“Why I joined Rotaract” – Jake Weragoda, NYSF Alumnus, 2006

Like many, I found NYSF in 2006 to be a life changing experience. The opportunity opened my perspective to challenge the status quo, and in turn, I moved from Bendigo in regional Victoria to Sydney for university. Following NYSF, I was selected to travel to Africa with the NYSF for the South African National Youth Science Week – a trip where I met my wife. I was also offered the opportunity to return as a staffie in 2007.

At the University of New South Wales, I studied a Bachelor of Science (Biotechnology) and a Diploma in Innovation Management. These qualifications saw me start as a Graduate at Campbell Arnotts in their R&D Program, and became a Product Development Technologist developing flavours and biscuits for the Shapes range. I have recently moved on to a Project Manager role at Cerebos, a food and beverage company known for brands such as Gravox, Fountain and Saxa.

When I arrived for uni in Sydney, I took on a different challenge. Understanding the generous support of Rotary to NYSF, I wanted to give something back. With Rotaract being a program of Rotary for 18-30 year olds, I took the opportunity to join the Rotaract Club on campus.

Initially, I found Rotaract to be a great avenue for community service, getting involved in volunteering and fundraising projects. Our club partnered with the likes of Guide Dogs, Ronald McDonald House and Habitat for Humanity. I soon realised that Rotaract was much more – a chance to develop my own skills.

Jake Weragoda Rotoract

Jake Weragoda Rotoract

I took on the role of Rotaract Club President, and then District Rotaract Representative, a role in which I coordinated the 11 Rotaract Clubs in the southern Sydney and Wollongong region. In this role, I met a lot of great people and coordinated a regional team to run a Charity Harbour Cruise on Sydney Harbour, a fancy dress party that raised $6,600 for the Rotary Foundation and the End Polio campaign. In 2012, I was recognised as a Paul Harris Fellow for dedication to community service. This included a donation of $1000 to the Rotary Foundation in my name.

This inspired me to do even more. I ventured to Thailand to an international Rotaract convention and never looked back. I gained an appreciation for the global network of the organisation – 200,000 Rotaractors and 1.2M Rotarians worldwide in almost every country, and have built some amazing friendships along the way. I participated in a service project in rural Thailand, have travelled around Australia to Rotaract events and conferences, attended the International Rotary Youth Leadership Award (IRYLA), and was recently invited to speak at a Rotaract Training program in California.

The personal and professional development opportunities in Rotaract are endless. Local and international community service is a huge part of the organisation, but the skill building and social networks are profound and there for the taking. In the past few years, I have held positions on the Rotaract Australia board, including my current role as Chairperson.

For Rotaract Australia, I manage a team of six and oversee the committees for the annual Australian Rotaract Conference and Australian Rotaract Games. I started a national Rotaract magazine, created partnerships with ShelterBox – facilitating clubs to raise $9,000 for the Nepal earthquake disaster – and Movember, in which we’ve raised $18,000 in the last two years. I co-developed a national Rotaract Training program for Rotaract leaders, and have been a guest speaker at over 50 Rotary and Rotaract events. In 2013, I was named Australian Rotaractor of the Year.

The tie between Rotary, Rotaract and NYSF is strong and I encourage you to embrace the opportunities available to you by remaining involved in the organisation

Find out more about Rotaract www.rotaract.org.au or contact Jake directly chairperson@rotaract.org.au