Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) Suriname

By Amanda Sheombar

It’s Saturday morning, the first day of Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) Suriname hosted in district 7030, and enthusiastic Rotary volunteers begin to arrive. All help is needed, since the facilitation and logistics of the three-day event fully relies on Rotary members. It’s my third consecutive year joining the Rotary Suriname team in supporting our local RYLA. For me, this experience is the best way to meet and build long-term friendships with other Rotary members in Suriname, and to witness the amazing skills and creativity of our Rotaractors and Interactors in the organizing committee of RYLA Suriname.

Organizing the RYLA with Rotaractors and Interactors is a huge advantage for the organizing committee because it ensures the relevance of topics chosen and helps reach our target audience.  There are two Interact clubs and three Rotaract clubs in Suriname, and one member from each club is a RYLA delegate during the planning phase, starting about six months before the RYLA weekend. Together with Rotarian delegates from three Rotary clubs, they decide the theme of the RYLA, promote RYLA to their peers, and select topics and presenters. Many times, the delegates are RYLA alumni, so they also provide input on how to improve the RYLA experience.

To me, RYLA Suriname 2019 was even more exciting than the previous years. Every year, our RYLA has a new theme and the 2019 theme was Health. We added new interactive elements to increase the awareness of personal well-being. Saturday morning consisted of sessions covering physical, financial, digital, emotional, and social health. The participants were split in four smaller groups to enhance interaction between each other and with their session-leader. The majority of the session-leaders are our own Rotarians with expertise in the session’s topic.

In the second part of the Saturday program, eight “Health in Action” booths are setup to provide individual consultation to participants. The booths are professional organizations, including PAHO and Red Cross in Suriname, providing their knowledge for free. Also, as part of environmental awareness, all participants were required to bring their own cup for drinks and own plate and cutlery for the lunch; single-use plastic is prohibited. To my amazement and content, all participants conformed to this rule. At the end of the day, only three bags of garbage (180 liters) were collected for a full day event of approximately 140 people.

The third day of RYLA included a health game. This game was a simulation of a health-care system in a country whereby the participants, divided in teams, represented the various stakeholders (government, health insurance companies, pharmacies, patients, medical care). During this simulation all of the participants applied their new leadership skills to work together and solve this problem. After the health game, the award ceremony concluded RYLA Suriname with a healthy lunches,  again with own plates, cups and cutlery.

I think every Rotarian in Suriname will agree with me that RYLA Suriname is a great event for both young people and Rotarians in Suriname, and is here to stay!

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