My Rotary Youth Exchange — this year has opened my eyes

Victoria Alvarez and other youth exchange students during their trip to the West Coast of the United States.

Victoria Alvarez and other youth exchange students during their trip to the West Coast of the United States.

By Victoria Alvarez, a Rotary Youth Exchange student from Argentina to the United States

Most of you have probably heard of Rotary Youth Exchange, and maybe some of you have even been involved with the program. I recently completed my exchange year in the United States, and wanted to share the perspective of someone who has just taken part in one.

I come from Argentina, a little country on the edge of South America that you may have heard of recently because of the World Cup. It is in many ways very different from the United States. In signing up for an exchange to America, I stepped out alone into a culture unlike any I had experienced, in an unfamiliar environment, in a house I did not know, to live with people I did not know. Leaving behind family, friends, and most of what was familiar. Continue reading

Speaking up for Rotary Youth Leadership Awards

Darren Luong, left, and Matt Pomeroy receive cetifications from District 7090 for their work with youth service.

Darren Luong, left, and Matt Pomeroy receive certificates from District 7090 for their work with youth service.

By Darren Luong, a member of the E-Club of Southern Ontario, Canada & Western New York

Sixteen years ago, as a student at Cardinal Heights Middle School in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, I received an award from the local Rotary club at my graduation. I didn’t know what Rotary was or even why I had received the award. Time went by and it was forgotten at the bottom of some boxes packed away.

Eight years later, I was sponsored to go to a Rotary Youth Leadership Awards event in my district. This life-changing week and the support from Rotary throughout my life has convinced me that this organization is full of amazing people that can really change the world for the better. Continue reading

My time with ‘Future Rotarians’ in Sydney

Participants in the 2014 International RYLA.

Participants in the 2014 International RYLA.

By Dr. Mona Khanna, a former Rotary Group Study Exchange fellow

If you were at the 2014 RI Convention in Sydney, Australia, this week, you may have seen the sticker “Future Rotarian” on some badges. Chances are the badges belonged to members of Rotaract and/or delegates to the 2014 International Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) development program. Continue reading

Home doesn’t have just one name: lessons from a youth exchange

Rotary Youth Exchange students from several countries in Paris.

Rotary Youth Exchange students from several countries in Paris.

Elizabeth, a Rotary Youth Exchange student from District 6080 (Missouri, USA) to France

I used to think that the sky only stretched on for as far as I could see, and then where my vision became blurred, the world ceased to exist.

I used to think that happiness came from surrounding myself with things that brought me comfort. I used to think the best friends I would ever have were the ones I’d known forever. I used to think that in order to call someone family meant they had to be related by blood. And I used to think that home only had one name. Continue reading

Rotaract members in East Africa unite in service

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By Sarah Maingi, Rotaract representative from Kenya

On a warm Saturday morning in April, about 100 Rotaractors from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi gathered at a community in Buterere in Bujumbura, Burundi, to provide households with clean drinking water.

Some of the Rotaractors, myself included, had traveled over 1,000 kilometers by road, and all sacrificed their Easter holidays to serve. Continue reading

Rotary Youth Exchange shaped my life

Denise DiNoto

Denise DiNoto

By Denise DiNoto, Rotary Club of Colonie-Guilderland, New York, USA

In August 1990, I left my hometown in rural upstate New York, for a year as an exchange student to Tasmania, Australia. The experience helped shape my adult life, as it has for many other exchange students. However, my situation was unique because I was one of the first students with a mobility impairment to participate in Rotary Youth Exchange.

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You are never too young to change the world

RI Director Celia Elena Cruz De Giay (left) and RI President Ron Burton present a certificate to Lucia Gomez Garcia during the Presidential New Generations Conference in Rosario, Argentina.

RI Director Celia Elena Cruz De Giay (left) and RI President Ron Burton recognize Lucia Gomez Garcia during the Presidential New Generations Conference in Rosario, Argentina.

By RI Director Celia Elena Cruz De Giay, Rotary Club of Arrecifes, Buenos Aires, Argentina

When RI President Ron Burton asked me to convene one of his five Presidential New Generations Conferences, I was thrilled with the idea. I know firsthand the potential our youth represent, especially after accompanying my husband, Luis Vicente, as President of Rotary International in 1996-97, as we took part in 21 Presidential Conferences for New Generations around the world that year. Luis’ vision for youth set the stage for Rotary International’s support of New Generations and the creation of Rotary clubs composed of young people.

Continue reading

My Rotary hat is the ultimate travel accessory

Kate McKenzie meets a Melbourne Rotarian during her travels.

Kate McKenzie, wearing her Rotary hat, meets a fellow Rotarian in Melbourne.

By Kate McKenzie, a member of the Rotary Club of Randwick, New South Wales, Australia

Since joining Rotary, I have discovered the ultimate travel accessory, my Rotary hat. Not only does it keep the sun off my Celtic skin, but it advertises my connection to Rotary.

I currently live in Sydney with my husband, but grew up on a farm in the southern part of Western Australia. It’s one of the most isolated and beautiful parts of the world, but it’s also what inspired me to be interested in other cultures and what led me to Rotary. Continue reading

Making a difference in orphans’ lives through Interact

Zaahidali Nathu with children at the Refilwe orphanage near Johannesburg, South Africa.

Zaahidali Nathu with children at the Refilwe orphanage near Johannesburg, South Africa.

By Zaahidali Nathu, a member of the Interact Club of Hugh Boyd Secondary School, Richmond, British Columbia, Canada

This past summer, I got to go on a trip of a lifetime to an orphanage in South Africa called Refilwe.

The orphanage is in a settlement just outside of Johannesburg, South Africa. Joining me on the amazing trip were seven other Interact members from Hugh Boyd Secondary School in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada, two teachers, and four Richmond firefighters. Continue reading

How your gift to The Rotary Foundation changes lives

Construction on a new school in Masaya, Nicaragua. Photo courtesy Leonor Fraser

Construction on a new school in Masaya, Nicaragua. Photo courtesy Leonor Fraser

By Rotary staff

Leonor Fraser and other members of her Rotary club arrived in Masaya, Nicaragua, ready to deliver shoes to the elementary schoolchildren and play with them.

It immediately became apparent that the school, located near a diesel plant, had bigger problems. The plant emitted pollutants into the air, which made the children and teachers lethargic, and the cracked building had no sanitation facilities. Fraser had difficulty breathing during her visit. Continue reading