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.
Dr Wongpoom Wanasin tells the children to be good ambassadors for Thailand.
Youth Exchange 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.
In Rotary District 3340, which covers the northeast and eastern regions of Thailand, 40 boys and girls aged 16-18 who were selected for the 2011-12 program attended the final outbound orientation held at the Pinnacle Grand Jomtien Resort & Spa June 30-July 1, 2012.
The seminar was organised and officiated by Onanong Siripornmanut, chairperson of the District Youth Exchange program with district leaders such as District Governor Thirayudh Watanatheerawud, District Governor Elect Thatree Leetheeraprasert, Past District Governor Thongchai Lortrakanon, Chairman of the District Rotary Youth Exchange Foundation and PDG Pratheep Malhotra, the Youth Exchange program co-chair in attendance.
The selected students spent the weekend familiarizing themselves with the customs and cultures of the countries that they would be travelling to, which include the United States, Canada, Germany, Mexico, Brazil, Taiwan, Japan, and South Africa.
PDG Peter Malhotra extolls the virtues of Rotary and the international organisation’s humanitarian service programs.
YE Chairperson Onanong Siripornmanut said, “Exposure to different cultures ranks as one of the most powerful ways to promote international understanding and peace. The Rotary Youth Exchange program provides thousands of young students with the opportunity to meet people from other countries and to experience new cultures, planting the seeds for a lifetime of international understanding. Thai students will study in high schools in foreign countries for a year where they will act as cultural ambassadors for promoting Thailand’s culture and traditions to their foreign hosts.”
Dr Wongpoom Wanasin, president and managing director of Pinnacle Hotel Group was guest speaker at the seminar. He spoke on future developments for youth and advised them on how to be good ambassadors of our country. He also made a presentation of his Youth Development Foundation, a foundation that helps develop youth from three most restless southern provinces of Thailand.
During the sacred candle light closing ceremony, Onanong touched the heartstrings of all present with her emotional talk of the undying love that parents have for their offspring and asked the children to honour and respect their parents and be thankful for all that they have sacrificed so that they could go on this trip of a lifetime.
At the end of the two day orientation program, Rotarians honoured Onanong Siripornmanus at the completion of her two year term as chair of the Rotary Youth Exchange program in District 3340.
Past District Governor Thingchai Lortrakanon expressed his feelings about Onanong with these words. “Ever since I have known Rotarian Onanong I have grown to appreciate and respect her for her love for Rotary. On is always at the forefront of service for the underprivileged in her community. She has been involved in the Rotary Youth Exchange program for many years and as chairperson for the past two years. I have never once heard her grumble or say that she is tired. Her energy is limitless. Rotarians as we all know perform their humanitarian services voluntarily and without pay. Here is a perfect example of physical and spiritual sacrifice.”
Aunty On, as she is lovingly known, spoke of how for so many years she has worked hard for the children, “I stay up nights on my computer writing and receiving e-mails from Rotarians all over the world. Every year we have almost 50 applicants vying for places on the program, and I must find them hosts and sponsors in the many foreign countries. I don’t give up until each and every one of them gets a seat. I don’t want to disappoint anyone.”
“This year 40 children have been approved to travel to a foreign country to spend a year with their host families…my job is done…for now. But there are still hundreds of children out there still waiting for my love and care. A Rotarian’s work is never done.”
District Governors and Rotary leaders play a vital role in the development of our youth. (top l-r) Theerayud Wattanathirawud, Thatree Leetheeraprasert, (above l-r) Siri Eiemchamroonlarp, Thongchai Lortrakanon, Kittisak Pensuwaparp and Pichit Permvanichagul.
Youth exchange students show off their talents during an evening of song and dance.
The Rotary Youth Exchange committee poses for a group photo with the outbound students.
YE Chair Onanong Siripornmanut lights the sacred candle and gives her blessings to the children as they pay their respects to this most benevolent human being.
The ceremony of honouring the parents was emotionally charged as the children for once realised that it is only their parents who can give them unconditional love.
It was a mixture of laughter and tears as Onanong celebrated her birthday and at the same time bid farewell to the Youth Exchange program…for now.