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Meet the member – Natasha

Today’s Rotaractor in the spotlight is Natasha…

My name is Natasha and I’ll been involved in Rotaract for 7 years. I first got into Rotaract in my second year at university when I was looking for work experience in Marketing as that was the profession I wanted to go into after I finished my degree. I found out through my university’s volunteering department that the local Rotaract club was looking for a Marketing Officer so I did a bit of research on Rotaract. I was really inspired by the work that the organisation does. I went to meet the President and Vice President of the club and they offered me the position. Then, I met the other club members who were such a lovely bunch of people. I was part of the club for two years, and I enjoyed my time there so much that I decided to join the Rotaract club in my hometown after I graduated.

I have enjoyed doing a lot of things throughout my time with Rotaract. Just a few of my favourite moments include doing the RYLA (Rotary Youth Leadership Award), volunteering at the World Pooh Sticks Championships, and taking part in fun runs like Run or Dye and Color Obstacle Rush.

I think other people should join Rotaract because it is an organisation that truly makes a difference. It can help young people to enhance knowledge and skills that they will use in their personal and professional development. You can also help make a difference to your local community by organising various exciting fundraising events.

If I could describe Rotaract in three words, they would be: Friendship, community, inspirational.

Outside of Rotaract, I work as a Marketing Executive for a company who supply laboratory equipment to the medical and clinical sector. I also enjoy photography (nature and travel photography in particular), going to the theatre (I am a big fan of musicals) and genealogy.

Meet the member – Sarah

Today’s Rotaractor in the spotlight is Sarah..

 

I first started my Rotaract journey when I supported the reform of Oxford Rotaract, alongside a great group of Rotarians and friends. I was honoured to be the first club president for a great bunch of people. During my time with the club, we’ve supported a number of local Oxford charities and had a lot of fun! One of my silliest, yet fondest memories is attaining the nickname ‘Three Desserts Field’. It’s pretty self-explanatory, but to give you the background, I ate three desserts at an Oxford Spires Rotary club meal, after having both a starter and a main course. I joined a gym pretty promptly afterwards…

I’ve just taken the plunge with a Rotaract district role and needless to say I have a lot to learn, but I am being supported by Oxford Rotaract where I currently hold the Vice President position. I think it’s important that with the new Rotary year, we all take the time to assess what’s going on around us and so I will be adopting the following approach: “discuss, understand then move forward together”. I hope this also resonates with you. If you have any other approaches you think would be good to consider, please let me know. I am always keen to learn!

Outside of Rotaract I am a tender writer for an international drug and alcohol testing company and every Saturday I can be found cooking in a local farm shop. The scones and quick selection are fantastic, but I am biased!

 

Sarah Field (Three desserts Field)

Meet the member – Emma

Today’s Rotaractor in the spotlight is Emma…
Hello, I’m Emma and have been in Oxford Rotaract since 2014. I got introduced to the group through a  friend and ended up attending their Speed Friending event at The Brittania. They were such a lovely bunch that I was hooked after that! It’s been a lifeline for meeting new people and making friendships whilst also getting out there and doing good work in the community. I have enjoyed volunteering at World Pooh Sticks (yes it really is a thing!) as it is such a lovely day and nice to be able to talk to a mix of people.
This year, I am on the District team for Rotaract, helping support other Rotaract groups in the Thames Valley and I am really looking forward to hearing other Rotaract stories!
 
Aside from Rotaract, I enjoy getting involved in my local amateur dramatics group and I am currently rehearsing for a dark comedy which we will be performing this Autumn. I was a fairy in Cinderella earlier this year…
I also enjoy walking (especially in woodlands) crafting, gardening and nature photography.. I am currently saving up for a macro lens for my camera.
When I am not out in nature, I am at my desk working for a charity as an Engagement Manager – a mix of events, marketing and communications – which I really enjoy!

Hearing from Paralympic rower Naomi Riches

Recently, some of us went along to see our friends at the Rotary Club of Oxford Spires, who were having a talk from Gold medal-winning Paralympic rower Naomi Riches.

Naomi’s talk, titled ‘Just because I can’, told about her journey from winning Gold at the London 2012 Paralympics, to rowing all 165 miles of the River Thames for charity IN-vision to her future challenges and settling back into ‘normal’ life. It was inspiring!

At just 8 weeks old she was diagnosed with a rare eye condition call Cone Dystrophy, with no functioning cones on her retina she has no colour vision and is extremely light sensitive. She also has Nystagmus which makes it hard to focus, particularly on moving objects as her eyes are involuntarily and constantly moving. After struggling in school, especially in sports with moving objects such as football and tennis, Naomi discovered adaptive rowing whilst at university and didn’t look back. She went on to win 6 World Championship Titles, a Bronze at the Beijing Games and a Gold in London.

