Posted by Patti Lefkos on May 24, 2019

When 18-year-old Maria Eduarda Spartani Ancona, known as Duda, stepped on to an airplane for the first time in her home country of Brazil she was nervous with anticipation. “I wanted to learn about a new culture, to experience life in a different country. My brother Francis had been on a exchange to Belgium and I longed for the same opportunity.” So Duda’s mom, Rosana, approached a local Rotary club in San Paolo. Duda applied and was accepted. An exchange was arranged with Kalamalka Rotary Club of Vernon as the sponsor club.

The long term Rotary Exchange Program as we know it now had its origin at an international assembly of Rotary Governors, held at Lake Placid, New York in 1958. Harley Shaver, a past Rotary Governor of Nebraska asked those present to go home and consider a new idea. The proposed exchange would enable students to spend a year in a different country, in a new culture, while going to school. Joe Bradbury, an incoming Rotary Governor from Australia accepted the challenge. Work was done at the assembly to develop the framework of the new program.

The first exchange was held in 1959 when Joe Rogers, a 15-year old student from Scottsbluff, Nebraska, arrived in Myrtleford, Australia. At the same time two Australian students, Nick Rutherford and Norm Jordon, arrived in Scottsbluff and Grand Lake, Colorado.

Today 8,000 to 9,000 short and long-term exchanges occur each year, allowing the opportunity for students to develop international friendships and learn about and appreciate different cultures.

At Clarence Fulton Secondary Duda studied Geography, English and Foods in the first term, then Physical Education, Math and Spanish in her second term, as well as Biology via an online course. “We speak Portuguese at home. So Spanish is similar, but different. In PE we did skating, snowboarding and racquet sports. Badminton was fun and I was good at it. Snowboarding, not so much.”

Two Kalamalka Rotary families hosted Duda. She spent the first term with Cara and Graham Mann and their teenaged daughters Sarah and Emily and the second with Darcy and Denise Chorley. “I have loads of fun with their five-year-old twins Ava and Reiker.”

Duda has especially enjoyed trying new foods in Canada. “Poutine is pretty good, we had Beavertails at the Christmas light up at Silver Star and, of course, I love Tim Horton’s doughnuts. My favourite restaurant is The Curry Pot. I love Indian food. And, I love maple syrup. I tried a maple latte. So good. The best drink I had here.”

Local travel was also part of her year. “I loved going to Cara and Graham’s cabin in September, experiencing the clean, fresh water. At the Calgary Zoo I saw bears, wolves, bison, Musk Ox and moose.” During a mid-April excursion to Victoria she saw an otter, a seal and an array of spring flowers.

Closer to home she went ice fishing and attended a Vernon Vipers game. “Watching hockey for the first time felt like I was in a movie.” Perhaps surprisingly her favourite activities all have to do with snow. “It is so different for me. I loved cross country skiing at Sovereign Lake. But, the first time I tried to ski downhill at Silver Star I was so bad,” she says with a laugh. “The second time I actually did two full runs on Far Out.”

Duda regularly attends Thursday lunchtime Rotary meetings. “Kalamalka Rotary and its members have been a big, big part of my exchange. Without the club, the exchange wouldn’t be so good. They have taken me so many places and introduced me to so many new experiences.”

 What will Duda miss most when she returns to Brazil in July? “New friends, club members, my host families and the weather. I really like the definite seasons in Canada. It’s all one season in Brazil.”

Future goals for Duda include completion of her studies at Maria Petronial High School in San Paolo and an office job doing secretarial work to help pay for university courses in film making. “I’m also looking forward to seeing my family and friends and our two cats and two dogs.”

Kalamalka Rotary President Ryan Fairburn, a big fan of the program says, “The Rotary Exchange program is undoubtedly the most remarkable experience that can be given to augment a young person’s life; they leave a child from the local community and come back a citizen of the world, ready to share and give back tenfold.”