By Kholiwe Mkandawire, Rotary Service and Engagement Staff
The Rotary Friendship Exchange program gives Rotary members and their families the opportunity to host and visit Rotary members around the world. In addition to experiencing other cultures and making lasting friendships, an exchange provides a strong foundation for carrying out international activities and service projects.
While the global pandemic has changed how members can participate in traditional, in-person Rotary Friendship Exchanges, members are using this unique time to meet prospective partners for future exchanges, reconnect with former exchange teams, or participate in a virtual exchange.
Recently, RI hosted a Rotary Friendship Exchange Photo Award to encourage members to share their most memorable exchange moments that have opened opportunities through learning something new, creating partnerships, using vocational skills, or creating lasting friendships. We received many amazing pictures with touching stories and are excited to announce our Rotary Friendship Exchange Photo Award winner!
District 4130, Mexico
Rotary members from Sri Lanka [District 3220] and Thailand [District 3360] visited three cities in Mexico in Districts 4130 and 4170 to learn about the local culture, traditions, and service projects. The group also wanted to learn about Mexico’s technology to grow tomatoes and export processes. The group visited a tomato growing plant in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, where the entire procedure, quality control, tasting, and planting was explained. This experience opened opportunities for friendly relations, international understanding and professional business connection among the participants.
District 5100, United States
The Rotary Club Portland Pearl, along with Rotary Clubs of Salem Downtown and Watsonville in the United States, hosted fellow Rotarians from five different Sri Lanka clubs. The two-week exchange took place in October 2019. It included learning and experiencing the culture, food, traditions, creating partnerships, collaborating on service projects, and many other aspects. The photograph of the group’s trip to Mt. Hood depicts the special moment when Rotarians from Sri Lanka experience snow for the first time.
District 9650, Australia
Participants from the Rotary Club of NSW, Australia [District 9650] visited South Africa, District  in February 2020. The photograph was taken at the Elephant Sanctuary situated in the indigenous bushveld of the Magaliesberg mountains in the Northwest province of South Africa, near Hartbeespoort Dam. What makes this photo memorable is that Rotary members created a lasting friendship not just with the fellow Rotarians but also with the African Elephant. The experience was a fully guided, interactive educational tour covering elephant habits, dynamics behavior, and anatomy.