Since becoming a patron of IN-vision in 2014, she was looking for a challenge and rowing the full 165 miles of the River Thames was just that! The row became a World Record attempt to become the fastest woman to row a single scull down the Thames. IN-vision is a charity which aims to raise awareness for and fund research into Nystagmus, an eye condition that affects around 1 in 1000. You can find out more about their work here: https://in-vision.org.uk/

After a huge amount of organisation, preparation and training, Naomi managed to row the entire length of the river in 47 hours, 59 minutes and 54 seconds, a fantastic achievement! In the time since, she’s managed to raise a huge amount of money for the charity and is still going. You can find out more about the row and make a donation by going to The Great Thames Row website.

 

Following her sporting success and the Great Thames Row, Naomi has been using what she has learnt to motivate, inspire and enable others as well as seeking out new challenges. She certainly motivated and inspired us during her speech and it was great to learn about her challenges. It just goes to show that even if something holds you back, if you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything!

Meet the member – Becky

Today’s Rotaractor in the spotlight is Becky…

Hey, I’m Becky and I’ve been part of Rotaract in Oxford for a little over a year. I first heard of Rotaract when I moved to Cardiff from Leicester a few years ago. I didn’t know anyone in the area so I was looking to get involved with things and make friends and joining Rotaract seemed like the perfect way to do that (SPOILER: It was the perfect way to make great friends and get involved in fundraising, community work and social projects!). I was in a similar situation when I moved to Oxford so, being a creature of habit, I went along to meet everyone in the Britannia and I’ve been a member here ever since.

Outside of Rotaract, I’m involved in Girlguiding as a Brownie leader. Having 24 girls shouting ‘Brown owl, brown owl’ at me every week can be exhausting but it’s also great fun and I get a fab excuse to do fun things all the time, like going to Cadbury World and on a high ropes course! I’ve also done a lot of other things through Girlguiding including lots of international travel. Last year I went to the Maldives to work with the Maldives Girl Guides Association to improve their programme, train their members on topics such as body confidence and leadership and get more girls involved. It was challenging but great fun and very rewarding.

In my normal day job, I work as a Medical Photographer for Oxford University Hospitals. This involves photographing patients in the hospital, mainly for their medical record but also for teaching and publication in medical books and journals. There’s a huge range of things that need photographing, from wounds to moles to operations in theatre to cleft palates and craniofacial conditions. I love the variety of my job and getting to meet lots of different patients all over the hospital.

In my (very minimal) spare time I like hiking, camping and going to the beach and being outside in general. I’m also partial to being crafty and making stuff, usually crochet, sewing or baking when I get the chance!

A brand new charity for a brand new year

With the start of our new Rotaract year, the time came to pick a new charity to focus our fundraising efforts on. There were some strong suggestions but after a vote, SpecialEffect came out on top.

They are a local charity, based in Charlbury in Oxfordshire, who specialise in making video games accessible for people with disabilities. By using a range of technology, including modified joypads and eye control, the charity is able to put fun and inclusion back into the lives of those with disabilities and make sure that they can play to the best of their ability.

And it’s not just fun and enjoyment that gamers can get from their games. The charity has seen many physical improvements from those who they’ve helped, along with huge boosts in self-esteem and independence.

Alongside adapting video games and controllers, the charity also provides special EyeGaze software to people who have been injured or in accidents, leaving them either temporarily or permanently unable to communicate. The clever software tracks a person’s eyes and allows them to communicate through a screen with a voice, meaning that they can communicate with doctors, nurses and family members and is invaluable in reducing isolation.

The work that SpecialEffect do is transformational and unique. They are determined that everyone, whatever their physical disability, should be able to share the fun, laughter and inclusion that video games can bring. This is something that is close to many of our members’ hearts so we will be doing loads of fun events throughout the year to make sure that we fundraise as much as possible for this great charity!

 

If you’d like to learn more about SpecialEffect, the work that they do, the people who they’ve helped and their ‘One Special Day’ fundraising campaign, check out their website: www.specialeffect.org.uk/

 

What A Year: remarks from our outgoing President

President 2016/17My year as President for the Rotaract Club of Oxford has been a lot of fun and there have been many highlights.

We had our club elections yesterday and our Vice President, Tash, is stepping into the President role, with her new committee. So a few words from me as a summary of my year and some things I am proud of.

