A group of Rotary Club members recently travelled over 9,000 miles to visit Kirksville and other Missouri communities.
The members of a Rotary Group Study Exchange Programme lived with host families, learned from local businesses and said despite the distance, they felt immediately at home.
“We’ve gone into houses of perfect strangers, and two days later we leave as lifelong friends,” Arthur Manser, the group’s team leader, said at a Wednesday meeting of the Rotary Club of Kirksville (Missouri, US – RID 6040).
Manser, a member of the Rotary Club of St Peters and a former district governor, said the hospitality the group received in Missouri has been “mind-blowing.”
“Every one of the people here and the whole way around made us feel so welcome,” Manser said.
The GSE Programme aims to provide a cultural and professional exchange for Rotary members who are young professionals.
Participants visit the host country for four to six weeks to learn about its culture and institutions, observe how their professions are practised abroad and meet with Rotary members in the host country.
Local Rotarians serve as host families for the visitors.
The Australian GSE group have from Rotary District 9520, which covers parts of four Australian states and has approximately 1,200 members in 49 clubs.
Kally Hooper is a member of the Rotary Club of Seaford and a registered nurse who works in the pathology division of Australia’s national health system.
“The hospitality has been overwhelming, and the vocational placements that we’ve had were amazing opportunities and I can’t wait to take everything I’ve gained back to my Rotary Club but also to my workplace,” Hooper said.
Hooper works in the state of South Australia, which covers over 380,000 square miles with a population of about 1.7 million.
For comparison, Missouri has a square mileage of 69,715 and a population of over 6 million.
Because the population is so spread out, Hooper said, there are unique health challenges.
The Australian Rotary Club has helped sponsored the “Purple Bus” programme, a mobile dialysis unit which helps rural Australians access treatment without having to leave home for a major city.
“Remote indigenous people in central Australia are more likely to suffer from kidney disease, but unfortunately they may have to travel for more than 1000 kilometers to the nearest town to receive treatment,” Hooper said.
“And this means being away from their family, being away from their culture, being away from their language.”
A mobile dialysis unit, Hooper said, helps those people receive treatment while remaining a part of their community.
Amber Shreeve, a member of the Rotary Club of Holdfast Bay, is a member of the South Australian Police.
Shreeve was recently promoted to the role of sergeant and will oversee domestic violence policy and training for the state.
“To give you an indication of the difference in policing here and at home, we have a size to police that is about three times the size of Missouri, a population that’s about a third the size of Missouri’s population, and we have the one police force,” Shreeve said.
Shreeve said it has been informative to visit police forces in Missouri and learn about the approach of law enforcement that is organised on a city or county level, something that does not exist in her home country.
“If you ever wonder as a club or a district if this programme is valuable or if people are getting anything out of it, rest assured. I think I speak for the whole team in saying that we have learned so much. We hope that we have shared something with the local people also, but we certainly are taking a lot out of this experience and I’m sure that we will take this all back to South Australia,” Shreeve said.
Rose Le, a member of the Rotary Club of Unley, is the co-founder of a data security company.
“I sometimes joke that I’m in the data security sector because everything in Australia is out to kill me,” Le said.
Australia’s wildlife are famously hostile; as a cyclist, Le said, she wears a helmet with imposing spikes on it to prevent attacks from magpies.
She said the GSE group has received a warm reception everywhere they have visited in Missouri and had an “absolutely magnificent” time in Kirksville.
She enjoyed learning about data security in the US from a work visit at Alliant Bank.
“Everyone makes a great deal about Southern hospitality, but people who talk about that have obviously never been to the Midwest,” Le said.
Stacey Andary, a member of the Rotary Club of Encounter Bay and an alternative education teacher, said she is excited to take back what she has learned from her vocational placements to her students — but her favourite part of visiting the US was something else.
“The pie is insane here, and insane being really, really awesome,” Andary said. “We’ve got a meat pie, we’ve got a chicken pie, but cherry pie, apple pie, pecan pie, banana caramel pie — just all the pie.”
Shreeve said visiting the US has helped her appreciate the close relationship that the two countries share.
“We refer to Australia as the lucky country, because this is a country where I can educate my children in a high-quality state elementary school for around $250 a year; we have a government-funded health insurance scheme for all Australians, it’s not means-tested and it means that all Australians have access to free emergency medical treatment; and we are lucky enough to have friends in the American people,” Shreeve said.
Shreeve said the spirit of Rotary club is similar in both the US and Australia.
“The friendship, generosity and support that I have received from the local Rotarians and the club here have been absolutely fabulous,” Shreeve said.
Members of the local Rotary club are planning a trip to Australia in February of next year, where their guests on this trip will have the opportunity to serve as hosts.
“I’m looking forward to taking some of you to one of our wildlife parks to introduce you to some of our friendly — if not over-friendly — wildlife,” Manser said.
Source: Aurora Advertiser