When I joined Rotary back in 2014, I didn’t fully understand what it was all about and I didn’t know how much Rotary impacted people around the world. Did you know that Polio is expected to be completely eradicated (like, on the entire earth) over the next few years? That is largely because of the funds raised and hands-on work done by Rotarians all over the world. That’s pretty incredible.
I feel good about being a part of this great organization knowing that my dues and my support are going toward the health and growth of communities in NCW and all over the world. That’s just a blip of what Rotary does. Today I want to tell you a little about how I’ve recently become involved in Rotary Youth Exchange. Honestly, this time last year I wouldn’t have guessed I would be a Youth Exchange counselor. Over the summer I was asked to take on this role by one of our members who is the Youth Exchange Officer (YEO) for our club, and I feel truly honored.
At the end of September I attended a weekend conference in beautiful Penticton, B.C. and learned a ton about the program. It was so nice to hear what others, Americans and Canadians alike, had to say about it. I was sitting in a room with probably 50 other Rotarians from our district (5060) who are all equally passionate about Rotary Youth Exchange. It was refreshing. It confirmed to me that it is a strong and well-supported program.
Our inbound student, for whom I am the counselor, is Alina Heikkurinen. I’ll let you guess how to pronounce that. Alina is from a small community in Finland, about an hour’s drive from Helsinki. For the school year she is attending Wenatchee High School, which is gigantic compared to her school in Finland. She’s 17 and an absolute delight to be around. She has a great sense of humor and her English is excellent. You always hear or read about the amazing education system in Finland and she is definitely proof of that. She has a loving, supportive family back home who I believe also has a major impact on her character.
As her inbound counselor, I have the responsibility to meet with her in person at least once per month and submit a report (monthly) to Rotary Exchange with an update on how she is acclimating, if there are issues with the host family or concerns in school, etc. Obviously I don’t just see her once a month because that’s very seldom, in my opinion. My goal is to get to know her and be a confidant and a friend when she needs it. You can’t build a trusting relationship like that if you’re only seeing them once per month.
The strength and sense of adventure that these exchange kids exhibit is really amazing. These students have left their homes and everyone they know and love to learn in a new country for a whole year! That is a huge adjustment. It can be scary and weird at times, I’m sure. Not to mention they miss their families, which can be hard. It is important to be present and available. Making sure these kids are taken care of is the first priority, and then it’s all about their experience.
I am excited and delighted to be Alina’s counselor for the 2018-2019 school year. If YOU are interested in getting involved, we have plenty of room in our club and especially in our Rotary Exchange committee. Contact me via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you’d like to know more. Check out my club’s website and Facebook page, too! If you are a parent interested in our outbound (sending your child abroad) program, I can help you get involved in that as well.
Rotary Four-way Test:
Of the things we think, say or do…
- Is it the truth?
- Is it fair to all concerned?
- Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
- Will it be beneficial to all concerned?