As is true of many Rotaract clubs across the world, it is the people who make it worthwhile. The members in our club are a great bunch – always up for a laugh and willing to get stuck in!

Our biggest successes as a club this year have been:

  • Co-ordinating our most successful Scavenger Hunt in Oxford
  • Getting a team of 7 volunteers for the Santas on the Run
  • Introducing guest speakers to our calendar to expose members to different career paths
  • Using Skype meetings when a face-to-face meeting isn’t worthwhile.

I spoke at our District 1090 Conference in Bournemouth about the benefits of Rotaract and really believe that it is one of those groups that you never stop learning from. It’s about creating new ideas, thinking of different ways to raise money or get new members and always meeting new people.

For the 2017/18 Rotaract year, I will be sitting on the District committee as a Rotaract representative, travelling around to see what clubs in our District are up to. I am looking forward to the challenge and will also continue to be involved with the Oxford club because it has become such a huge part of my life.

All the best to our new committee! And if you are interested in joining Rotaract, come along and meet us, we’re a friendly bunch!

Scavenger Hunt is a success with record number of teams!

Our Scavenger Hunt took place in sunny Oxford city centre on Saturday 13th May and we had a record number of teams enter – 11 teams with some people coming from as far as Woking to take part!

Everyone got into the spirit of it with inventive team names and determination to complete as many clues as possible. Team ‘Will Power’ were the winners in the end, and even ran to the finish point at G&D’s ice cream cafe on St Aldate’s to secure the prize of luxury hamper.

Winning team of 2017 Scavenger Hunt

Well done to everyone who took part. We are delighted to say we raised £100 from the day which will go to our chosen charity, Helen & Douglas House, to help with all the amazing work they do.

Stay tuned for details of our next event!

Our Oxford Scavenger Hunt Returns…

Following the success of last year’s event, we will be putting on another Scavenger Hunt this May.

Teams of up to 4 people will take part and try and track down all our clues, including opportunities to take pictures and earn bonus points by finding some of the Rotaract members.

The Scavenger Hunt will be on Saturday 13th May, starting from Bonn Square in Oxford city centre (near to Beaverbrooks & Argos). From 12 noon, teams will assemble and be sent off at staggered intervals to find their clues.

The teams will have 2 hours to complete the puzzles and then race back to the Castle Quarter, where those in on time will be in with the chance of winning a luxury hamper!

Entry is £3 per person with proceeds going to Helen & Douglas House. So bring along friends and family for a fun afternoon of exploring. Open to all ages and you don’t have to be a member of Rotaract to enter (although we do let our members enter too!)

Championing Rotaract in the Thames Valley District

At the beginning of 2017, our President Emma was invited to speak at the Rotary District 1090 Conference held in Bournemouth, alongside current Rotaract District Chair, Rachel Gerrish. Here, she shares her thoughts about Rotaract and why everyone should be involved in their local group.

District 1090 Chair for Rotaract, Rachel Gerrish, and President of Oxford Rotaract, Emma Wilberforce.

For anyone who doesn’t know about Rotaract, it is an international organisation with many locally-based voluntary groups for young people to develop skills and make an impact on their local community. The age range is specified as 18-30 but ages in groups vary because those who join these groups tend to be the giving types, so want to stay involved even past the ‘cut off’, something which speaks volume for Rotaract.

Rotaract stems from Rotary International, who have championed the Purple 4 Polio campaign. You may have seen purple crocus beds decorating your local towns – this is all part of raising awareness for the campaign and a good example of Rotary’s work within the community.

At the end of March, I went down to Bournemouth to speak about the importance of Rotaract and these are some of the reasons why you should get involved in a Rotaract group near you, either by supporting it or joining it:

  • Being a member of Rotaract means you can develop skills for your personal and professional life, such as self-confidence, team leadership, event organisation and public speaking.
  • Rotaract is an evolving organisation and members can be involved in its ongoing shaping and development.
  • Members have opportunities to take part in worldwide initiatives like Rotary Youth Leaderships Awards (RYLA) or Rotary Youth Exchange.
  • Local Rotaract groups can choose a cause they are passionate about to support each year, which offers opportunities to develop relationships with local businesses, volunteer in the community, and create and organise fundraising events.
  • Groups offer the opportunity to build new friendships and make international connections, affording the chance to travel and be welcomed at Rotaract clubs across the globe.
  • People get involved in Rotaract and Rotary in their spare time, as volunteers, so it makes an excellent hobby outside of work and you meet a lot of like-minded people.

For more information on Rotaract, visit www.rotaract.org.uk