Ivana Agapiou – Rotary Club

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Ivana Agapiou is an Eather Recruitment executive and president of the Rotary Club of Port Macquarie Sunrise. Rotary began in the US in 1905 and in Port Macquarie in 1948; there are now six local Rotary clubs, including at Wauchope and Laurieton, with more than 200 members. Women were first accepted as members 20 years ago: currently, the presidents of all four Port Macquarie clubs are women. Ivana gives readers a glimpse of Rotary from her own club’s perspective.

Each Rotary club is unique: people are attracted to different clubs for different reasons. Sunrise club’s serious about helping the community but not so serious about being serious! I joined when I came to Port eight years ago because I heard they had loads of fun. Initially, I just enjoyed the Friday breakfasts and everyone’s company, but soon realised I could make a difference; Rotary’s a real enabler: there are many ways members can feel empowered to help others. You can use your vocation or expertise in many ways: for example, assisting Rotary International programs such as eradicating polio and providing food, water and shelter for the needy.

We plan many activities: fundraisers like the Baby Boomers Ball; some purely social; some “hands on”, where we assist those who physically need a hand. We join with other Rotary clubs projects such as the lifesavers’ beach towers and Carnival of the Pines [on Sunday, October 4]. Rotary Youth Leadership Awards help 18-25 year olds develop their potential.

Our club works on a strategic 3-5 year plan so we can target projects and fund them adequately. This year our major fundraiser is Le Tour de Port on October 25. Cyclists will cover 200km in a day, with proceeds to Dads in Distress, Hastings Cancer Council and suicide prevention. So far we’ve raised $12,000 and we haven’t even had the event! Other projects are Bendigo Bank Youth 4 Youth talent night at Port City Bowls on November 26, for the Special Olympics and prevention of youth suicide and Newcastle Permanent Hastings Sports Awards early next year. We helped a school in Nepal with basic literacy and this developed into providing the village with teachers and a new school building. We help students at St Columba and Newman Technical College take part in vocational opportunities like Rotary Youth Marine, and student exchanges. We sponsor a French student here and we’ve a Port student heading for Denmark. In our Charge Point project we encourage outlets to provide power-point access for people with disabilities driving scooters, to improve mobility. Often they’ll stay home rather than go out, fearful of running out of power.

Rotary’s such a good a concept: groups of wonderfully generous, caring people joining together to help others – and meet interesting people, have fun and contribute to community and international aid. Rotary Youth leadership is a flagship program for 18 to 25-year-olds who have a presence on Facebook and My Space and have even formed a Rotary e-club; schools run an Interact program, a mini Rotary club that helps young people with skills like public speaking; most clubs have websites now. Rotary’s a strong network with everlasting bonds; members are salt of the earth. It’s a myth that Rotarians are all rich old farts, mainly male. Our club’s full of active business people with busy lives who want to do good and be involved in a caring network of like-minded individuals. I consider many Rotarians real friends who when times are tough are there to support and assist. We welcome new members: we recommend they attend a few breakfasts and talk to members before joining. Sunrise Club’s one of the “youngest” clubs: most of us work full time; many have young families.

Everyone joins for different reasons: we try to find motivating factors to keep members engaged and give them a platform to carry out “service above self”. This could mean digging a trench, painting, donating time or money or sharing valuable skills. Whatever a member can do, we accept; you do what you can when you can. If there’s an identified need we’ll be there, hands on, whatever it takes. Anyone’s welcome to come along to meetings, 7am every Friday at Rydges Riverside Room: contact a member (or me on 0404 056 278), attend an info session, see if it’s for you. It costs about $220 a year: there’ll also be social occasions and events you want to attend. We have a tradition of fining people for no good reason so you need some gold coins handy. A sense of humour’s vital.

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