Sherry Anderson once said ‘Volunteers don’t get paid, not because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless.’
Many of us have considered volunteering or volunteered at some point in our lives. Others still do. For some of us, volunteering is a way of life.
After watching closely the Rotaract Model UN Conference in New York, I have decided to ask Adrian Dan Pop, one of the founders of Rotaract MUN for an interview.
Let me give you some details about Rotaract, RotaractMun, and Adrian.
What is Rotaract?
Rotaract is a volunteering program that brings together adults ages 18-30. They take action in their communities, develop their leadership and professional skills, but they also have fun. In general, Rotary clubs sponsor Rotaract Clubs, but Rotaract members manage and fund their clubs independently.
What is Model UN?
Model United Nations, also known as Model UN or MUN, is an educational simulation and/or academic competition in which young people can learn about diplomacy, international relations, and the United Nations.
What is RotaractMun?
Rotaract MUN is the Rotaract Global Model United Nations Conference, which takes place every year in a different country and is organized by rotaractors.
The first Rotaract MUN event took place in 2013, in Baia Mare, a city in Romania and was followed by the 2014 edition in London (Rotaract Club of Westminster, UK), the 2015 edition in Belgrade Serbia. In 2016, it had two editions: one in New York City at the UN Headquarters and the annual edition in Sofia, Bulgaria, organized by Rotaract Club of Sofia Serdika.
Let’s find out more, from Adrian:
1. Adrian, tell us a bit about yourself. For how long have you been a volunteer?
Volunteering was not part of my career plan as I’ve been preparing to be an economist and business person ever since I was a child.
While being a student at a Management and Business Development Master Programme, I’ve bumped into a call for volunteers poster at my University, which was about planting trees near Baia Mare City, my hometown.
So, I called all my friends from different parts of the country and invited them to my place and we went together to plant trees. It was a different experience for me and kind of contradictory with most of the economics theories that I was studying at the time, to be honest.
The main decision about joining a non-profit organizations and civil society was after one year as Regional Coordinator of a national environment project, where in one day, on the 25th of September 2010, on my call, over 10.000 volunteers showed up in Baia Mare and Maramures area for one day, to clean up the areas of litter. It was amazing!
In parallel, I’ve joined Rotaract Club of Baia Mare T.E.A.M. and since then I’m a proud member of this global network.
2. I have heard so many great things about Rotaract T.E.A.M. Baia Mare. Can you name a few projects that the members of Rotaract T.E.A.M. Baia Mare are most proud of?
I am a founding member of Rotaract Club T.E.A.M. and I am very proud of all our achievements.
At first, our club was mainly focusing on Youth Leadership and Development programs in Baia Mare area. We managed to unite all youth organizations from our city into a Youth NGO Coalition called TEAM BM|advocacy. This NGO is working well even today and it is still developing programs for young people in the area.
The most ‘famous’ project that Rotaract Baia Mare T.E.A.M. initiated is the Rotaract Global Model United Nations and it took us two years to be able to organize the first edition, in 2013. After the first edition, it went global.
Another project that I would like to mention is our Blood Donation Campaign, which aims to bring people more frequently into the blood donation centers. It’s a long-term project that became a national Rotaract project and it’s now happening all over the country.
World Peace Forum 2015, hosted in Baia Mare is another event that I am really proud of. It was possible only with the support of Rotaract and Rotary clubs and their experience in organizing such events. We were so glad when we got the nomination for the 9th WPF edition.
3. Which have been your most significant ‘rewards’ as a volunteer so far?
As ‘rewards’ I have 3 examples that made me feel accomplished:
In 2010, the 10.000 volunteers that turned out to our environmental project. They somehow restored my faith in humanity and made me realize that we can think big and achieve more when we do things together. I can’t really express it, but at the event, it was a different atmosphere in the city, you could just feel it in the air. It made me happy and gave me the energy to continue and get even more involved with volunteering.
In 2015, after the amazing experience at the World Peace Forum in Baia Mare, The Schengen Peace Foundation invited 50 young people, for 4 days, to the Luxembourg Peace Prize ceremony in European Parliament. They also organized visits to different historical parts of the three country borders with France, Germany, and Luxembourg. Seeing this 50 young leaders, from different backgrounds and different ethnicities traveling and living together, enjoying every minute of the Luxembourg Peace Voyage, was more than any reward I could have asked for.
