After helming the Rotaract Club for an entire year, with a sense of dedication and earnest like no other, our Immediate Past President went on to represent the district committee, as its Joint Director for International Service. After seeing quite little of her for the past month, we were curious about how our beloved Past President was handling her new position, and what she thought of the new board of administration that has taken up after her. And in the middle of her busy schedule, Rtr Methmini Kariyakarawana swiftly answered all our questions, with her usual humor and modesty.
Now, while you’re no stranger to the realm of Rotaract and in extension the Rotaract Club of University of Colombo, Faculty of Arts, could you please provide an introduction about yourself for those that may not be very familiar with you?
My name is Methmini Kariyakarawana and I am the 11th President of the Rotaract Club of University of Colombo, Faculty of Arts. I am an Arts undergraduate (obviously) and my major is in History.
I am known for my love for the Wizarding World, my many expressions that I have no control of, and of course, sarcasm. I am also highly skilled at binge watching TV series at ungodly hours and usually right before exams. And of course, before I forget, I hate Snow White!
Joining the Rotaract Club must surely be one of the decisions that stand out as you look back at the simpler days and everything you have accomplished thus far, so let’s travel back to where it all began. What was your introduction to Rotaract like, and what compelled you join the club in the first place?
Unfortunately, the reason I joined Rotaract wasn’t “for the greater good” but something far simpler.
When I first came to the University of Colombo, like all fresh undergraduates (I’m assuming) I was worried and felt slightly out of place. While I had friends, the routine and the environment felt quite strange and unfamiliar. I didn’t like the fact that all I did was just attend lectures and then come back home. The ones who know me know that I happen to be bit of a workaholic (laughs nervously). That’s when Chantal who was the Member Representative for the year 2019-20 at the time told me about Rotaract.
Eventually, I ended up joining the Rotaract Club of University of Colombo, Faculty of Arts and found a lot more than work to engage myself in but also met an amazing bunch of people and was lucky enough to have been part of some truly incredible initiatives.
Leading an entire club full of aspiring leaders and visionaries must not have been an easy task, and we are aware of the fact that leadership comes with its fair share of responsibilities and tough decisions. Do you mind sharing what exactly went through your mind when you were nominated as the President for your Rotaract year?
If I was to sum it up one word, it would be “PANIC”!
As much as I was beyond flattered to have been considered by my friends to be the President of the club, I wasn’t entirely sure if I was capable enough of leading one. To be honest, I’m not a person with a lot of self confidence and therefore, being responsible for the well being and growth of a club seemed frightening. I was worried that I would not be skilled enough to do a good enough job and I also happen to be a person that doesn’t take that many risks.
However, I later realized that I had missed many opportunities by being too scared to take a chance, so after weeks of considering all the ways this could go wrong, I finally agreed to take up the position.
As the President, establishing a strong vision for a club is important, but giving the team their creative freedom in the pursuit of realizing that that vision is just as important. How were you able to strike a fine balance between these two? What was your thought process behind the decisions you made?
My main aim for the year was to make sure the members of the club were given the chance to be part of our projects and that they were given the opportunity to learn and grow. By the end of my year, I wanted them to have learned something and be happy about the fact that they decided to be a part of RotaractArts. Whatever decisions that the Executive committee and the Board of Directors for the year 2020-21 took with respect to the type of projects we conducted, the involvement of the members, etc. were all made in the hopes that all our members were given the chance to showcase their talents and more importantly to strengthen the confidence they had in themselves.
We’re quite curious, the transitioning from one Rotaract Board to another is always both a very sensitive and crucial task. What went through your mind as you realized that your time as President was coming to a close and that soon enough, you’d have to pass the reigns to the incoming batch? Was there any nervousness or trepidation involved?
There was definitely no nervousness or trepidation involved. I knew that the incoming board would be an incredibly talented bunch and I was confident that they were capable of taking the club to greater heights than we ever could.
We’re aware that you’re not unfamiliar with positions that require a truckload of responsibility. From being the Deputy Head Prefect of your school to the President of the Rotaract Club of University of Colombo Faculty of Arts and now the Joint Director – International Service of the Rotaract District Steering Committee, what was the transition from a university level position to a district level position like?
To be honest, it’s not as tiring as being a President of a club.
While the responsibilities are very different, the weight of the responsibilities of a President and a Director of an avenue are not. People expect you to have answers to their doubts and you have to ensure that you are always available whenever they need help. But with everything you do, every question you get and every person you meet, you always learn something new.
So, the two roles aren’t that different but yes, being a Joint Director is less work comparatively which means more time for assignments (Not that I actually start doing them early though!)
Having been an individual that has stepped into the role of being a leader time and time again, what advice would you give to those aspiring to come into positions of leadership? We understand there are no hard and fast rules and that everyone’s approach is different, but what is your take on the matter?
I believe as a leader your biggest responsibility would be to ensure that your team members are given opportunities, that they are understood and that they are given room to grow. I believe that it’s important that you have empathy and the ability to be kind. As a leader its also very important to lend a hand when someone needs it and expect nothing in return.
I believe that being appointed to a position doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve earned it but rather you have to earn from the day you start. I was appointed as President because they believed in the fact that I would make a good President since I was an active general member. I firmly believed that I had to actively work and earn the position that I got. For the next 12 months I made sure that I gave my 100% to do exactly that.
It’s not easy and sometimes it’s exhausting, but there will be so many instances when you would smile because you made it possible for someone to be a better version of themselves and/or gain a new skill and made them smile. I believe as a leader that’s what counts at the end of the day.
Here’s a simple question (sorry, not sorry). Why do you find it so hard to take a compliment?
(Insert BONK sticker!) Why do you do this to me?
I have this fear of coming across as a narcissist (I have no idea why) and because of that I’m extremely paranoid of accepting compliments!
On a final note, with the new board having been in function for nearly a month now, what are your thoughts on the direction that they’ve set and taken for the Rotaract Club of University of Colombo Faculty of Arts? Is there anything you would like to convey to them and the current members of the club?
I believe that RotaractArts is off to a really good start and I see so much confidence in the incoming board in the work they do and that is brilliant. All I can say is that I couldn’t be more proud or happier about how well the year has started and I am more than excited to see how it goes in the coming months.
One piece of advice I would like to give the members of the club is to make use of the opportunities you get while you’re in the club. You only get the benefits depending on how much you’re willing to put in your effort. There is so much to learn and gain so make use of the time, resources and opportunities. Don’t be afraid to voice your ideas and to take chances. I promise you it’ll be worth it.
After all Harry did say, “Working hard is important but there is something that matters even more: Believing in yourself.” And I have to say, Harry is absolutely right.
I wish the board for the year 2021-2022 a magical year ahead and of course, I’ll always be here ready to lend the little Wizarding World wisdom that I have.
– Interview Conducted by Janidu Wijebandara and Vibhath Jayasinghe