February: World Understanding Month
  • Rotarians Carol Metzker of the United States, and Kathleen Boohene of Ghana, examine the vines growing on a tree at the Aburi Botanical Gardens during Metzker's Rotary Friendship Exchange to Ghana. Photo courtesy of Carol Metzker

Booking a trip to global peace and understanding

When Rotarians participate in a Rotary Friendship Exchange , they return with more than souvenirs and laundry. They bring back lasting friendships, a global perspective, and a newfound appreciation for Rotary's work.

In July, Carol Metzker of the Rotary Club of West Chester, Pennsylvania, USA, traveled to Ghana on her first Friendship Exchange. Taking advantage of the exchange's visitor program, Metzker and her daughter spent a week touring the capital city of Accra with their hosts Kathleen Boohene, a member of the Rotary Club of Accra-South, and her husband.

Among the many sites they visited was a fishing village. "The poorest of the poor were there repairing wooden fishing boats and mending fishing nets," says Metzker. "There was a crude facility and an open sewer that served as toilets for the villagers. It was clear why Rotary's work is so vital."

A seasoned exchange participant and three-time District 7810 Rotary Friendship Exchange chair, Canadian Pam Harrison has traveled on three trips and helped organize three more. Last year, she accompanied Rotarians from her district on a two-week exchange with District 3030 in Maharashtra, India.

"I also work with clubs in our district to organize visits for incoming teams. It all takes time, but these exchanges build such goodwill and even better friendships," says Harrison, a member of the Rotary Club of Sackville, New Brunswick.

Participating in a Friendship Exchange also is an ideal way to celebrate World Understanding and Peace Day on 23 February, Rotary's anniversary. And Rotarians now have a new resource to help locate an exchange destination. The RFE Matching Board provides a forum for districts to publicize exchange opportunities in their regions. Launched in August, this Web-based publication is updated quarterly.

This article appeared in the January 2008 issue of Rotary World.