Thursday, 9 April 2015

My Rylarian Rite of Passage

The Rotary Youth Leadership Award (RYLA) is a five-day programme for people aged 18 to 24, during which you become a ‘Rylarian’.  I attended the 9940 RYLA, hosted by the Rotary Club of Port Nicholson in January 2015.

Beyond the acronym I knew very little about RYLA. I had no idea what I was getting myself into and when I arrived was rather nervous, and I am so glad I went! I made fabulous friends, and learnt a great deal about myself, others and leadership, but more significantly, how it all comes together.

With an overriding theme of leadership and collaboration, RYLA is a week of learning and reflection. Each day was filled with inspirational speakers, including Gregory Fortuin, New Zealand's former race relations conciliator, and former friend and colleague of Nelson Mandela. Fortuin spoke about utilising your life experiences and personal values to achieve compassionate leadership and create change.

It was a week of team building. We had to work together, trust each other, and understand our different strengths and skills in order for us to get through. We were pushed out of our ‘comfort zones’ with fast-paced activities that demanded synergy from each team. Over the week, we were tied with rope and had negotiate with bushes, gates and tree stumps; we searched for ‘missing’ teammates while blindfolded and unable to speak to one another; we did an obstacle course through the trees at Adrenaline Forest; and on the final day, we had the ‘RYLATHON’, where all our learning came together. A treasure hunt of epic proportions, this final challenge involved building a raft and relocating it, and us, to the opposite side of a small bay around a large jetty.  These are not your ‘everyday’ activities, and they a demanded an understanding of what we, and others, can bring and need from a team in order achieve great things.

RYLA 9940 2015 showed me how a group of strangers can come together to do inspiring things by combining their knowledge and skills through supportive collaboration. I am immensely grateful to the Rotary Club of Port Nicholson who sponsored me to attend. I found the experience invaluable, and I encourage all people ages 18 to 14 to attend, you won’t regret it!

Brontë Jefferies

Supplementary:  All Rotary districts in New Zealand hold a RYLA annually.  The purpose is similar but each devises their own programme and criteria.  Please contact the appropriate district via