Living a Life of Selfless Service to Inspire and Change Lives with RID 3830 DAS MunParLa Aiko Iwata

by Tram Panaligan

Aiko H. Iwata, more commonly known as Aiko in SISFU has lived her life inspiring and changing lives through her selfless service. Currently she is the District Area Secretary, the second in command in the District Area of MunParLa (cities of Muntinlupa, Parañaque, and Las Piñas) for the Rotaract International District 3830 for the Rotary Year 2021-2022. Prior to this, she was the Past President (RY 2020-2021), the Immediate Past President (RY 2019-2020), and the Inspiring President (RY 2018-2019) for the Rotaract Club of SISFU.

Before her tenure with Rotaract, Aiko had already been an advocate in helping other people. As an Outdoorsman Scout—the third highest rank—under the Senior Scout Programme of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines (BSP), apart from the skills she was able to gather during her stay (i.e. swimming, hiking, and rappelling), BSP has sparked her interest in helping other people. Since then, she has always tried to be an active member of the community through her commitment towards charitable activities.

“My experiences with scouting made me join Rotaract, as I believed it will allow me to continue my love for helping other people”

With regards to her start in Rotaract, Aiko discovered the organisation in the year 2017 when she enrolled in SISFU as an 11th grade student under the Senior High School Programme. Her club membership allowed her to see the full scope of Rotaract beyond the charity work and outreach activities. In her tenure of three years, and counting, it has always brought a sense of fulfilment for her in every activity and shown her that regardless of who you are, you can help other people—and the only thing that keeps you from helping others is your capability to do so. She continues to engage with Rotaract brought about by the individuals who are like minded and the positive environment fostered within the organisation.

She shared the things she loved and the challenges she faced during the previous Rotary Years, for Aiko her high points were during the time the club was able to receive more invitations from the district (RID 3830) and from other Rotaract Clubs. She recounts that during her first year with the club (RY 2017-2018), she never got the chance to be exposed to the international district. So during her term (RY 2018-2019), she took that opportunity to make friends with the different clubs of RID 3830 (City of Muntinlupa, City of Parañaque, City of Las Piñas, City of Makati, City of Taguig, the Municipality of Pateros, and the Province of Palawan). In addition to this, the club—under her leadership—got the chance to experience MDIO (Multi-District Information Organisation) events like the PROCON (Pilipinas Rotaract Convention) in Bicol and Ilocos since this gave them the opportunity to meet a lot of people from different Rotaract Clubs in the Philippines.

On the other hand, Aiko shared that her low points would be that since RAC SISFU is a university-based club there are instances that the organisation can’t join events due to some protocols. Although she sees this in a positive light, since the university is always putting the student’s best interest by prioritising its safety when it comes to out of school activities. However, on a more personal level, she considers her low points to be when she felt the fatigue and exhaustion on a specific project she undertook. She learned from this the value of motivating and helping herself first, before she continues with her duty towards other people. Since she won’t be able to help others, if she herself needs help in the first place.Through it all, she considers all these low points as lessons and building blocks to becoming a better person when it comes to serving more people.

“I would say that I am grateful how the succeeding presidents maintained what I started. ”

In terms of her impact in the three terms she was involved as an officer of the club, Aiko gave the club a full-360 as she built a new culture of excellence. She started to build the image that RAC SISFU as an approachable club and at the same time an active member and achiever in the district through the 2-Star Club Award during the Inspiring Term, a first for the organisation. This has led to a positive domino effect within the club as it continuously aimed higher by bringing in more accolades and prestige through the years by being more involved with Rotaract Clubs inside and outside the district—and even across international borders.

In terms of her influence, Aiko became the club’s guide during the Champion Term. The motivation behind this initiative was that she wanted to foster a culture that promotes continuity and mentoring—something she was not able to experience during her first year in the organisation. Through this, each time a new president fills in the position, they are not left in the dark and have the opportunity to build on the foundation laid by their predecessors.

