Interactors, RYLArians, Outbounds, Inbounds, Rotex — words that are seemingly meaningless to others, but to me, they mean family. “My Rotary Family” – an essay by Anthony Yuen, Vice-President, Burnaby South Interact Club
photo: Anthony Yuen, left, with the Interact Club de Lycée Jean-François Millet in France
My older brother first exposed me to the Rotary family in grade 8 when urged me to join the Burnaby South Interact Club to pursue my passion in volunteerism. He especially noted the wonderful sponsor teacher who oversaw the club. I was sold. Within my first year of high school, I quickly became one of the most active Interactors. However, it was not until I became a junior executive in grade 9 that I truly felt a sense of belonging within the Interact family.
As a youth-run service club, Interactors focus on making a difference within our community while building leadership skills and having fun. Year after year, I bonded with my fellow Interactors through the countless hours dedicated to providing service. Now as vice-president, I am charged with inspiring a new generation of leaders. Collaborating with our 100 members, the Burnaby South Interact Club plans and executes various projects throughout the year to benefit people of all corners of the world. Within the local community we have aided with food distribution with the Greater Vancouver Food Bank; while in the global community, our monthly food sales and annual benefit talent show, Rebel Nations, help fund The Sound of Hope Bali, a Rotary-led initiative concentrated in assisting deaf youth to lead independent and productive lives.
Thanks to the multitude of Rotary programs, my family extends far beyond Burnaby South and Canada. In fact, my family stretches across multiple countries and continents. In 2015, a local Rotary club who proposed the opportunity of doing a cultural exchange to Normandy, France. Serving as an ambassador to Canada and my hometown, I attended high school full-time and was fully-immersed in French culture, traditions, and values while also being able to share those of Canada to the French, creating international understanding. The highlight of my exchange was the amazing individuals who became part of my ever growing Rotary family, including fellow exchange students (known as Inbounds), host families, and cherished friends.
Despite being thousands of miles away and the scarcity of Interact Clubs in France, my contributions to Interact remained unwavering. I searched for an Interact Club, luckily found one at a nearby high school. The Interact Club de Lycée Jean-François Millet was a newly founded club, comprised of only 10 members. Since youth service and leadership clubs are not the norm in France, it was necessary for us to prove ourselves and establish a presence within the community. Teaming up with the local businesses of Cherbourg-en-Contentin, we spent two days running the Christmas ice rink that was installed in the public square, our first major act of service.
Returning home, I continued to grow my family through Rotex, a group of former Rotary exchange students that allows Inbounds to discover Canadian culture and lifestyle through monthly activities. Our contributions also include assisting in their transitions into their new schools and home, using our experiences to provide advice in exchange-specific issues that we all are familiar with.
Through Rotary, I have been able to touch countless lives within the past five years. I have left my mark in those I have helped and in the Interact Clubs that have accepted me with open arms, making me confident that the changes I have made will carry on far into the future. Giving back to those who have provided me so many opportunities and learning experiences, I continue to engage myself in Rotary programs in order to help others grow their own families because nothing is more important to me than my own family.