By Claudia Urbano, Rotary Service and Engagement Staff
Are you curious about other cultures? Would you like to make new friends with those who share your commitment to service and are working on local priorities in their part of the world? Embark on a Rotary Friendship Exchange! Through this program, Rotary members and friends take turns hosting one another in their homes and clubs. Participants can travel as individuals, couples, families, or groups. Exchanges focus on a specific theme within service, vocation, or culture.
The Rotary Friendship Exchange Program is more than just a fun trip through a Rotary lens. International friendships can help you leverage opportunities and make an impact on your community. By cultivating international bonds of camaraderie and developing strong ties of trust, we can promote solidarity, contribute to peace, and build cultural bridges.
These are some recent Rotary Friendship Exchange experiences:
LEBANON-EGYPT (Districts 2452 and 2451)
A wonderful exchange took place between Lebanese Rotary members and their Egyptian counterparts. Immersed in the vibrant culture of Egypt, they embarked on captivating tours of Cairo, Fayoum, and Alexandria. Their journey was a blend of knowledge and connection as they participated in a Public Image Seminar, fostering invaluable bonds with like-minded individuals. A visit to the Lebanese Consul and the Consulate villa served as a testament to the warm relations between the two nations. Additionally, explorations of Alexandria’s impressive library and the Yacht Club of Egypt added an extra touch of richness to their experience. This trip helped solidify the harmonious relationship between members across all involved districts.
PERU-MEXICO (Districts 4465 and 4130)
The Peruvian visitors were absolutely enchanted by the warm and heartfelt hospitality the Rotary members in Mexico extended to them. Their taste buds were treated to a delightful journey through Mexico’s rich culinary traditions. The Day of the Dead parade’s vibrant energy and ambiance, along with the cherished customs of All Saints’ Day, filled their hearts with awe and reverence.
José Luis, a visitor from Peru, couldn’t help but express his gratitude, saying, “Every moment was unique, and we can’t deny that Mexicans are incredible hosts.” Likewise, Salvador, another participant, shared his thoughts, stating, “Rotary has never failed to amaze me with their ability to create new and meaningful experiences, ones that truly inspire me to further commit to their noble cause. Thank you, Rotary, for providing us with this rare opportunity to connect and share a meal with like-minded individuals who possess such remarkable human qualities.”
Building upon the profound connection established during this visit, a friendship agreement was signed between the two districts, paving the way for a cherished partnership and future collaborative projects aimed at uplifting both communities.
MEXICO-INDIA (Districts 3060 and 4195)
A team of 10 Rotary members from Mexico embarked on a memorable journey to India. The warmth and kindness of the host families created an instant bond, as they generously opened their hearts and homes to the visiting team. Together, they embarked on an enriching cultural adventure, exploring iconic landmarks like Mahatma Gandhi’s Salt Satyagraha Ashram and the majestic Taj Mahal. The itinerary was filled with delightful experiences, including engaging with local Rotary projects, and attending a joyous dance and dinner event. A special highlight was the Holi celebration, where the visitors joyfully participated alongside Rotary club members. Amidst this backdrop of friendship and cultural exchange, an engaged couple from the Mexican team expressed their desire to get married in India, embracing the beautiful Hindu rituals. In a heartwarming gesture, the Rotary Club of Bharuch NarmadaNagari wholeheartedly organized various pre-wedding festivities such as Haldi, Mehndi, and Garba, culminating in a beautiful marriage ceremony. Erika and Pedro, the radiant couple, embarked on their new journey as husband and wife, forever touched by the hospitality and warmth of India. “This could be the first time ever in the history of Rotary Friendship Exchanges that an engaged couple got married during the program in the visiting country,” says District Rotary Friendship Exchange Chair Praful Dewani.
As the time came for the Mexico team to bid farewell, they carried back with them the memories of incredible India and countless new friendships that will last a lifetime. Chair Praful beautifully summed up the essence of this experience: “Rotary has the power to foster deep bonds of friendship between diverse communities across the world. The Friendship Exchange program opens doors to connections that cannot be replicated outside of Rotary.”
PERU-ENGLAND (Districts 4455 and 1200)
Rotary members in England graciously opened their homes and warmly welcomed eight Rotary members from Peru. Norma Bustamante, an exchange participant from the Rotary Club of Barranco, shares a heartfelt account of this experience: “We stayed in their homes and toured countless historical and industrial sites, as well as farms and stables. We hiked through vast and relaxing pastures that looked like beautiful postcard pictures. We visited some of the many projects that each club develops to support refugees, the elderly, and children with special needs. We also had the opportunity to give a presentation on the projects the clubs in our district are working on. Thanks to this extraordinary experience, we strengthened the foundation of peace and understanding between English and Peruvian cultures, expanded our cultural knowledge, and experienced a fellowship experience so unique to Rotary. THANK YOU, DISTRICT 1200!”
ARGENTINA-MEXICO (Districts 4130 and 4905)
An Argentinian couple was hosted by Rotary members in Mexico. While recounting their experience, Alberto, the participant from Argentina, expressed deep gratitude for the genuine warmth and hospitality shown by their hosts from Mexico. “We were not expecting it, I felt as if a very close family member welcomed me after a long trip.” Such heartwarming encounters leave an indelible mark in one’s memory and create lifelong connections.
HOW TO PARTICIPATE IN A ROTARY FRIENDSHIP EXCHANGE
Rotary Friendship Exchanges are a unique opportunity to learn about other cultures, make new friends, and make a difference in the world. International Day of Friendship (30 July) is a great time to start planning an exchange. Learn more about the Rotary Friendship Exchange program and contact your district Rotary Friendship Exchange Chair to get involved.
Have you recently participated in a Rotary Friendship Exchange? Share your experience with us by filling out this form.