District 9980 and the Club of Waimate are very proud to present the New Zealand Rotary family’s youngest-ever president – 12-year-old South Cantabrian Abi Lapthorn.
Abi, a Year 8 student at Waituna Creek School, will go down in the New Zealand Rotary history books as the country’s first Rotakids leader, joined by her fellow officer bearers: vice-president Alysha Melecio, 12, of St Patricks School, secretary Stella Bilcliffe, 11, of St Patricks School, treasurer Scott Warwood,10, of Waituna Creek School, and public image chair Logan Clarkson, 11, of Centennial School.

Rotakids Waimate chartered recently, and saw 15 children from five different schools take the Rotakids pledge and become Rotary Foundation members. Three children were unable to attend, and that number, together with the five new members who have already signed up since the chartering ceremony, brings the new club to a 23-strong roll. The youngest member is just 7 years old.

Launching Rotakids in District 9980 was the mission of Rotary Club of Waimate youth director Sharyn Cain, who worked closely with Rotarians in the United Kingdom, where junior clubs are thriving.

The youngest branch of Rotary, Rotakids is aimed at children from around 7 to 12 – Years 3 to 8. As well as being strong in the UK, Rotakids clubs are very active in Brazil and Romania, and clubs have also recently chartered in Australia and Italy.

Sharyn says the aim of Rotakids is to encourage young people to learn valuable skills, take responsibility for themselves and the community they live in, and to do good for others.

She’s very quick to point out Rotakids isn’t about pretending to be Rotarians – the junior club is the real deal, and the youngsters take their roles within the organisation very seriously.

“In fact, Rotakids is carefully structured to really empower the youngsters and put them in charge. They elect their own officer bearers and make their own decisions, but can draw on my advice and guidance, as their Rotary mentor,” Sharyn says.

“We’re fortunate in the Waimate area to have a range of very good schools, and wonderful youngsters who really take pride in their community, so it was an ideal place to start New Zealand’s first Rotakids club.”

The Waimate Rotakids already have their sights on achieving a Rotary Presidential Citation, for which they must complete at least three initiatives or projects through the year – one for their community, another that’s nationwide and a third that’s international.

The chartering ceremony was a particularly special event, not just for Rotary, but for the Waimate area, as well. Both Rotary and other community VIPs shared in the formalities and celebrations, including current and past district governors, Janice Hughes and Karen Purdue, current and past Waimate club presidents Ailsa McKenzie and Colin Dore, and local mayoress Lyn Stringer.

The mayoress and mayor Craig Rowley arranged the design of special chains of office for the Rotakids Club of Waimate, which Lyn presented to the new president at the chartering ceremony.

Thumbs up from the top

District governor for 9980 Janice Hughes has paid tribute to Sharyn, saying she epitomises the Rotary spirit, working tirelessly to bring Rotakids to New Zealand, which is a huge milestone for the organisation.

“Chartering a new club is no small feat in itself – bringing in a new framework to engage youngsters in our community is massive.

“This is such a credit to Sharyn, the Rotary Club of Waimate, the community and all the wonderful new Rotakids members.

“From what I’ve heard, Abi and her team aren’t mucking around - they’ve already held meetings, raised hundreds of dollars and carried out a number of lovely acts of kindness and gratitude.

 “We grown-ups might just learn a thing or two, I suspect.”

Rotakids raking it in already

The ink’s barely dry on the Rotakids of Waimate Club charter, and president Abi and her team have already well and truly moved into administrative, service and fundraising mode.
Since chartering, the club has held several meetings, and the new office bearers have taken up their news roles, including secretary Stella taking the minutes, and treasurer Scott balancing the club’s income and expenditure to date.  

Club members have pondered the significance of small tokens of appreciation, and, to that end, have attached handwritten tags to chocolate bars to give out as random acts of kindness.

They’ve also “shared the cheer” by nominating one child per school – not a Rotakid – who’s displayed a great attitude. Members agreed on the recipients, and the schools were awarded certificates, while the chosen students each received a small gift.

The youngsters have notched up their first $350 fundraising tally, too, baking up a storm to raise money for the Blind Foundation’s Red Puppy Bikkie Day. As part of learning more about the cause, the Rotakids hosted blind Rotarian Donald Hunt and his guide dog, Nero. Donald spoke to the children about what Nero can do, the importance of guide dogs – and the fact it costs $27,000 to train a single canine.

As well as holding a strategy meeting to plot out what they want to achieve during the next year, the Waimate Rotakids were also very keen to show their appreciation to the many people who have helped them get underway, so they baked truffles and wrote letters of gratitude. 
Posted September 27, 2016