Youth Exchange

If there is something that Rotary are known for doing well, it would have to be the Rotary Youth Exchange Programe.

The first thing most people know about Rotary has come via a school newsletter, newspaper or TV ad, or even the internet. They hear about the opportunity that is on offer to broaden their child's educational base, in regard to international relations, public speaking, travel independance, and a large range of other areas and situations.

So, the general public becomes aware of Rotary.

In Rotary itself, we now have one of the most sophisticated systems in the world for the welfare of those young people that we assist in this great adventure. The care and attention to detail is without parallel, and not only with the young person in question, but their parents as well, with councelling of both parties keeping everyone involved and aware just part of the programe.

It is an immense job, and one that all Rotarians take a great deal of pride.

This system has not happened overnight, and even now, refinements still take place to assist in the overall running of the programe, to ensure it runs smoother, more accountable, and generally a more enjoyable and fulfilling exchange for all concerned.

This was not the case in 1960.

The 'Student Exchange Programme', was then in it's infancy, not many Rotarians in this part of the World knew much about it at all, and when the International Committee of the Club decided that this may be a worthy avenue to take, there were very few people araound that could assist in information on the subject. In fact, on the 8th July 1960, the decision was made to contact the Rotary Club of Wangaratta, to obtain any information that they had formulated on the subject.

Other letters were sent, to the past Distric Governor as well as the present (at the time) District Governor. Also to the District Governor of Georgia, USA, requesting information on the programe that was running in that district at the time.

Help at last arrived from Past President Peter Barnett of the Rotary Club of Myrtleford. Peter contacted the Club by letter, explaining the process of Youth Exchange. The decision was to publish this letter in the bulletin, so that all members could avail themselves of the information. An invitation for Past President Peter to speak to the Club was accepted a short time after. A survey of the clubs members and their wives followed to establish if the programme did go ahead then, what kind of support could be expected, particularly in the area of caring and billeting of the student, the response was outstanding, with seventeen Rotarians and families offering their assistance in the new programme.

Past President Peter spoke to the Club on the subject and later spent a deal of time in speaking further to members of the International Committee, his input and assistance was invaluable and was greatly appreciated.

District Governor Leo deGaris, had also approved of all discussions and actions. Arrangements were made and in the course of time we were notified of our approval to host a student from the Philippines Miss Armita Bantug, aged 16 years. And so these brave souls, of the International Committee, were rewarded, as were the rest of the members of the Club, we suspect. The Rotary Club of Stawell Inc. had created a first, in our district, and more was to follow.

In a matter of weeks of all this happening, on 21st September 1961, a letter was recieved from Past President Peter Bernett of the "International Student Project Committee", offering the Stawell Club an invitation to send a Student to America in 1962.

The Club reaction was immediate, it placed notices, asking for expressions of interest, in the local newspaper. Rotarian Morrie Robson, visited the Rotary Club of Seymour to study the interview requirements, thus on return enabling our committee to set up their own interview programe.

Seven families applied to the Club after the press noticed closed on the 14th October 1961, unfortunately only six could make it to interviews, that were held at Rotarian Morrie Robson's home, on the 17th October 1961. The interviews went past midnight, and it was early morning before a decision was made.

Prior to the interviews the Committee members had gained all the information on the applicants, all young ladies, as was possible. The applications, including references, and school report books were examined. So it was an exhaustive search, and resulted the reccomendation of Miss Sonia Earle, aged 16 years. Sonia was a prefect at the high school, a very good student to leaving standard, and a fine sportswoman, and to be in every way a young lady that would be a good ambassador for our country. and the Rotary Club of Stawell in particular. In time information came to the Club that Sonia was to be under the care of the Rotary Club of Cheyenne, Wyoming, USA. And on the 28th December 1961 she was farewelled from Station Pier for her adventure.

The fear of the unknown did not daunt the members of the Club at that time, it seemed as though they remembered the words of P.P Lou Koenig from his address at the Charter evening in 1954, "Don't wait for success - work for it".

Rotary Exchange Students Outbound from the Rotary Club of Stawell

Sonia Earle - USA

Verity Sibbett - Philippines

Jillian Hutchings - USA

Caroline Plaisted - USA

Barbara McCracken - USA

Granton Smith - USA

Beverley Goode - USA

Caroline Cottman - USA

Belinda Bain - India

Pheona McDonough - USA

Angela Heenan - USA

Lachlan McCann - Mexico

Ali McCann - Thailand

Lara Irvine - Mexico

Emma Byrnes - Finland

Hanna Ellen - Germany

Taia Hayter - Brazil

Amanda Bertram - Brazil
Molly Young - Finland

Rotary Exchange Students Inbound to the Rotary Club of Stawell

Armita Bantug - Philippines


Fredrico Florendo - Philippines


Lyndsey Hildebrande - Canada

Reiko Shimoyamada - Japan

Witchai Kiatsuvanon - Thailand

Midori Kasamatsu - Japan

Angela Rudd - USA

Mark Walker - USA

Boosarin Sirijidkasame - Thailand

Saskia Haayer - Netherlands

Jitjin Kajitvivat - Thailand

Sucheera Limtragul - Thailand

Victoria Wangberg - Sweden

Jacob Nilsson - Sweden

Raquel Bicalho - Brazil

Jack Hartley - New Zealand

Brie Davidson - New Zealand

Amanda Bisi - Brazil

Capucine Robilliard - France