Meet Vien, a 28 year-old St Ives pharmacist. Young, Asian and female – hardly the typical Rotarian – but that’s just what she’s become.
Born in an Indonesian refugee camp after her parents jumped on an overcrowded boat to flee the Viet Cong back in 1987, today Vien owns a pharmacy on Mona Vale Road.
“Most people think of the Rotarians as old, white retired men,” she said. “I was well aware of this stereotype when I joined the St Ives branch.
“But with my refugee background a lot of their projects spoke to me – like the Shelter Box – a readymade kit of tents, chairs and tables, water purification and other necessities flown into disaster areas like Fiji where people have lost their homes.
“My mum always told myself and my brother who’s training to be a doctor, how lucky we are to have grown up in Australia, so it’s time for me to give back too.
“When I was looking for a donation box for the front counter I was drawn to Rotary because of the work it does in the community. I went to a few of their meetings and found this was a group of successful people with big hearts. Why wouldn’t you be inspired by that?”
St Ives Rotarians is asking for more volunteers like Vien to lend a hand in their wide range of fundraising activities and work in the community like graffiti removal in partnership with Ku ring gai Council, or organising and distributing gifts to the elderly in care homes at Christmas time.
Vien has joined the St Ives Rotarians on an 18km walk raising $3,000 for Room to Read which buys books and builds schools in Asia, as well as lending a hand at the St Ives Food and Wine Festival, the annual March event together with its other big fundraiser the Bobbin Head Cycle Classic.
“Even if you only give two hours a week that makes a difference,” said Vien. “Two hours is nothing – that’s only two episodes of ‘Game of Thrones’. Who can’t spare that?”