Fostering peace through Rotary Friendship Exchange

By Daniel Dumitras, Rotary Club of Timisoara Ripensis, Romania, and participant in a Rotary Friendship Exchange visit to District 5110, USA

I love watching movies. Through movies, you can meet new people, places, and learn new facts. One of my favorite quotes comes from the movie Casablanca: “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”.  I felt like I was living in a real-life movie when our district hosted the Rotary Friendship Exchange team from District 5110 (Oregon, USA) in 2015. You can talk about real, beautiful and profound friendship when you talk about people like Camille, Susie, Amanda, Laurie, Marylyn, Emily, Jim, Don, Ted, Davis, Tyson and Rick.

I’ve learned that Rotary’s founding pillar Service Above Self is impossible without friendship because “We are not alone… “(Did I mention I also like music?) We are an organization of more than 1.2 million members. Our goal of service unites us, but our friendships make it possible to achieve our goals.

Being someone’s friend means first understanding and accepting him and second sharing similar values. When we were planning our reciprocal visit to Oregon, I mentioned we will first visit New York City before arriving in Oregon. Somebody replied that I will be a little disappointed because Oregon isn’t as big and grand as New York, but I was steadfast: I said our friendships with the Rotarians from Oregon are big, my friends are big with big hearts and big characters. I place my experiences above my expectations. And after all what really matter are people and I’m sure our visit in Oregon will be the final lesson for us about being a truly Rotarian.

In May 2015, District 2241 (Romanio/Moldova) spent two fantastic weeks hosting a Rotary Friendship Exchange team from District 5110 (Oregon, USA). We traveled together, we showed our country, we showed our lifestyle, we showed our history, but more importantly, we show some of our service activities and worked together on a project. We combined fun and friendship to help the community.

As Rotarians, we hold the ingredients to that magical recipe. The exchange was a mixture of fun, common activities and getting to know new people and a new culture. We fostered greater awareness of ourselves and our new friends, exchanged values and beliefs, and opened ourselves to new opinions, perspectives, and ideas.

We were joined by Rotaractors, Interactors and Rotakids. Rotakids is a Rotarian-sponsored program for children between seven and 12 years of age. I’m very proud that even though we have five Rotary clubs, four Rotaract clubs, and three Interact clubs in Timisoara, we jointly sponsor one Rotakids club. We take pride in jointly fostering a love for Rotary’s values from a young age.

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During our August 2015 visit, our hosts in Eugene treated us to many local staples. We visited a local winery and tasted some of Oregon’s wonderful wines.  We experienced an American baseball game. We were interviewed on a local radio station, participated in karaoke at a 1950’s style diner, and enjoyed hikes and Oregon’s beautiful beaches. One of our team members brought paintings she had painted to raise money for basic education and literacy projects for youth in Eugene and in Moldova.  We also worked on a Habitat for Humanity project where we helped local Rotarians build a home in Eugene.

Even though I have many scenes to add to my memories of this trip, the lasting most important memories will always be the people I met and the lasting friendships I have made!

We have agreed to do another exchange between our two districts in 2017 to give more people an opportunity to be a part of this great program.

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Author: rotaryservice

The Rotary Service Connections blog helps Rotarians plan effective and inspired service projects. If you have questions, comments, or story recommendations, contact us at rotary.service@rotary.org

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