” To Rotary and peace …” is the closing toast at Aireborough Rotary Club meetings and world peace is something the Rotary movement takes very seriously. Many Rotarians were present at the conferences that founded the United Nations at the end of the Second World War and Rotary was particularly involved in the creation of UNESCO ( UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation). From those beginnings modern Rotary sees supporting education and international links as a key to promoting world peace
Away from these lofty international heights Aireborough Rotary’s previous Back to School to Back Schools post explained how we help local schools and their young people prepare for the wider world. This blog we will focus on how Rotary helps older students, through scholarships and exchanges, to deepen their subject understanding and social experiences with the express purposes of breaking down barriers and promoting peace.
Over the years Aireborough Rotary has hosted many exchange students and scholars. Here are just a small, opportunity sample of some of their views. Firstly a couple of students who are with us this year. ” I really appreciate the [scholarship] because I can experience local culture and make my studies in England special” KN goes on to say how the Rotary network, especially with each club’s emphasis on its local community, will give her the worldwide support and contacts to develop and extend her important work in community focussed public health in the future.
For MM ” the enriching impacts of being in a foreign country… [are] essential to understanding different cultures [and] seeing how the rest of the world lives is essential to being well rounded.” Being abroad has forced MM to develop his communication skills and thus become an asset to any future employer wherever that may be.
Secondly, as the Rotary founders hoped, the benefits of an exchange last a lifetime. Take, for example, BK’s truly fascinating story of being a 16 year old Slovakian student on a year long student exchange in Mexico some eleven years ago. Speaking no Spanish when she arrived and immersed into such a different climate and culture within six months she was dreaming in Spanish. ” I really loved Mexico’s rich culture and their passion for life [and] dance. It is still my biggest life lesson so far. I learned to appreciate what I had at home … relationships, rights and values.” Clearly having learned both language and cultural empathy skills so effectively she is now able to practice as a drug and alcohol therapist in yet a third, multi cultural country. BK was not an exchange student hosted by Aireborough.
Neither was LK but her appreciation of the opportunities that a Rotary Scholarship gave to improve her musical knowledge and cultural experience remained so strong that she eventually was able to fit joining Aireborough Rotary into the busy life of a professional musician. During her time at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Alberta she was able to round out her musical education and also fly the flag for Rotary as an Ambassadorial scholar speaking to groups across the province. “Music is a truly international language and musicians perform the music of many cultures, developing and promoting greater understanding. Travel is very much involved in our vocation. The Rotary Scholarship has certainly helped me develop my career with a clear sense of purpose and rationale for what I do”
To end this blog lets pick up on the musical theme with a song some students from Zagreb compiled in celebration of the highs and lows of their experience Student Exchange Anthem. A rather more detailed explanation of the exchange programme is in this ten minute video, Rotary Youth Exchange promo
A later blog in this series will look at Rotary’s Peace Scholars programme and the very important work of the Peace Studies Centre based here at Bradford University.
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