Posted by Leni Law-Davies
My name is Leni Law-Davies and in 2016 I was the President of the Interact Club of Montmorency Secondary College.
Interact was, honestly, an amazing thing to be a part of, all the way through high-school. As the junior division of Rotary, being a member allows for so many incredible experiences and unique opportunities. As I see it, there are three key advantages and strengths of the club as a whole –the chance to make a difference, the chance to meet new people, and the chance to learn more about the world.
An Interact Club allows for a small group of people to make a big difference, in fundraising for many and varied causes.  We hold a series of major events throughout the year, as well as multiple free dress days with gold coin donations. There are three key major events we hold each year, the first of which is Shave for a Cure. Supporting the Leukemia Foundation, Shave for a Cure is a big deal at Montmorency – though it’s run by Interact, the whole school, teachers and students alike, get involved. The second is Wheelchairs for Kids. First run in my final year at the school, the Wheelchairs for Kids event is run at Willinda Park, and also sees a massive amount of support from the school community in raising money for wheelchairs for those in third world countries, a cause that’s growing each year. The final one of these events is a dinner to support the orphanage in East Timor that the club supports. Over the time I was with the club, this dinner morphed from a straight dinner to a 1920s style speakeasy and even a 1970s style disco. It’s a great opportunity to raise money for a good cause while meeting new people and just having a good, fun night. It’s always one of our most attended events, and our most profitable.
Being a member of Interact Club gives its members the opportunity to interact with like-minded people we wouldn’t otherwise get the chance to meet, let alone spend time with. It’s really noticeable walking into a meeting that there’s this fantastically welcoming atmosphere – everyone’s so friendly and so keen to be there. There aren’t any rules about joining, no applications or standards to pass, so everyone’s welcome, at any time. This results in a group of people who’re there because they’re keen and passionate about the causes they’re supporting, and creates a network of incredible minds from across all year levels.
This sense of warmth and welcome extends to the club’s interactions with the Rotary as a whole. It’s always great to see, at the events that we hold, members of the wider community, both Rotary and Rotaract, attending and forming relationships with members of the club, as people we can look up to as an extension of the work we’re doing, simply at a different level. It’s a community that’s intensely supportive, and that’s really important.
Being a member of the Interact Club allows for you to learn more about the world. The Rotary Club of Eltham, has a very close connection to East Timor, and through Interact, students are able to learn about parts of the world that we may otherwise not have any interaction with. It’s not hypothetical, it’s direct – we can see the effect that our fundraising is having, and the good that it’s going, and then pass on this awareness to others. It’s a really rewarding experience.
The Interact Club of Montmorency Secondary College also offers, through the Rotary Club of Eltham, a scholarship for a three-month exchange in Japan, an experience that I was lucky enough to be granted. It’s not exaggerating to say that this experience was life-changing. It allowed me to experience a different culture first hand, to live in a place so different to my home, and then repay the favour for my host sister Momoka, who then came and stayed with me in Australia. The experience granted me a family away from home, and a lifelong friend.
One of the things I did when I was in Japan was attend Rotary Club of Hondu meetings. These really stood out to me – in a place that was so different from home, so culturally unique, there was this sense of sameness in the Rotary Club. The same sense of openness, of welcome. The same aura of community and support. The same atmosphere of communal determination to do good. This is the power of Rotary, on its many levels.
Interact was an amazing part of my high-school experience, and that of so many others. The club does great work and provides every individual student that gets involved that same opportunity to do good in the world. I’d like to thank Ian Toohill, Jill Ramsay, Sally Squires, Johnny and Mamiko Akiyama for being especially supportive throughout my time in Interact and beyond.