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/
My 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!
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.
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.
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!)
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.
On Wednesday 15th March, we celebrated World Rotaract Week at The Brittania pub in Headington where we took part in some great activities.
These activities included creating a banner where we wrote down answers to the following question: “What Does Rotaract Mean to You?”
We encouraged members and new members to write down a reason about why they were a part of Rotaract as well. Some answers included – being involved in the community, meeting new people, raising money for charity and volunteering.
One group in serious video planning mode!
We also got into teams and made videos using the subject ‘Celebrating Rotaract’.
Our teams had 20 minutes to plan and film their video representing what they thought was so great about Rotaract, both at club level in Oxford and more generally as an organisation.
You can view our winning entry below:
Our President, Emma Wilberforce, summed up her reason for being in Rotaract, “I love meeting new people and getting involved in our local community. It’s great to see that there are other like-minded people out there! Rotaract is a great thing to be a part of and I would urge anyone between 18 – 30 years old to join their local club.”
Some of our reasons for being a part of Rotaract.
Oxford Rotaract are always looking for new members to join in and our next meeting is Wednesday 29th March, 8pm at The Brittania Inn. You can also view our upcoming events on our Calendar.
Here’s to Rotaract!
What does Rotaract mean to you? A lot of happy people!
On Wednesday 1st March, we invited in writer and theatre maker Becci Sharrock to talk about her new arts project and theatre show Letters to Myself. The show is the result of a six month programme of workshops and drop-in sessions asking as many people as possible to write a letter to their past, present or future self. Letters received so far have been long and short, silly and serious.
Ahead of a UK tour, including a date in the Burton Taylor Studio at Oxford Playhouse on 4th April, people from across the country are now being invited to write their own letter to themselves. A section of the show is being reworked to include ‘local’ letters at each tour venue.
Becci’s talk was about her career as a writer and producer and more about the project. She has some interesting stories to tell and shared some of the letters with us.
The letter writing kits!
All of us took home our free letter writing kit, complete with tea bag and biscuit, and have been challenged to write our letter before the Oxford show! An interesting and inspiring talk – thanks Becci!
At our meeting on 30th November, we welcomed self-published author and blogger, Virginia Burges.
She talked to us about her book ‘The Virtuoso’ and gave us her advice for budding authors on how to write unforgettable fiction. With her engaging tone and useful visual props, we were all fascinated by her writing journey and the way to do it, some of us may even start penning a novel in our spare time!
She also told us she is hoping to make a film out of her book, having already worked on creating a soundtrack for her book – a first for an author. It aims to summarise the book through music. You can listen to the track here:
On Saturday 26th November, we held a cheese and wine tasting night to celebrate our 6th birthday as a club!
We decked the hall out in rustic style, with wine bottles dripping with candle wax and checked table cloths and welcomed over 30 people to our evening in Kennington Village Hall.
Four of our members held cheese & wine stations and our groups went round in turn tasting each one and learning something new, which would come in handy for our test round in our quiz later! As well as the tasting stations, we laid on some delicious nibbles and a bar.
We collected over 13 raffle prizes, including tickets to Cinderella at the Oxford Playhouse, entry to Waterperry Gardens and a beauty voucher and sold tickets on the night as well, with all proceeds going directly to our chosen charity, Helen & Douglas House.
On Wednesday 2nd November, we gathered unused shoe boxes together and prepared eight gift boxes for an amazing cause, Operation Christmas Child.
We wrapped up the boxes with some festive wrapping paper and filled them with a wide range of gifts such as toys (e.g. stuffed animals, balls), stationary (e.g. colouring pens, pencils, notebooks), and clothing (e.g. hats, gloves) that were suitable for boys and girls aged between 2 and 14 years old.
Not only that, in celebration of The Great British Bake Off, we brought over loads of cakes to eat as we watched the final on TV and packed the shoe boxes.