Rotary Youth Exchange and Family Connections

Jonathan Ordoñez was an exchange student to Idaho 2009-2010 from the town of Bahia de Caraquez on the Ecuadorian coast.  There is a story on how this came to be.

A team of Rotarians visited Bahia in 2006.  This small Rotary club of perhaps 25 members has done incredible work including establishing a micro bank, providing scholarships to very poor students to allow them to attend grade school, a clean water system and a sewage system.  Clubs from our District 5400 helped to finance these projects. We all became friends with Jorge and Terezenie Ordoñez, each of whom had been president of the club and who have hearts of gold.

In the spring of 2008 a new team from our Boise club including Tami Chafin, Terry Gustavel and Mason Fuller travelled to Ecuador to learn more about the possibility of our working together. They met Jorge and Terezenie and their family. Their son Jonathan was a senior in high school at the time. Tami, being Tami, volunteered on the spot to set up an exchange so Jonathan could come to Boise.

With the help of our incredible District Youth Exchange Committee, the exchange was put in place and Jonathan arrived in Boise in August of 2009.  Amy and I were his host family for the spring of 2010.  Of course, we bonded with this delightful young man.  And to make it even more special, Jorge and Terzenie were able to come to  Boise for Jonathan’s graduation from  Boise High School and then attend our District Conference.  They stayed with Amy and me while they were in Boise.

Now flash forward to Monday, April 2, 2012.  Jonathan is back in Ecuador, in his second year of architecture school at a university here in Quito.  And, Maddie Cullen, son of our member Marty Cullen is in Quito attending high school as a Rotary youth exchange student from Idaho.

Jorge and Terezenie picked me up about 11 am Monday morning for a family reunion.  They had driven to Quito to see me on Sunday, a six hour drive.  This is like one of us driving to Salt Lake to reconnect with a youth exchange family. We then picked up Maddie who was waiting for us at a local shopping center, and Jonathan at his unversity.

We all drove to the home of Terezenie’s brother where we were treated to a superb seafood luncheon.  Jorge and Terezenie had brought the sea food with them from Bahia. We started with a shrimp cocktail, but with some kind of superb home made sauce, none of that red stuff out of a bottle we use in the US. This was followed by lobsters and a delicious white fish, accompanied by small potatoes, rice and a chardonay from Chile.

I sat back and watched with pleasure as Maddie, who spoke little Spanish when she arrived participated fully in the conversation, and as Jonathan chimed in in English. Maddie is clearly comfortable in the culture.

Later in the afternoon we picked up Jonathan’s sister, Andrea at the Marriott Hotel where she began an internship yesterday associated with her university program in tourism.  She did a youth exchange with a Rotary club in Half Moon Bay California. We were also joined by their 19 year old cousin Stephanie who is in her first year studying international business.  Then the seven of us toured the old city again.

What a joy it was to see these four 19 and 20 year olds discussing the world, easily switching between Spanish and English.  Jorge, Terezenie and I just watched with love and amazement at the difference our rotary youth exchange has made with these three families (Amy’s and mine, Jorge and Terezenie’s and the Cullens’).

Thanks to our hard working Youth Exchange team who make such thing possible in our District and to all the host families who take these young people into their homes and their hearts.  And Amy and I and her boys Quinn and Drew are looking forward to next year when we will host a young man from  Turkey and open a door to another part of the world.