By Jessica Carlisle, Rotary Service and Engagement staff
Our global family makes Rotary a truly unique organization. What better way experience a new country and culture than with a Rotary friend? Through Rotary Friendship Exchanges, participants take turns hosting and visiting one another, forging life-long friendships and partnerships.
Under RI President Ian Riseley’s direction, the Rotary Friendship Exchange program is now open to both Rotarians and non-Rotarians, with an emphasis on including more young professionals to partake in life-altering cultural immersion experiences. Through RFEs, participants experience a different culture, deepen their international understanding, foster goodwill, and explore their professions in a different context while building lasting friendships and a foundation for peace and service. Planned and funded by participants, exchanges are organized around at least one of three themes: culture, service, and vocation.
Group cultural exchanges
President Riseley encourages districts to participate in group cultural exchanges: trips emphasizing cultural immersion to raise greater awareness, deepen intercultural understanding, and foster a more global mindset. Districts may include non-Rotarian young professionals or those who are changing careers in these exchanges to help develop more globally-aware communities and provide life-long impactful experiences, made possible only through Rotary.
Below are just a few recent exchanges:
A 14-member team from New Delhi, India, visited Rotary friends in Oregon and Washington, United States. The team visited various tourist attractions, as well as projects supported by local clubs. The visitors attended club meetings and shared about their home district, Indian culture, heritage, lifestyle, and more. The visitors also highlighted community priorities in their home towns, including a service project to provide a mobile blood donation vans for a blood bank in India.
Brazilian Rotarians visited India for 12 days, during which they toured attractions such as the Taj Mahal, attended a district conference and visited various projects supported by local clubs including a school, a blood center and eye clinic, a center for supporting the physically disabled. Indian Rotarians later visited their Brazilian friends and stopped by several district and global projects. Both teams experienced new cultures and customs, and were left with lasting friendships.
A team from the United States visited Nova Scotia and Newfoundland in Canada. The group was hosted by Rotarians in five different communities throughout the Maritime Provinces. They walked on beaches with local environmental leaders, visited museums, historic sites, and attended several club parties and get-togethers giving them the chance to meet many Rotarian families and experience the local culture.