Once again at our weekly Rotary meeting, I was struck by how this organization is amazing in the scope of its vision and in the power of its members to make the vision reality. We had two guests, a Rotarian from Calgary, and a pop in visit by a Past District Governer from Kenya. How cool is that? Kenya. A few weeks ago we had Rotarian guests from Finland and from the Philippines. It is astonishing how wide our world is, and how interesting Rotarians are all over the place!
We had a typical summer meeting. About half the club was away and our guest speaker had canceled on us a couple days before. A few quick calls had been made to our outbound exchange student and a former exchange student to Malaysia who was in town from university. Both of them gave us some time, and our meeting was quite delightful and inspiring. It is a shame that only 11 of us got to experience the inspiration!
Many clubs sponsor the Youth Exchange program and believe in its power to improve the world, one young person at a time. Last night that was very powerfully illustrated to me, and I think our outbound Maddie (who is off to Argentina this weekend) and her father were quite amazed by the possibilities of the journey she is embarking upon when they heard Chad Shipmaker speak.
Chad remarked to me at dinner that Rotary owns him. It is certainly no doubt that this organization changed his life, though he is an impressive young man in his own right, and would have found a way to change the world without us, I’m sure. I am just really glad that we have been involved, because we get to have some familial pride in his accomplishments. After his time as a Rotary Youth Exchange student in Malaysia, Chad returned home to do a Bachelor’s degree at University of Victoria. He worked in Africa for awhile in development work. He was home working here when Rotary came into his life again.
Although many clubs participate in Youth Exchange, many fewer sponsor Group Study Exchange candidates. Due in no small part to the efforts of Lynda Wilson, our current club president who was formerly on the GSE District committee while she was Dean of Okanagan College, our club regularly sponsors GSE applicants, and quite frequently our applicants are chosen by the district to join the team. Chad Shipmaker was chosen as a member on a team that went to Chile. Back on our radar, we started keeping a closer eye on him.
Soon after, he decided to do his master’s degree and applied to be a Peace scholar. Our club proposed him. The district agreed with our nomination and forwarded his application to Rotary International. Rotary International was as impressed as we have been, and so this last year Chad has been studying at the Duke Centre for International Development in the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. He is “Fellow, Master of International Development Policy” and “Rotary World Peace Fellow.” Even the titles sound impressive. Just wait until you find out what he’s learning!
As I listened to Chad’s awe over the people he’s meeting, the speakers he’s hearing, and the work he’s been doing at the World Food Agency in DC, I can’t help but be inspired. Chad is just one amazing alumni of our Rotary Youth Exchange program. Not all RYE students are going to end up doing things quite as amazing as Chad, but we are in good company when we support the organization that gives us all the opportunities to change the world through the skills honed and polished through involvement with Rotary.
Vision and the power to make it so. Wow.
Rotary is awesome.
PS. Stay tuned for another blog on the amazing accomplishments of Chad Shipmaker, coming soon to this space!