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Written by Corina Mihaela Paraschiv   
Thursday, 06 December 2007 00:06
Article Index
The Importance of Community Building
Indifference amongst volunteers
North American considerations for Rotaract
Final thoughts
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             Today's society is built around mobility.  I see it in Canada, where I live, but I am ready to bet that no matter where you live, something quite similar is happening too. Canada's population over the age of 15 is made up of 73,84% of immigrants, and urban areas attract more population from rural areas each year.  In our university alone, 4 443 students, which represents about 10% of the student body in 2006-2007 academic year, are International Students, away from home and attempting to find a sense of community in a university of 40 000 students.  Yet life in this city and at school is not built around a concept of community; it is not uncommon for neighbours to be strangers, and the societal structure in place is made in a way that people are isolated with technologies such as television, cell phones and internet, rather than interacting with their immediate environment.  It comes at no surprise therefore, that many university students and young professionals feel minimal attachment, if not disconnection from the place where they live. 

            Yet, a sense of community is vital for any organization to strive.  It brings a sense of identity and pride, and is made possible through processes such as communication, inter-group relations and networking.  For people in a group to take action towards a problem, the problem must first be recognized by all the members of that group.  That is made more difficult by the fact that, due to the mobility they now have, people feel disconnected from their community and they feel little responsibility towards it. 


            Rotary literature abounds in examples of urban concerns :


  As cities expand, the availability of adequate housing, employment, health care, safe water, and basic sanitation facilities often declines and ensuring a productive and inclusive community becomes increasingly difficult.  As a result, nearly one out of every three city residents lives in a slum. Disease, crime, unemployment, and homelessness are some of the daily challenges confronting this marginalized population. ”

            Despite of this information being available to them, year after year, Rotaractors in metropolis find it difficult to select a community service project, because most of them cannot relate to any of the difficulties their community is going through.  Imagine a Scout troop that didn't really feel part of the troop -- would they volunteer every week to accompany young cubs in hikes, or to repair the Scout Village?   Would an AIESECer commit so much of his time solely for the words appearing on his resumme, or would he miss the powerful bond that exists between the members of every AIESEC Chapter?


            You see, Rotary International has issued very good recommendations regarding its approach to tackling urban concern issues and the concrete actions that can be taken.  However, it assumes that all Rotaractors have an understanding and a sense of belonging to the community.  But is this really true of your club?  It is my belief the mandate of a leader at the head of a non-for-profit organization (presidents, distrrict representatives, national representatives)  should therefore focus on community – both for the sake of retaining membership and enhance fellowship within the club, and for better community and international service projects.   


            There are a few key components that should be considered when trying to build a community :


“ Building a sense of community requires fostering a sense of connection among citizens and


developing a sense of civic provide. Open communication and networking are key ingredients

in fostering a sense of community. It also takes involved citizens. A sense of community

involves joining together to work on community issues, celebrate, listen, vision, plan, problem

solve, and make decisions.”    (Mary Walsh, Building Citizen Involvement)


 North American Considerations for Rotaract

            In Rotary, zone 22-23, of which Canada and the USA is part of, currently has a growth rate of 3.72% new Rotaract Clubs per year, and Canada is second biggest in terms of club effectives, after the USA.  Being Rotary's fastest expanding youth programme, Rotaract rises new questions for the Rotaract Distrcit Representatives as to how to best support emmerging clubs as well as to help existing ones thrive.

            Building a sense of community is the main initiative Rotary Districts should undertake if it has not already been done.  The districts that would benefit most from this mandate are those where this spirit of community is lacking, often because the district covers a very wide area, sometimes even encompassing countries or areas that do not share a common language, and where it is virtually impossible for a greater sense of community to be generated without special initiatives to unite such spread-out clubs.

Final Thoughts 


           Community building is essential to generate and retain membership, but also to help members of non-for-profit organizations relate better to their community in order to feel closer to the causes they fundraise for or volunteer their time to.  I found the recommendations that fall under the umbrella of community building mostely fall between three main categories : relationships amongst club members and their leaders, the task division, and the social responsabilities of both the club and its members towards each other. 



            If followed, these recommendations may re-inforce all four guiding principles of Rotary - the community service, the international service, the vocational service and the fellowship – making stronger, more dedicated clubs.  Then, it would be possible to address other issues that are traditionally the focus of our organizations, such as membership, management and recognition of a liaison with Rotary clubs at a district-wide level.


You may also visit your library or on the Internet for the following titles which inspired this article :

Last Updated ( Sunday, 16 December 2007 02:24 )

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