students participate in the Rotary Youth Exchange (RYE) program, which is administered at the regional level by Rotary districts and at the local level by Rotary clubs. RYE was first initiated in Tillsonburg in 1968/69, but has a history stretching all the way back to 1927. The program was originally initiated by a Rotary club in Nice, France, which started exchanges with European students. The first exchanges in North America started in California in 1939, and became a global initiative in 1972. This year, Rotary is hosting Luanna Amarilla from Paraguay. From Tillsonburg Madelyn Bolton is in Thailand, Rebecca Fink is in Peru and Mackenzie Simmons is in Australia. Luanna will be returning home in July. When asked if she is looking forward to leaving, she indicated “Only to see my parents.” “I can’t wait to come back to Canada. The experience I have had on exchange is like living a life in one year” Students who have been on exchange echo many of the same feelings. They did not want to leave, cannot wait for their next adventure abroad, and have had life changing experiences that will benefit them in all future endeavours. Rotary members hear this from youth visiting Tillsonburg and those who have returned from abroad. While on exchange, participants develop leadership skills,
Luanna Amarilla (right) and a friend participating in tree planting at the Take a Hike Ox- ford event held in Tillsonburg.
learn a new language and culture, share their culture, build lasting friendships with young people from around the world and become global citizens. A story about RYE in Tillsonburg would not be complete without sharing some details about the many volunteers and host families that make it successful. Bob Marsden is one of these individuals and is instrumental in facilitating the program in Tillsonburg. Bob has been a member of Rotary since 1978, and after many years with the Tillsonburg Legion, is an Honorary Life Member. Many will know Bob from his career in teaching.
Originally starting at College Avenue Secondary School in Woodstock in 1963 (it’s opening year), and later transferring to Glendale where he worked until his retirement in 1994. “It was the best job I ever had” Bob will adamantly state. Since his retirement, Bob has been very busy working to create opportunities for youth in Tillsonburg. When asked why he is involved in the program, he responds simply “I like working with kids”. He lives this tirelessly and provides continuous support for inbound and outbound RYE students. Bob’s involvement with RYE starts each year with
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