Exchange Program with Northern Ireland Brings Humanitarian Benefits to Highland Park/Highwood Youngsters

The" four-way test" asks whether what we do will build better friendships and be beneficial to all concerned. A Highland Park/Highwood Rotary Club's international project does just that. Since 1993, in cooperation with the Rotary Club of Belfast, Northern Ireland, the club has sponsored exchanges of high school students, teachers, and Rotarians.

With the problems in Northern Ireland between Catholics and Protestants, club members have strived to create understanding and tolerance between the two factions, while at the same time creating awareness of the issues for students and teachers in the Chicago area.

In odd years the club sends a delegation to Northern Ireland, and in even years the Irish come to Illinois. The travelers usually consist of six high school students (sophomores or juniors), a faculty chaperone, and three Rotarians from the sponsoring club. Housing is provided by local families. Where possible, those providing housing have teenagers in the household.

The students are chosen by high school faculty, based on an essay stating reasons for wanting to make the trip and personal interviews. Often the travelers are meeting each other for the first time (aside from a brief orientation meeting).

The agenda includes visits to high schools, government bodies, the hosting Rotary Club, and the requisite sightseeing and social events. In past years, Protestant and Catholic students from Belfast were meeting for the first time. The club has received positive comments from attendees as to the value of the trip in breaking down stereotypes and discrediting hateful myths, as well as fostering understanding going forward. Students from the US have come away with an understanding of how sectarian, religious, and racial strife arises and the difficulties in combating it.

Overall, club members feel that although the project makes but a small step toward global understanding, it is one that must happen if we are to live in a world free of hatred and bigotry.

Medical Equipment in turkey

The club also raises funds for a Rotary club in Turkey for medical equipment in a hospital.