By Gianna Consalvo, Rotary Service & Engagement staff
Rotary Friendship Exchanges (RFEs) allow us to experience new cultures, expand our global understanding and perspectives, and immerse ourselves in unparalleled travel and service opportunities while building life-long friendships. Exchanges can be structured around cultural, service, or vocational experiences and often lead to long-term relationships between districts.
Due to the pandemic, many recent exchanges have been adapted to virtual formats or postponed. Based on a the results of a survey of 2020-21 District RFE Chairs, adminstered by Rotary International, many exchanges postponed from the 2020-21 Rotary year are planned to take place in-person in the beginning of the 2022-23 Rotary year.
One such District RFE Chair is Albert Olivas, who is currently planning an exchange between his District 4455 (Peru) and District 4195 (Mexico). He shared, “For a long time we have deprived ourselves of Rotary hugs, of living experiences with Rotarians from other countries. But we have seen the light at the end of the tunnel. Many places are already [seeing the] light and we will travel again, we will live unique experiences again.” As countries welcome visitors again, many, like Olivas, are looking forward to travel and in-person experiences.
If you’re interested in participating in an RFE this upcoming Rotary year, here’s how to start:
- Reach out to your district RFE chair. Choose which countries you’d like to learn more about, and use this Exchange Finder Map to find participating districts around the Rotary world. If your district is planning an exchange but is not on the map, complete this form to be added.
- Invite your friends inside and outside of Rotary to participate. Participants may travel as individuals, couples, families, or groups, and may be Rotary members or not.
- Once you connect with a district in another country, coordinate your exchange theme (culture, service, or vocation) and details such as location, dates, transportation, and housing according to what works best for both districts.
- Be sure to take photos during your exchange! Once you return home, share your photos and a report with Rotary International by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Share your program reactions, suggestions for improving relationships between the two countries, and what you learned about Rotary’s work in another part of the world.
If you have questions about organizing a Rotary Friendship Exchange, contact me at email@example.com.