She recounts that her successor, Past President Celine Go, and the team she had were performing so well that they needed a little bit of guidance as they were quick learners of the task at hand, albeit being new to the club. Nevertheless, her influence and push allowed them to perform at the best of their capabilities. In addition to this, the feat of the club during the annual District Conference and Awards Night (DICAN) last July made her proud as RAC SISFU achieved the 5-Star Club Award under the leadership of Immediate Past President Mary Purugganan.

Overall, she is jubilant with how the club has turned out throughout the years and how it has cemented an image of being one of the friendly clubs in Rotaract International District 3830.

“This time, I made sure to say yes to it. As it was a promise made.”

With a club now having an established image, Aiko was given a bigger opportunity and responsibility to take part not only as an officer of a Rotaract Club, but now as an officer of an international district who is in charge of monitoring the strengths and areas of improvement of the district area she is co-leading. Aiko mentioned that she was already offered an opportunity during the Transform Term (RY 2020-2021) but decided to politely turn down the invitation since she was in her final year at the university at that time and believes that she cannot fully commit to the district brought about by the amount of load she has as a graduating university student.

But now that she has finished her degree, she fulfilled a promise she made back in 2018 with now-District Rotaract Representative Louize Laine Antonio to take part as a district officer. Back then, they were classmates during the Inspiring Term and the then Inspiring President of Rotaract Club of Paseo De Roxas told Aiko of her plans in the future. Aiko has always admired DRR Laine—as she is more commonly known—since she always knows what to do and her trait of being organised and assertive. This was also, according to Aiko: “an opportunity to take on a bigger role, gain more experience, and widen her connections—not only in the district but also in the Philippines.”.

However, the main motivation for her to take on the role is because of her personal experiences during certain activities in the past with children and told herself that she wanted more of those experiences which convinced her to continue with her journey with Rotaract.

“For now I am just enjoying the moment, I have no plans after the Rotary Year. Maybe if I decided which [community-based] club I am going to be with next year, that’s when I will decide on it... What I am sure of is that I will continue to become a Rotaractor regardless of being an officer or not...”

Now that she has built a legacy as a Club President and creating her mark as a district officer, DAS Aiko revealed her next journey in Rotaract after this Rotary Year. As of the moment, she still is unsure whether she plans on stepping up to becoming the leader of the district yet—since she does not see herself taking on a huge role in the near future. For now, she enjoys the moment and her newfound role as the District Area Secretary for MunParLa and mentions that she does not have plans yet for the next Rotary year at the moment, for she plans on looking first for a community-based club to continue her amazing journey for the next Rotary Year since RAC SISFU is a university-based club. Time will only tell when she can personally deem herself ready and wholeheartedly accept the challenge of leading an entire international district. Nevertheless, whether she plans on becoming an officer or not for the following years to come, she is sure that she plans on continuing her Rotaract journey because everytime she wakes up in the morning she believes that her purpose is to help people in her community, society, country, and around the world—and that keeps her going.

As I wrapped-up the interview, she ended with an inspiring message to students and young professionals who plan on joining the Rotaract Club this upcoming academic year:

“To my fellow Rotaractors, the greatest lesson I have learned in Rotaract for the past year is that leadership is more than just about influencing people. It is about being sincere on what we do without waiting for any return.

Because when I was younger I always believed in the concept of reciprocity—that we have to be nice to other people so they too will also be nice to us. But then, Rotaract gave me a new perspective and that is to always be kind regardless of how others will treat you. So you always have to give a lending hand or basically to help others whenever you have the opportunity to do so.”

“To those who plan to join Rotaract, I would like to say that having an initiative has more benefits than waiting for others to tell us what actions or decisions we have to take in life. This does not apply in Rotaract alone, but in life where we always have to keep going to achieve the progress that we want to make. With the line that a lot of people say: ‘If we’re not going to do it now, then when?’ I think that’s the power of initiative.”

Aiko’s inspiring and selfless personality is something to look up to, and we deeply appreciated the time she has shared with us.

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