When Kenya Rogers picked up the phone before basketball practice, she got news she had been waiting some time for. News on a once-in-a-lifetime chance to live in a foreign country and soak in its sites, sounds and culture.
There was only one problem — the news was that she didn’t get the trip.
After a tearful practice, and a discussion with her family letting them know she wouldn’t be going on the trip — an event which was also full of tears, she said — the phone rang again.
It was a representative from the Rotary Club, and due to a stroke of luck, they had good news for Rogers. She would be moving to Lima, Peru for 11 months after all.
“I’m so excited,” said Rogers. “This is what I’m doing, so it definitely feels like a really good fit for me, and lots of people like to go to Europe and stuff like that, but I think South America is such a good fit for me, like the type of person I am. I’ve always wanted to live by the ocean, and I’m living on the ocean.”
Rogers, who will be representing Oliver’s Rotary Club, is one of four Penticton Secondary School students who will be taking part in the Rotary Club’s youth exchange.
The exchange sees 8,000 youth from across the world travelling to another country, living with a host family and attending school.
The other students are Ethan McCluskey representing the Penticton Okanagan Rotary Club, who will be going to Brazil, Josh Manning for the Penticton Rotary Club, who will be going to Italy, and Anne Thielman representing Summerland’s Rotary Club, who will be going to Thailand.
Rogers said she plans on learning the music of the country and seizing volunteer opportunities when she is there, as well as climbing Peru’s famous Machu Pichu site.
She isn’t the only one with goals. McCluskey, who is going to Brazil, has some of his own — aside from surfing and playing beach volleyball.
“I want to come back pretty much fluent in the language, I want to come back with many international connections with the Rotary students I’ll be meeting there, and with just amazing stories,” he said.
While learning a foreign language in a mere 11 months can seem like a hefty goal, the Rotary Club’s aim for the exchange program itself is much, much more ambitious.
“Basically, Rotary’s goal is world peace,” said Jean Jacobson, youth exchange events co-ordinator with the Penticton Okanagan Rotary Club.
“It’s a lofty goal. We hope that by bringing students in and helping them understand people are the same everywhere, and getting to understand and make friends and by living in a country, they’ll understand more about that country.
“The more understanding you have of people from different countries, the less likely you are to want to kill them, basically.”
For more information on Rotary International, visit www.rotary.org.