Leveraging Youth Power through Interota: Rotaract World Conference 2021

By Louie James C. Jaminal | Posted on June 16, 2021

Over 1,800 Rotaractors from 91 countries participated in the Interota: Rotaract World Conference 2021 conducted virtually from June 5-9, 2021. The Interota, hosted by the Rotaract Clubs of Rotary International District 3450, was supposed to be held in Hong Kong but was converted into an online conference due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Interota happens every three years and hosting has been rotating through different countries since 1981. While it is not an official Rotary International (RI) convention, Rotary recognizes the value of the event and supports Interota by approving its program content and ensuring that RI leadership is represented. The theme of this year’s Interota was “Leverage Youth Power, Level Up the World” and featured a house of friendship, keynote speeches, forums, cultural workshops and performances, service projects marathon for 2,020 minutes in Hong Kong, and virtual tours.

I have never heard of the term Interota until I came across a shared post by Pilipinas Rotaract MDIO. As someone who is interested in cultural exchange programs, I had no hesitation in signing up for the convention. Plus, it was completely free.

The House of Friendship was the first activity and I was quite eager to be a part of it. It was an honor to meet and welcome delegates from around the world. Suzhuo Numerals Translation was the first game offered. Later on, participants were divided into breakout rooms, according to countries, where representatives showcased their culture and tourist destinations. Pilipinas Rotaract MDIO presented on behalf of the Philippines. 

In native wear, Pilipinas Rotaract MDIO Chair Nominee Alstair Rey Tecarro, Jr. proudly shares about the Philippines

Participants were greeted warmly by the host district and motivated by Rotary International President Holger Knaack during the Opening Ceremony. The keynote speaker, Katharina Unger, founder of Livin Farms, gave an overview of her company’s role in steering the future of food consumption and sustainability in the realm of edible insects. I was dubious at first because eating insects is a cultural discussion but her sharing provided me with a new perspective on how to level up the world and food consumption through innovation.

Day Two was jam-packed with sessions and activities. RI President Holger Knaack sat with panelists from several MDIOs representing different parts of the Rotaract community to address matters such as Elevate Rotaract policy changes. Pilipinas Rotaract MDIO Chair Louie De Real was one of the five panelists.

Rotaract leaders around the world and RI President Holger Knaack weigh on the strengths, challenges and opportunities of MDIOs as well as have their takes on Elevate Rotaract policy changes, Rotaract during and post COVID-19 pandemic, and diversity, equity and inclusion

There was also a workshop called “Let’s Be Future Ready.” What a terrific approach to talk about future ideas with Rotaractors in breakout rooms. I was able to offer information about my club and listen to what they do in their respective countries and clubs. On a bigger scale, I was asked to present our group discussion to the entire Zoom audience. Well, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to express my thoughts in one of the most diverse conventions I have ever attended. Same format happened in the Interota Academy session where we exchanged opinions and possible project ideas for the world’s pressing issues such as illegal wildlife trade, pet euthanasia, hunger, poverty, and food waste.

The writer with the participants of the Interota Academy: “What the world should be?” session which engaged participants in a role-play to think of the community needs and difficulties using the shoes of stakeholders assigned for them to role-play

The third and fourth days were intended to learn more about Hong Kong’s culture which has embraced and evolved through fusion and diversity. Through a cooking lesson, a virtual street and cuisine tour, a service marathon, and a cultural night, I got to discover Hong Kong. But the country has a lot more to offer. Once the situation improves, I’ll definitely mark off another item on my bucket list: visiting Hong Kong!

George Wong, Charter President of Rotary Club of Golden Bauhinia Hong Kong and host of a cooking show, teaches participants on cooking Satay Kai Lan and Yeung Chow Fried Rice

A cultural night featuring performances from different countries also happened on the third day. The Rotaract Club of Babaylan Biñan and the Rotaract Club of Barangay Palatiw Scholars represented the Philippines with their modern maglalatik and “Tala” by Sarah Geronimo dance performances.

Diverse speakers from various nationalities spoke on the final day of Interota on why they chose to stay in Hong Kong and fight for the underprivileged. Kindness, after all, is colorblind. The next Interota was announced to be held in Tunisia in 2023 during the Closing Ceremonies. There were inquiries entertained and everyone in the chat box looked interested and enthusiastic. In the end, I’m hopeful to join this event in the future (fingers crossed).

Handover of Interota bell from Hong Kong to 2023 Host Tunisia

Interota has shown that a platform for young people to address the most significant and pressing problems is conceivable. Every country, I believe, can do the same and invite the rest of the globe. I can only say one thing about the youth: they are eager to learn and take action. Make interactive platforms and empower us. More than ever, the youth have always been involved in braving the storm, rising above the occasion, and triumphantly championing solutions that truly matter.

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