Rotary is committed to developing the potential of young people, writes Janet Cooke.
Youngsters on our Youth Exchange programme have life-changing experiences. Travelling abroad, perhaps on their own for the first time, they meet people from different cultures. I was privileged to hear confident, accomplished presentations from two sponsored by Minster Club. These are their stories: Clara visited Nijmegen, one of the oldest cities in Holland, on a cultural exchange. A local historian highlighted major points of interest on a city tour, then on a traditional Dutch pancake boat consuming as many pancakes as she could! Next day - off to Amsterdam on a double-decker train.
On a boat tour of the canals a guide described the city’s history, then time to wander on foot, absorb the culture and enjoy local food. Next day, Clara’s favourite, was at an outdoor centre tackling activities from the marine training course. A whole day of sport: climbing and obstacle courses then time for swimming, rowing and raft building in the cold and murky lake. Friendships were cemented as peer support was essential. An evening camp fire, BBQ and visit to an ice cream parlour rewarded their efforts. Her second week was in Kerkrade, a smaller town further south.
Visiting Margraten cemetery was most interesting. A professor explained the role of African American troops in the Second World War; their reception on returning to the US a turning point in civil rights. Black people no longer could be treated as second class citizens having sacrificed their lives for their country. The visit inspired reflections on the importance of peace for their generation.
Clara’s personal highlight - meeting people from across Europe and America, discovering similarities and differences in lives of teenagers from different cultures.
Olivia went to a sailing camp in Italy. She said her camp was amazing, the best time of her life!
Starting just after GCSE exams, no more revision and doing something she loved. Together in a camp situation a real family atmosphere developed, sharing breakfast duties and playing games long into the night. Olivia quickly made friends as she was the only experienced sailor in the group. They were perfectly placed in Dervio, a tiny village on Lake Como. Evening swimming was perfect after the heat of the afternoon. Their camp leader, Rotarian Stefano was a great character. Developing heatstroke, Olivia had a ride in his Mustang to the envy of the others.
Peterborough Rotary helped two sisters travel to opposite corners of the globe. Dianthi, a talented violinist, travelled to California to be part of the San Diego orchestra summer school. Her sister, Sunita, went to Taiwan, on a cultural exchange, both given a glorious opportunity to mix with young people at the same age but from different cultures. At the San Diego music camp there were students from 20 different nationalities forming an instant orchestra that gave four concerts to packed audiences.
All were hosted by Rotary families throughout their stay. Thanks to the digital age all will keep in contact with their new friends through social media.