In October 1976, Rotarian Ken Dobson and I attended the Canadian Rotary Institute in Peterborough , Ontario . One of the sessions dealt with fund raising. An idea that caught our attention was one where a Rotary Club sent a $10.00 cheque to one hundred Rotary clubs around the world asking them to send back an item of interest from their country. All items received were then auctioned off at a gala promoting world understanding. Not only did they receive interesting items at a far greater value than $10.00, most Rotary Clubs returned the $10.00 cheque. Ken and I discussed the idea and felt it had an interesting fundraising dimension but more importantly, it had potential to create a greater global awareness and an appreciation for others.


At the time, I was teaching Grade 8 at McDougall School, Parry Sound. Ken and I decided that I would approach my principal, Mr. Bud Stevenson, to see about involving my Grade 8 class in contacting one hundred schools around the world inviting them to send us a package of information and items from their country. In lieu of sending them $10.00, the McDougall students would prepare a package of items and information representing the Parry Sound area and send it to them. 



Mr. Stevenson was initially guarded about the idea, but could see the educational value of student participation in such an international project.  He gave the idea his blessing. The project idea was presented to my students the first week of November 1976. They saw it as an interesting and possibly a profitable fundraiser.


Identifying one hundreds schools from around the world that would be willing to participate was a challenging issue, as no internet access was available in the 1970’s. We  decided to contact Rotary International District Governors and Canadian Embassies in all corners of the world to assist us in locating one hundred schools that would be willing to exchange items and information with us.


Over the next few weeks, the students had to decide what items and information would best represent the Parry Sound area and our school community, and where would we get the money to send these items to  one hundred schools around the world.  Twenty- two items were selected and a tabloid was published describing each item. Items included; Canadian flag, winter carnival button, pine cone, snowman (made of paper mache), small jar of maple syrup, poppy, snow machine (made from cardboard), laminated maple leaf, small piece of the Canadian shield, a Canadian nickel, Canadian  penny, handcrafted Ojibway artifacts, picture of Bobby Orr, Christmas cards, valentine cards, local newspaper, comics, sales flyers, map of the District of Parry Sound, map of Ontario, booklet of Ontario Canada and samples of student’s work from every grade.  The tabloid also included the results of a survey of one hundred families in our school area covering the following topics: Family Size, Family Make Up, Languages Spoken, Leisure Time Activities, Number and Kind of Pets, Type of Work Done, and Number of Years Lived in our Area. The students named the project, The World Interchange Project (WIP).


It was a great learning experience and quickly evolved into unexpected situations and activities for the students and community. Our one hundred packages were assembled and ready to go by mid February when we had  confirmation  for participation from over  fifty schools representing every continent. The packages, plastered with the  different denominations of Canadian stamps were quickly mailed. By the end of the school year, in June, we had almost reached our goal of one hundred schools and received  hundreds of items and information from over forty different countries.  Additional packages arrived over the summer and into the next school year. The students decided that the items were too interesting to auction off and would be better appreciated by displaying them in display cases around the school.


The students produced an audio visual-slide presentation which described the process of their involvement in WIP. It was used to solicit financial assistance from organizations like the Rotary Club of Parry Sound and the Ontario Ministry of Education. WIP caught the attention of CBC, CTV, Global, and local television stations who came to McDougall school to cover the project. CBC Radio did a national Remembrance Day program on it.


The students were invited to attend various educational conferences, schools and Rotary Clubs around the province to share their story of creating a greater global understanding and appreciation among nations. In addition, invitations were received to make presentations at The World Education Fellowship Conference, Detroit, Michigan and  the World Congress of Comparative Education Conferences in Ypsilanti, Michigan and Paris France. It was important to me that every student, regardless of ability, was directly involved with speaking with the media and giving  presentations. They took turns.


The support of our Principal, Bud Stevenson, Al Snider, Director Education, (also a Rotarian) West Parry Sound Board of Education, McDougall School staff, Rotary Club of Parry Sound and the entire school community all contributed to its success. They were kept informed of the progress and developments of WIP.


What started out as Rotary fundraiser grew into a huge wonderful international learning experience for the students, our community and me. Interest in the various countries around the world was expanded. Two students, involved with WIP, became Rotary Exchange students.


As time went on, we could not meet the demands placed on us regarding requests for information on WIP. It was a situation that got out of control. Teachers from across Canada and parts of United States wanted information on who to contact and how to contact them. Fortunately, The Canadian Organization for Development Education at Canadian International Development Agency came to our rescue and provided funding to reproduce multiple copies of the audio visual-slide presentation and support material, and agreed to act as a “clearing house” to respond to those who requested information.


The educational value and the global impact  of WIP  was recognized with the  following significant awards; Rotary International Significant Achievement Award; Project Milestone Award, Columbia Teachers College, New York; Fred L Bartlett Award, Ontario Public School Trustees’ Associational and a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada grant.


As a Rotarian, my participation in WIP played a significant role in providing me with the opportunity to attend two Rotary International Conferences (Tokyo and New Orleans), teach in Canberra, Australia for a year, contribute volunteer work with Australian Rotarians in Papua New Guinea and participate in two summer Project Overseas volunteer teaching assignments in Thailand sponsored by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation and CIDA.


The World Interchange Project provided a variety of interesting and unplanned opportunities for those touched by it. Looking back, it is amazing what had been accomplished in a very short time. This would not have happened if it were not for Ken Dobson and me attending a session on fundraising at the Rotary Canadian Institute in Peterborough Ontario , October 1976.


Ray Pavlove joined Parry Sound Rotary Club  in January, 1970.