Rotaract, Rotary International’s Service Club program for young adults ages 18-30, was officially inaugurated during January1968 under RI President Luther Hodges. On 13 March 1968, the Rotaract Club of theUniversityofNorth Carolina, sponsored by the Rotary Club of North Charlotte, North Carolina, USA, was the first Rotaract club to receive its official charter. Although this club is recognized as the first Rotaract Club.
A special committee was convened to design the new service club program for young adults during 1966. After polling students at the University of Houston, Texas, USA, the committee decided that “Rotaract” would be the best name for the program—a combination of the words “Rotary” and “action”. Coincidentally, the service club at theUniversityofNorth Carolinahad already adopted the name in 1966, Within a day of the certification of the Rotaract Club theUniversityofNorth Carolina, the Rotaract Club of theUniversityofLa Sallewas chartered inTacubaya,Mexico. The Rotaract Clubs ofFlorence,Italy,Gaston College,North Carolina, andSecunderabad,India, were all certified in the following weeks.
By 1981, Rotaract was so popular that Rotaractors inSouth Africadecided to host the first INTEROTA conference, an international meeting for all Rotaractors. Subsequent Conferences have been held every three years.
Several development in the early 1990s helped strengthen the Rotaract movement. February 1991, the first Rotaract Club in Eastern Europe was chartered inBudapest,Hungary, with the help of Austrian Rtaractors. In March 1992, the RI Board established World Rotaract, Week which is celebrated annually during the week of 13 March to commemorate the chartering of the first Rotaract Club.
Since 1968, Rotaractors have continually shown that they can be an innovative and positive force for change in their communities. Service activities commonly undertaken include projects to improve the environment, visits with the elderly or disabled, blood or organ donation campaigns, and aid to developing countries. In 1987. In order to raise funds for Polioplus, Rotacactors from the two clubs designed an amphibious cycle that would cross theEnglish Channelunder the power of 36 Rotaractors. The campaign raised US$210,000 for polioplus and earned the Rotaractors a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for their speedy crossing.
Today, Rotaract continues to experience phenomenal growth. There are currently more than 7,600 Rotaract clubs in more than 158 countries, with an estimated membership of more than 1,76,000 Rotaractors. As the program continues to grow, Rotaractors repeatedly show that they are prepared for “Fellowship Through Service.”