Someone once said that a journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step.
For new District Governor Tracey Vavrek, her journey to visit the clubs in our District will be much longer—an estimated 33,000 km.
And the first “step” will involve driving approximately 1,200 km from her home in Grande Prairie to Yellowknife, in a Toyota Highlander which is nicknamed Amelia Kind Heart. Each word of that name was chosen for a reason.
“First off, Amelia suggests strength, a voyageur, and it means someone who has been working hard,” Tracey says. Also, “Amelia was my grandmother’s name. She was a very special person to me, who took me under her wing and guided me through life.”
Regarding the second part of the name, Kind, Tracey says, “I believe that gratitude and kindness can change the world and what we do as Rotarians is offer kindness. We offer kindness to each other in fellowship and friendship and we offer kindness through local projects and the work we do around the world.
“Every time you see the Rotary wheel, you also reflect on someone who has provided service. That service was given through kindness and care.”
The final word is represented by the graphic of a heart. “It represents the love we all share together and we know that’s key for the essential of Rotary continuing.”
Tracey, Vince and their family
Accompanying Tracey on her journey, which will take until late November to complete, will be Vince, her husband and fellow member of the Rotary Club of Grande Prairie After Five, who has just completed a year as club president.
Tracey and Vince have been together for 20 years and between them have raised a blended family of four, now-adult children. “We are passionate about community and giving and we have raised our children with that concept,” she says.
“The unfortunate thing is that none of them live in the North anymore. They are all in southern Alberta. It hurts that they are all so far away, but we appreciate any time we get together.”
They also have one four-year-old granddaughter, Olivia who attended the June 27 District Changeover Event with her mother.
Vince grew up in the Grande Prairie and Tracey moved there 27 years ago for work. For the last 18 years, she has been the executive director/CEO of the Community Foundation of Northwestern Alberta.
“In this role I am very fortunate to be able to work with wonderful individuals from our community, from social services groups to service organizations such as Rotary, with government and educational institutions to strengthen the community,” Tracey says.
She believes that there is a good fit between her job and being a Rotarian.
“Rotarians are very focused on helping to do good in our local communities and internationally and at the Community Foundation I am very fortunate that I do this every day and then I have the opportunity as a Rotarian to do it in my volunteer job,” she says.
Taking advantage of Rotary’s increased flexibility
Thanks to the flexibility Rotary International now gives District governors and thanks to technology, Tracey will be able to continue her work with the foundation, while also fulfilling her role as District governor.
“This is what is wonderful about the changes that Rotary International made. Rotary International has added more flexibility to the District governor’s position to allow the governor to continue to work full time during their year,” Tracey says.
“I will be able to continue in my role but working out of my car. I will have a temporary office established in my vehicle. It will include my laptop, Wi-Fi, and my printer. I will continue to maintain my responsibilities as the CEO of the foundation, but also be able to meet my responsibilities as the governor to connect with all the great people throughout our District.”
Some of the flexibility afforded District governors is the relaxation of some of the previous requirements, which includes not having to meet with each club separately. “Maybe you can do some collective meetings. Or maybe there are opportunities to change the style of the meeting. To do what is right for the Rotarians and clubs, and also for the District governor” Tracey says. “Based on that, I do have a few communities where we will be hosting collective meetings together. So far, all our clubs and members have been very positive in responding and sharing and some have asked, ‘Can we do more together? Can we not only have our governor’s meeting, but also do some social things and community work together?’ ”
It’s through her foundation work that Tracey learned about Rotary. She was working with someone from the city of Grande Prairie, who was also a Rotarian.
“He said, ‘You know, with all your passion for the community, you might want to consider coming to a Rotary meeting.’ I can tell you, that was the start of an amazing journey. I attended my first Rotary meeting, the Rotary Club of Grande Prairie Sunrise. I became a member not long after that.”
That was 2006 and in 2010-2011 she became president of the Sunrise Club. Later, she moved over to the After Five for scheduling and availability reasons.
“That’s the wonderful thing about Rotary. There’s that flexibility. Find what is the right place for the Rotarian. It’s OK to move. It’s OK to make a shift if you need to,” Tracey says.
In addition to being a club president, Tracey served for three years as an assistant governor and has been a member of the District’s membership and foundation committees. She has also been part of a number of service projects.
Participation in service projects
“I am very fortunate to have been a driver for the Highway to Mexico project in 2012. That project brings essential equipment—fire trucks, ambulances, school supplies, wheelchairs, medical supplies—down to communities in the Mazatlan area, including remote communities that don’t have access to these resources.
“It was quite a journey, travelling from northern Alberta. Eight days of driving, pulling into Mazatlan very late at night and being able to deliver this equipment and these items to that community.”
In her own community, Tracey has participated in projects in support of the local food bank drive. “We literally bring in tons and tons of food every year to support the food banks in Grande Prairie and the surrounding area. It’s an excellent project, supported by all the clubs in the area, including the Rotaract Club, our Interact Club and our Early-act club.”
More recently, Tracey was part of a Project Amigo program, which involved several past and future DGs who spent a volunteer week in Mexico.
“Truly, it was life-changing to be on the ground in Mexico and meet with families in very remote and tough places and to be able to offer them hope and to help children reach their academic goals. It’s a gift that we can do that,” she says.
“It was very humbling to experience that journey and that adventure and in my heart I will never forget the feeling of what I felt when I was down there.”
A commitment to leadership
Tracey sees her role as District governor as one of leadership, rather than management.
“There is a difference between management and leadership. Management is when you have the opportunity just to have a systems of checks and balances in place and to keep moving things along. Leading and holding the role of District governor is truly about inspiring and engaging our great Rotarians and also helping others to understand what Rotary is about.
“I believe it’s important that we grow Rotary and that we connect Rotary clubs at a stronger level with their own communities, but also at the international level,” Tracey says.
“Just imagine if we can increase the presence of Rotary by sharing and inspiring others. That’s what I am really excited about. We know that people have dreams. People have dreams to connect and do more for others. When we connect the dreams of people who desire to serve with the dreams of the people who are in need … wow! That’s amazing. I am really excited to be able to sit down, to have conversations with people, to hear about their dreams and look at ways we can continue to do what we are doing and do more,” Tracey says.
“I am truly, truly honoured today to be able to step into the role of District governor. There is a little bit of nervousness coming in as well. It is a key role in helping Rotary to go forward at the District level and for Rotary International. I don’t take it lightly. I am excited. I am honoured and I am humbled,” Tracey says.
“I believe we have one of the best Districts in the world. Look at the impact of our District, from our local work to our international work.”