The power of Interactors as key collaborators in service projects

By Claudia Urbano, Rotary Service and Engagement staff

Interactors distribute supplies to people impacted by Typhoon Odette. Members of the Interact Club of Metro Mandaue, Cebu, Philippines, and other clubs in the country organized a large-scale response that raised money and distributed food, hygiene kits, medicine, and drinking water to more than 1,000 families across several cities and islands. December 2021.

Since 1962, generations of young people have discovered the power of Service Above Self and have had some serious fun along the way thanks to Interact, Rotary’s leadership and service program for teens.

Today’s Interactors are channeling enthusiasm and ideas into projects of remarkable reach. These young people offer more than just volunteer numbers for your club’s service projects. They’re key collaborators from start to finish. And, in many cases, they’re leading the way.

When Super Typhoon Odette caused widespread destruction in the central Philippines in 2021, 17-year-old Interactor Chynna Dorado navigated debris-choked roads on foot to climb a hill where she could get just enough of a phone signal to put out a call for help. She had a network of Interact friends in other areas of the Philippines that she knew she could rely on. She worked with her fellow Interactors to create graphics to share on social media, contact corporations for donations, find nonprofit organizations to partner with, and reach out to Interactors abroad. Other Interact clubs in the country hosted donation drives and fundraisers in their schools and communities. The Interactors tapped their families — including some Rotarian parents and their clubs — to volunteer alongside them. Those connections and communication skills, Dorado says, enabled them to mobilize quickly. “One thing Interactors do very well is networking and communicating with each other,” she says. “They just have this creativity. How well-versed we are with technology is also a big factor.”

With a deep commitment to service and our global community, lifelong connections to Rotary often begin with Interact. Invest in developing young leaders by sponsoring an Interact club and elevating youth voices.

What makes for a successful partnership with an Interact club?

1. Work toward their goals, not yours

This is a club by and for young people — allow them to be the ones to shape it. Remember, Rotary members are there to offer guidance and support, not manage young people. Meet them where they are. Let them set the priorities and ask them how you can best support their goals.

2. Include youth in your committees, task forces, and teams

Look for opportunities to include Interactors in leadership roles in your club and district. Invite Interactors to your district conferences and training events, where they learn alongside other leaders and can contribute to the broader conversation. Or invite them to apply for the Youth Advisory Council, a group that advises the Board of Directors of Rotary International, giving them the chance to have a voice in Rotary’s youth programs.

3. Let Interact members take the lead

By planning club meetings, events, and service projects, Interactors gain lifelong skills in management, negotiation, relationship building, and community investment and development. So play the supporting role by volunteering at Interact events wherever they need help. Think about additional ways to help Interactors learn and apply leadership skills, such as Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, district leadership events, and local training opportunities. “It’s a safe environment to make mistakes — part of growing as a young leader,”  says Mitty Chang, District 5170 Interact chair. “When you give them the leadership opportunities, you see that they can really flourish.”

4. Watch out for “adultism”

Adults always know best … or do they? Instead of assuming you know all the answers, be ready to ask questions and listen. Think about the respect you’d give another adult’s viewpoints and ideas and treat a young leader the same way.

Find out how fulfilling youth service can be when you invite young people to Interact! Learn more about working with Interact clubs in the Interact Guide for Rotary Club Sponsors and Advisers.

This story is adapted from the May 2023 issue of Rotary magazine.

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