Rotary International’s Youth Exchange Program offers young people interesting opportunities and rich experiences to see another part of the world. Students usually spend a full academic year abroad, although some Rotary clubs and districts sponsor short-term exchanges of several weeks or months.
The youth exchange program is also very popular in Thailand and every year hundreds of children compete to be selected to represent their clubs and districts as a student exchange ambassador.
(l-r) DG Thirayud Wathanathirawut (2011-12), DG Thongchai Lortrakanon (2010-11), PP Alvi Sinthuvanik and PP Onannong Chairperson of the YE program District 3340 perform their duties during the final day’s program.
In Rotary District 3340, which covers the northeast and eastern regions of Thailand, 48 boys and girls aged 16-18 who were selected for the 2010-11 program attended the final outbound orientation held at the Pinnacle Grand Jomtien Resort & Spa June 24-26.
DG Thongchai (standing right) oversees the children during the ‘dining etiquette’ training session.
The seminar was officiated by District Governor Thongchai ‘Tony’ Lortrakanon and Past Assistant Governor Onanong Siripornmanut, Chairperson of the District Youth Exchange program.
The workshop was just the latest of many steps the youngsters have had to take to qualify for the Rotary Youth Exchange program. They already underwent oral examinations on Thai history, a general English test and written English test. They also had to attend leadership and preparation camp.
Tears flowed freely during the final ceremonies where children paid homage to their parents.
Rotary leaders also attended the training to share their experiences in the Rotary Youth Exchange program which is one of Rotary’s most popular programs to promote international understanding and develop lifelong friendships.
It began in 1927 with the Rotary Club of Nice, France. Then, in 1939 an extensive Youth Exchange was created between California and Latin America. Since then the program has expanded around the world. In recent years more than 10,000 young people have participated annually in Rotary-sponsored exchange programs.
Rungratree Thongsai won the children’s hearts during her session.
Onanong Siripornmanut, Chairperson of the YE program explained, “The values of Youth Exchange are experienced not only by the high school-age students involved but also by the host families, sponsoring clubs, receiving high schools and the entire community.
“Youth Exchange participants usually provide their fellow students in their host schools with excellent opportunities to learn about customs, languages, traditions and family life in another country.”
The children showed off their skills during PDG Peter Malhotra’s session on Rotary Basics.
Incoming District Governor for 2011-12 Theerayut Wattanatheerawut introduced President Kalyan Banerjee, President of Rotary International for 2011-12 and his theme of “Reach Within too Embrace Humanity”.
Past District Governor Pratheep Malhotra gave the kids an insight of the history of Rotary, whilst other distinguished Rotarians spoke on various subjects such as hygiene, table manners and how to adapt to the different way of life in their host countries.
The Rotary Youth Exchange Committee and the outbound students pose for a commemorative photograph.
Rungratree Thongsai, Public Relations Technical officer at Pattaya City Hall spoke candidly to the children, telling them of the many difficulties that they will encounter in a foreign country. “Always remember that you are Thai and should be proud of it. Tell the world about His Majesty the King of Thailand and that he is a great and beloved King who has looked after our nation for more than 60 years. He will be your source of strength.”