In a very challenging year our Youth Exchange Program continued to change the lives of our Inbound students and the people in Shawano.
One of our most prized programs in the Shawano Rotary Club is the youth Exchange.  Year after year our Exchange Committee exceeds expectations and is one of the districts most respected programs.  This year was no exception.  A club in the U.P. had trouble seeking out a host families for their inbound student.  They called our club and we were able to make a placement quickly.  In an ordinary year Shawano's Rotary club hosts one inbound exchange student but this year we would host two extraordinary students.
This years students were Alkanz Affandy from Surabaya, Indonesia and Maria "Belin" Suarez from Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia.  Throughout the year our club is blessed with stories from of their journey in Midwest American culture and how it contrasts from life in their home countries'.  Our host families are the lucky ones who are able to learn and teach these student on a more detailed level.  Many of our members remember having exchange students live with them as children and are still in contact with them to this day.  It's truly a life changing experience.
Aside from the initial issues and additional responsibilities of a second student our youth exchange committee, chaired by Idell Johnston and assisted by Cap Wallrich, had to cope with the COVID19 difficulties presented in February.  Our club ordinarily takes pride in keeping our inbound's busy with trips and activities but when COVID hit they suddenly found themselves at home 24/7 in a foreign country.  Despite this our club and committee were able to keep them busy and active.  Kanz put on a livestream music show for the club and folks in his home country, who were themselves isolated dealing with the virus and Belin was able to spend time with another inbound from a neighboring club who's host parents were front-line medical workers and feared they would put her at risk.  
At Monday's Rotary meeting there were tears shed and stories told.  Kanz gave his final presentation to the members, both in person and on Zoom, and we awarded them their certificates of completion.  Its normally difficult to say goodbye to good friends like Kanz and Belin but this year was especially hard in light of the trials we had endured.  On Wednesday both students boarded their respective planes and headed back home with good memories and experiences from Shawano, Wisconsin and the United States.  The Rotary Youth exchange program is one of the gleaming diamonds in our club-life.  The programs goals are to above all promote peace among the world community through shared experiences.  
Despite not having a youth program next year, which was a decision at the international level, we can count this as one very successful year for the Shawano Rotary Youth Exchange.  Thank you to all the volunteers and folks that were host families and those who simply introduced the students to a new experience.  Your efforts will be felt. throughout a lifetime.
If you wish to learn more about being a Rotary Youth Exchange Host Family please contact Idell Johnston at  Out youth exchange program is funded by our members and the popcorn wagon you will see each week at the Shawano Flea Market.