon learned, however, that the House of Friendship - a historic Rotary tradition - would be that place. It was here that I ran into my closest Rotary friends, chatted with others about our favourite parts of the convention so far, and it was here where I first learned about RIFPD.

 Prior to meeting RFPD, I was overwhelmed with all that was going on around me. Despite having been involved with Rotary for so long, there were so people from around the world I didn’t know and I found that it was challenging to try to make connections with new people. Many attendees had come with family, friends, and fellow Rotarians, and therefore remained in bubbles of familiarity and routine.

 In university, while studying Public Affairs and Policy Management, I chose to specialize in International Development policy. I felt like this would compliment my passions, my involvement in Rotary, and my interest in sexual and reproductive health fondly - and it did. The importance of sexual and reproductive health care and services is at an all time high around the world and has been for decades - however, it has also been one of the most neglected and politicized areas of our international global health agendas. Throughout the past four years, I’ve done hundreds of hours of research related to a range of issues within the field of sexual and reproductive health and have grown passionate about efforts of providing these essential services and dedicating resources to support the livelihoods and reproductive well-being of people around the world. Therefore, when I came across the RFPD booth in the House of Friendship and met the team of volunteers and Executive Director, Missy, I knew that this could be an opportunity for me to branch out of my local Rotary activities and be a part of a team working on projects that I am most passionate about. Luckily, I was welcomed with open arms.

In my experiences trying to recruit new members or managing to make sure members stay, the most effective way to do this is to show genuine interest in them and to make them feel valuable. The women I first met at the RFPD booth did just that. I initially showed interest in RFPD’s organizational structure and projects, but shortly after found myself explaining the research I had been doing and asking on how I could get involved. I left the table that day with a great feeling. I was excited to go to the sessions RFPD was hosting throughout the week, I was grateful that the women had been so kind and enthusiastic in regards to my interest in joining, and I felt valued - like they all believed I had something to offer the organization as a young, motivated member of the Rotary family.

 Throughout the remainder of the convention, I probably visited the booth every day. Often just to chat and to share stories, but perhaps also as a way to encourage other young Rotary members to drop by as well. It’s not often that you find organizations that are so eager to give young professionals a chance to contribute and be authentically involved in projects - many individual Rotary clubs even struggle with doing this - but it’s important. We come with a vitality for service and a passion for the issues closest to us. With the current political environment surrounding sexual and reproductive health around the world, there are tens of thousands of talented, resourceful and knowledgeable people that would gladly join an organization like RFPD - and approaching them with open arms, an eagerness to learn and valuable opportunities to contribute is the way that we will continue to grow our talent, continue to carry out sustainable projects and continue to work towards common goals that truly save lives.

 Written by Brittany Hesmer, Rotaract Co-Chair, District 7040 

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