Ready for an Adventure? Participate in Wawa’s Rotary Youth Exchange Program

Apr 25, 2017 @ 14:40

Wawa has been participating in Rotary’s Youth Exchange Program for many years. In 1978/79, Wawa’s first ever exchange student arrived from Brazil. Warwick Manfrinato spent just under a year attending Michipicoten High School and becoming a part of Wawa. At the same time, Carolyn Ryce was experiencing life in Brazil, as Wawa’s first ever outbound exchange student. The experiences transformed them, and 39 years later, they still remember them. Warwick returned to help the Rotary Club of Wawa celebrate its 5oth Anniversary in 2011.


February 2017 – This year’s group of District 6290 Rotary Youth Exchange Students as they participate in the Great White North Youth Exchange Conference hosted in Wawa every two years. (photo by B.Grundt, Wawa-news)


‘So just what is Rotary Youth Exchange?’, you might ask.


Rotary Youth Exchange is the largest youth exchange program in the world. Since 1929, Rotary has sent youth around the world to become members of families in their host club/community.


That is a key word, ‘members’. These exchange students are not guests, they become brothers/sisters/son/daughter in their host family; expected to follow family rules, and be treated as your own, and attend school. Rotary does not compensate host families, this is ‘Service above Self’, a way for a family to help a youth experience a new culture. In exchange, the host family gains another member, and many host families have gone abroad themselves visiting their former exchange student at home.


Celina at her first Rotary Club of Wawa Meeting (photo supplied).

This year Wawa welcomed Celina Mischke from Herzogenaurach, Germany, which is near Nuremburg. Her first host parents were Rob Clarke and Liz Talian-Clarke. Celina attends Ecole Secondaire Saint Joseph and enjoys dance (she has twelve years a ballet student), as well as her Rotary Conferences where she meets all the other District 6290 RYE Students. Celina is currently living with the Cotteril family.


As members of their host family, exchange students can travel with them to many places. In the past, Wawa host families have taken their families to Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, the Soo and even just their camp. The Rotary Club of Wawa encourages their exchange students to make out a ‘bucket list’ of places and/or experiences that they would like to have while in Wawa. A dinner with a Rotarian led to one exchange student going to Florida, another tickets with a family to see a Piston’s game in Detroit! You never know who can make things happen!


It isn’t easy to become a RYE Student. There is paperwork…, but if you are 15 – 18 years of age, you could have the opportunity to become Wawa/Canada’s ambassador in another country. Remember that you do not have to be a Rotarian’s kid to go out on Youth Exchange! There is a local interview process, then an interview at the District level. This isn’t scary, just a way assess the applicant for qualities in adaptability, language ability, general awareness and scholastic attainment among others.


As you progress through the process, potential candidates attend conferences to prepare them for the experience of leaving their home and country. Each candidate ranks their preferred choices for country, but may not get their first choice. Once you know where you going… the excitement builds. You start correspondence with your host club/family and flight arrangements are made.


Then one day, you board your plane, and head off – a new family, new siblings, new experiences await you. This is the part where you will shine, put the electronics away and immerse yourself in your new family’s life. Enjoy all the experiences presented, and be sure to show your gratitude to those who share with you.


To be honest, RYE is not cheap. Flights are expensive, but you get to live in several different homes in your host community for almost a year – enjoying real food, and experiences that a tourist will never experience. You will make friends that will stay with you for your life, and come home with a new outlook on life. Many have left those new homes with tears as they leave their host families. Remember though, your host families may come to visit you or you go back.


Hosting a youth also has its costs as you add another plate to the table, but many of us can hear our parents say, “there is always room for one more at the table”. You would also join several other host families, so that each student gets a variety of experiences with different households.


The Bouffard family hosted Lorenzo Vacca. Carole explained, “I think that the experience of being a host mother for a Rotary Youth Exchange can be what one makes it out to be. When we decided to welcome Lorenzo, from Sardinia, Italy, we did it wholeheartedly. I guess everyone’s reasons would be different and I’d be less than truthful if I did not admit that I wondered what it would be like to have 3 children in the house again… So when we decided to be a host family, we did so with that very thought of accepting that child as our own. Not as a visitor. Not as an “almost adult”. Not as a foreigner. I tried to imagine Simon and Marguerite in another country for a year, and what I would want for them. We tried to do that for the child coming into our home.”

In August 2016, the Bouffard Family experienced the hospitality of Lorenzo and his family with the holiday of a lifetime in Italy, “We bonded with Lorenzo. He is still part of our lives. We did go to visit him last August. It was wonderful to meet his parents, his sister, and relatives. We keep in close contact. I’m not sure this would be true of all exchange students… Every experience is different but it will certainly be a learning experience!”

In order to keep this program alive in our community, the Rotary Club of Wawa needs students who would like to experience life in another country as our ambassador. The Rotary Club of Wawa also needs host families, to welcome a youth to our country/town and families. If you are interested, or would like to know more, please contact Beverly Boyd, Youth Exchange Committee Chair at (705) 856-7546.

Rotary Youth Exchange Paperwork = many hours

flight = +$1,000 (depends to where and when booked)

new families, friends, language = priceless

A Rotary Youth Exchange Student enjoying a sunset at Old Woman Bay. (photo by B. Grundt)






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