By Camille Ronzio, member of Rotary Club of Eugene Southtowne, OR, USA, and District 5110 Rotary Friendship Exchange Chair
What happens when we incorporate service into our Rotary Friendship Exchanges? Last year we began incorporating half day service projects into our Rotary Friendship Exchanges. Rather than just observe how our Rotarian friends exemplify Service above Self in their communities, we decided to take action jointly carry out our founding principles during exchanges.
Earlier this year, when a visiting Rotary Friendship Exchange team from District 3010 (Delhi, India) arrived in Eugene, Oregon (USA), we took them to a public preschool program called Head Start where the Eugene Southtowne Rotary Club has been volunteering for the past four years. Our guests helped us read to the young students and distribute books for each child to take home.
When our District 5110 team goes to India to visit our guests, we will participate in a polio vaccination program to help immunize children against Polio.
Last Rotary year while our exchange team was in Romania/ Moldova, we incorporated service components throughout our entire stay. Trip highlights are included below (with a full recap available online):
- We visited the Deborah House, a home for women rescued from sex trafficking and violent situations. The founder and director of this program is a Rotarian in the local club and host an RFE couple. She mentioned the house needed summer athletic shoes for the girls they served. We immediately went shopping and then presented each girl with a pair of shoes.
- Local Rotarians from Timisoura identified a park project where many children from an apartment house played. The park had many pieces of unsafe equipment. Unfortunately, the project was still waiting for approval from the city when we arrived but our team collected money to help build a new play structure as part of the club’s park renovation efforts.
- Our team visited a foster care facility in Sighteu Marmatieu for victims who had been in orphanages at an early age. A local Rotarian works with children from mass care facilities and places them in foster homes they can better care in a smaller group setting. Several visiting Rotarians donated funds so the children could enjoy recreational activities including art projects and trips to a swimming pool in the summer. One Rotarian sent knitted scarves and caps to keep the children warm in the winter.
Later that same year, our new friends from Romania/Moldova came to visit us in the USA for another exchanged filled with fellowship and service. Together we hosted an art fundraiser using the talents of one of our guests, Rotarian Elvira Cemortan-Volosin. Elvira taught a painting class for children and generously donated her artwork for sale at an exhibit. Half of the proceeds went to a basic education and literacy Rotarian project in Moldova and the other half went to a Rotarian-led basic education and literacy project in Eugene.
Over the past year, a number of our visiting teams helped us build homes for low-income families, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity, here in Oregon. After one year of incorporating service projects during our exchanges, we have experienced many positive results: the shared experiences have made team members and hosts feel closer and build stronger bonds! Making a difference and sharing service yields positive rewards that last beyond the exchange. Try it!
- Rotary Friendship Exchange lays foundation for international service partnerships
- Rotary Friendship Exchanges build life-long friendships between Israel and Sweden
- Contact your District Rotary Friendship Exchange Committee Chair for information about getting involved with your District’s RFE program