This year, the Rotaract MUN took place in New York and 10 members of our club in Baia Mare organized a trip to the US together. This kind of trips used to be only dreams for me and for them, years ago. They all visited amazing places in New York and Washington, met Rotarians and Rotaractors, International Leaders and sat in the seats where Presidents from all around the world sit and work on world problems. For me, this image, of my colleagues from Baia Mare in the US was also a great reward and it motivated me to work even more, so that other youths will have the chance to experience the world.
4. How did the RotaractMun project start?
Rotaract MUN was an opportunity that I could not refuse. As president of Rotaract Baia Mare T.E.A.M., I held interviews with potential members, people that wanted to join the club. One of them was Dan Ungureanu. He came back to Baia Mare after a few years of being a student in Cluj-Napoca.
He studied International Relations and had interacted with Model United Nations events many times. He also started an MUN event in Cluj, called NAPOMUN.
When I heard about the concept of Modeling United Nations committees, youth learning diplomacy and debating on global issues like real UN Ambassadors do, I knew it is a great idea.
Thinking about the relation of Rotary International with the UN, we started to search to see if there exist any platform that unites this two structures. And guess what – there was none! It was 2012 and we have decided that we have to do it.
In August 2013, we had the first edition, in Baia Mare and we were simulating the Human Rights Council, Security Council, and Peacebuilding Commission. We had participants from all continents and from over 25 different countries. It was an amazing experience!
5. I have followed the Rotaract Global Mun event, at Change the World in New York, on social media. How did it feel taking the project all the way to New York?
For us, organizers, it was not the first time at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. Each year, after each Rotaract MUN edition we go to New York and we take the results of the debates we have during MUN to United Nations Headquarters. We present them during Rotary International Day at UN.
This year we had the opportunity to bring 108 delegates to New York and simulate everything at the UN Headquarters, at the High Commission for Refugees. Due to the partnership with Change the World MUN, we had the Opening and Closing Ceremony in the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations. A very impressive place to be, I have to mention that.
Rotaract MUN is more than just a UN simulation and learning about diplomacy. We are aiming to build a global network of young professionals, that will act like an emergency action group, and will reunite each time when there is a situation on the globe and we feel like youth voice should have a say. We want this youth voice to be a strong voice and any decision to be taken after the youth’s point of view was presented. We will get there, but we need more work, more editions, and partnerships.
6. Are there any particular ways in which people can learn more and get involved with RotaractMun?
The only way we know is to actually get involved and participate. After the first edition, everyone gets really excited and many of them start attending and even creating more and more events and projects focused on International Relations and Diplomacy.
In selecting participants, our strategy is to ask for experienced ‘MUNers’ to Chair the debates and very motivated young professionals to debate. In this way, we allow everyone who has something to say to do it and pursue it in the youth community. The Rotaract network is perfect for this. But Rotaract Global ModelUN is not only for rotaractors so anyone can apply and maybe, after the event, they can connect with a local club in their country.
7. What is next for RotaractMun?
We see RotaractMun as a great opportunity for new generations. Rotaract Global Model United Nations transcends from a mere simulation to an actual youth decision-making process. It goes beyond a simple conference and ensures that the outcomes of your discussions and debates are presented, edited and transmitted in a clear and concise manner to the regional and international decision-making bodies (such as EU and UN) and to the world at large.
8. What tips would you offer to young people looking to volunteer, develop their interpersonal and professional skills and why not, join a Rotaract Club?
I might get frowned upon for saying this, but I feel that it’s very important for them to do their research and not to be superficial.
They should read and fully understand each opportunity that they want to apply for. Volunteering also means responsibility. For example, we often have to say no to applicants that have superficial applications and did not take the time to elaborate their answers. Also, we deny access to those who prefer to e-mail us 10 times about things that are already posted and presented on our website and social media. For us, that just means that they have not properly done their research.
Another advice would be for them to accept difficult challenges and when they feel like they have to be somewhere and do something, to not let anything stop them.
I want to thank Adrian for sharing his volunteering experience and I would love to hear about YOUR volunteering experience.
How has volunteering changed your life?