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Together We Stand | Lausanne

The train from Palézieux was passing through the UNESCO-listed Lavaux Vineyard Terraces. It was the early summer, so the little saplings of grapes were just coming out to add a pinch of greenery to the brown soil. The sun was peeping over the Lake Geneva, just as to say he is done with his day’s proceedings. Even though quite alien for us Asians, the summer-sun in Switzerland was supposed to set around 8.30 pm on that day. After a few minutes of ride from Lavaux vineyard terraces, we got down at the Lausanne Railway Station around 6.48 pm.

Two weeks ago, a simple message sent to the Facebook page of Rotaract Club of Lausanne initiated a fruitful conversation between the Secretary of RAC Lausanne and myself over a possible meetup. As a result, we were invited by RAC Lausanne to attend their monthly meeting for the month of April on the 11th.

The meeting was to commence at 7.00 pm, and since there was another 10 minutes more with just a few hundred meters to cover from the Lausanne Railway Station, we set off at a leisurely pace. However, we were proved wrong on our decision as the road started to go over a hill. Eventually, we were half drained out when we reached Rue Centrale 6 in Lausanne around 7.05 pm, where the meeting location was situated.

We were warmly welcomed outside the meeting room by the Secretary of RAC Lausanne – Rtr. Laetitia Rolland and were accompanied to the meeting room. At the meeting, we were greeted by Immediate Past President – Rtr. Tomas Franceschin, Vice President – Rtr. Jennifer Roux, Treasurer – Rtr. Alexandre Nguyen and another member (whom I couldn’t remember the name, unfortunately).

After settling down and introducing each other, we were invited to commence our presentation. The presentation commenced with an introduction to the RID3220 – Sri Lanka & Maldives, clubs, membership & the type of projects that are being carried out. Then it moved on to an introduction of Rotaract Cub of Alumni of University of Moratuwa, why the club was chartered & the member-base and the key initiatives carried out by the club.

The presentation lasted about 7 minutes & our hosts were thoroughly impressed by the service carried out by Roataractors in Sri Lanka. The floor was opened for questions afterwards. Rtr. Laetitia broke the shackles with a question on the member base of RAC Alumni Mora and we explained that the club is only open for the final year undergrads & graduates of University of Moratuwa. Rtr. Tomas then pitched in with a question on the population of Sri Lanka and the general age of Rotaractors in the country. Switzerland’s population is just 8.6 million, which is less than half of that of Sri Lanka, so he asked whether most of the Sri Lankan Rotaractors are young. We explained that most of the Rotaractors are in the age group of 22-26 years in general, but there are senior Rotaractors also, who are still active in the movement.

Rtr. Alexandre then threw in a question on the meeting frequency. We explained that before the pandemic, we used to at least meet twice a month, but it was cut down to Zoom sessions during COVID & now we meet at least once a month with the relaxation of COVID protocols. He then asked about the number of people attending the meetings; we responded saying it’s for the projects that most members attend to and for a meeting, it’s about 1/3rd of the membership at maximum. He then inquired about the involvement of Rotary in projects. We elaborated on how Rotary clubs provide guidance in organizing projects as well as the financial support given for some of the projects.

Rtr. Tomas then threw in a question asking whether the funding for projects is mainly from private entities, government organizations or personal donors. We enlightened that the major financial support is provided by private entities, while the support from government entities & personal donors is quite insignificant. Rtr. Tomas mentioned that it’s quite difficult to get the support of private entities in Switzerland to sponsor the projects. Adding more, Rtr. Prabodha mentioned that the senior Rotaractors also chip in with donations & funds to support club activities whenever required.  Rtr. Alexandre further went ahead to inquire about the number of Rotaractors joining Rotary clubs. We explained that the rate of Rotaractors joining Rotary was quite low, but with the chartering of new clubs which comprise of a majority of Rotaractors, the rate has improved.

After the Q&A session we had a nice chat about the projects done by RAC Lausanne and the Rotaract movement in Switzerland. Though there are around 19 Rotaract Clubs in Switzerland, these clubs belong to 3 separate Rotary International Districts. The Rotary Districts involved are: RID 1980, RID 1990 & RID 2000.  All these three districts combine to make Rotaract Committee of Switzerland & Liechtenstein. This committee accounts for around 420 Rotaractors in Switzerland & Liechtenstein.

At the end of the discussion, we exchanged souvenirs with our hosts, in the form of Sri Lankan traditional key tags depicting masks & elephants. As the Rotaractors from RAC Lausanne were interested in the story behind the masks, we elaborated the cultural background. As the day turned into the dusk, we bid adieu to the lovely Rotaractors from Lausanne and proceeded to the Lausanne Railway.    

Happy reading!

Penned By: Rtr. Himantha Alahakoon

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