Youth exchange brings the world together one student at a time.  The BEL Rotary Club was please to welcome return student Danika Ash to their virtual meeting.  We also had to say farewell to our inbound student Rocia - who has become an important part of our Rotary family.
There is no greater force in the promotion of peace than the understanding of and respect for different cultures. The world becomes a smaller, friendlier place when we learn that all people – regardless of race or ethnic origin – desire and need the same basic things. The Rotary Youth Exchange Program offers this opportunity and BEL Rotary has been a proud participant for almost 40 years.

Last night at the BEL “virtual meeting”, BEL Rotarians welcomed home Danika Ash from her life in Spain. The Kenner Collegiate and Vocational Institute student spent seven months living with two different families, attending school, immersing herself in the culture and the language, and gaining a deep love and respect for the people she grew to think of as family. Unfortunately, due to Covid -19 her exchange was cut short and she had to return to Canada in March but not without many amazing opportunities. She tried Spanish paella and snails, walked the beach, explored the cities and mountains and grew to love the families and friends that made Spain home. She shared her many highlights of the year, and the true sadness of having to leave it all behind quickly when the outbreak of Covid -19 was getting worse. Ash summed up by saying, “all the highs and lows were 200% worth it and the relationships I built will last me a life time. I would go as far as to say I have friends and family all over the world and have been blessed with so many amazing people. I have stories to tell for seven months. I have met people I can’t imagine my life without.” Ash also thanked the three local Rotary Clubs of BEL, Peterborough and Peterborough Kawartha who were always in her heart and allowed such a journey to commence, setting up a journey that will last forever.

The club also had to say goodbye to Rocio Avalos. Rocia was hosted by three local Rotary Clubs (see above) and like Danika, her exchange has been cut short and she is waiting to return home to Spain. Rocia, who has attended Crestwood Secondary School, has been an important part of the life of all three families she lived with and the communities she has come to know. She has maintained a rigorous course load while immersing herself in Canadian life and culture. She has learned to ski, learned to love hockey (her allegiance was split between the Oshawa Generals and the Peterborough Petes - we are working on that!) participated in the Carl Oake swim-a-thon and even walked in the Lakefield Santa Claus parade. She has tried ice skating, travelled to Florida and has even learned to cook! It is always difficult to say farewell when students return to their countries but their impact lives on and we are richer for having “one more connection” across the globe.