International Rotary Friendship Exchanges

A program that gives Rotarians the opportunity to visit Rotarians around the world and to host Rotarians in return.
What are the benefits of an exchange to a Rotarian or a Club?
  • Broaden international understanding
  • Experience other cultures, people, languages, customs and history.
  • Build enduring friendships
  • Establish a strong foundation for active project involvement and support
  • Find partners for grants
Friendship Exchanges foster cooperation between clubs of different countries, involvement in International and local projects, and strong bonds not only on humanitarian but also on a personal level.
The networking developed through friendship exchanges helps with the implementation of global or smaller projects, building on Rotary reach. 
To and from South Africa
Canadian Rotarians en route in South Africa
Twelve Rotarians from four clubs in Kingston and Gananoque participated in a Friendship Exchange trip in October 2017 to South Africa as organized by the Rotary Club of Cataraqui-Kingston and District 9400 in South Africa .For two weeks we were hosted in the homes of South African Rotarians. The group quickly became acquainted with daily life in South Africa, the present, the past, and the people of the country. We visited cultural and natural wonders. With a local renowned geologist we followed the Archaean Period Geotrail near the town of Barberton.
We visited the Cullinan Diamond mine near Pretoria, the Apartheid Museum and Mandela House in Johannesburg and viewed the Cradle of Humankind, the nearby World Heritage Site. Club meetings were attended and banners exchanged. We were taken to different projects such as the Masoi School for mentally challenged children as well as to a book project in White River. The Pretoria Mapula Embroidery center creates income for 145 women. Here we had the opportunity to purchase very colourful African handiwork. In Johannesburg the group visited the Youth Drug Rehabilitation Centre, a RC Morningside project started in a squatter camp but now housed in modern facilities. A previous Friendship Exchange from Alberta resulted in the RC of Grande Prairie sponsoring its sports& gym equipment. RC Morningside, one of our  host clubs during the RFE has a longstanding relationship with RC Cataraqui Kingston and over the years we have partnered in four of their projects, the latest one being food boxes for the underprivileged during this Covid pandemic. Many fellowship events were organized either at the homes of Rotarians, such as a braai ( barbeque) overlooking the scenic mountain area of God’s Window and Blyde Canyon, or at interesting venues like a lunch in a Shebeen ( drinking house) in Soweto. On the last evening Canadians and South Africans enjoyed a classical music concert performed jointly by the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra and the guest Kwa Zulu Natal Philharmonic . According to the general consensus the highlight of the trip was the three-day safari in the bush with many wildlife close encounters.
At the end of June 2018 the return Friendship Exchange group came to Canada. Ten South African Rotarians from seven clubs in District 9400 were hosted by Rotarians in Kingston, Niagara Falls and Renfrew. They were met on arrival at Toronto Airport by a delegation of Kingston and Gananoque Rotarians. Accompanied by two of them they made their way to Niagara Falls for a three day stay of sightseeing and Rotary events such as the Club’s New Rotary year induction meeting with banner exchange and fellowship at the Concert in the Park.  The South Africans arrived in Kingston in time for Canada Day which was duly celebrated in the company of the Town Crier. They took a trolley tour and hopped off at the Art Fest to enjoy a beer at the Rotary Waterfront Beer tent (a fundraising project) and evening dinner at the Yacht club watching the fireworks. During their Kingston stay the South African Exchange group took a three day side trip to Ottawa accompanied by their host Rotarians.
South African Rotarians visiting the Parliament Building in Ottawa
This turned out to be one of the highlights of their trip. They were plunged in Canadian history, arts and culture and enjoyed pleasant walks and excellent food. When visiting the Parliament Buildings their guide turned out to be a Rotaractor from Vancouver (as cleverly organized by one of the host Rotarians) which made for amazing interaction. He had completed a student exchange program to France and the French language he learned during that year created the opportunity for his summer job as tour guide.  Next came Renfrew for a few days of excellent hospitality, visit of the Haemodialysis Clinic project, sightseeing and concert at Batstone’s Northern Ramble. Then back to Kingston for a last project visit and fond farewells.
During this Friendship Exchange the South Africans were treated to typical Canadian hospitality with amongst others a Country Cottage day at the home of  hosts in Kingston, enjoying water sports and Canadian smoked food , a BBQ at the President’s elect home in Niagara Falls as well as in at the Club President’s home in Gananoque . In Kingston RC Cataraqui welcomed them with a party at the home of hosts and wished them a safe flight back with farewell pot luck at the club president’s home. Fellowship and sightseeing took the form of different concerts, a theatre evening in Gananoque,a St Lawrence cruise, the Hornblower cruise in Niagara Falls and the visit of many museums in different cities with perhaps the Museum of Science and Technology in Ottawa standing out .The international Rotarians were also introduced to several local projects of different clubs including  the following projects of RC Cataraqui Kingston: The Mess Open Art Studio , the Indigenous Language Nest and Camp Merrywood.
Whereas the exchanges between South Africa and Canada were mostly based on fellowship, culture, tourism and local projects, the Friendship Exchange to India turned out to be a celebration of Rotary with the 90th anniversary of RC Madras and was very much focused on global grant projects present and future, all in an atmosphere of age old Indian culture and present modernism.
To India
In February 2019 twelve Rotarians from RC Cataraqui Kingston and the Passport Club participated in a Friendship Exchange to Chennai as organized by the Rotary Club of Cataraqui-Kingston and District 3232 in India. They were hosted by two Rotary Clubs in Chennai and attended the 90th anniversary celebrations of RC Madras.
RC Madras 90th anniversary celebrations
The very formal event took place in the ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Chennai. Other international groups and the “Group of 1929 Clubs “were also invited. All invitees received a traditional welcome shawl, draped over their shoulders by the RC Madras president and many awards were handed out. A buffet dinner and unlimited bar followed the formal program and allowed for great fellowship. During the first week in Chennai most of the time was taken up by project visits, club meetings and typical Indian meals. RC Cataraqui Kingston has a longstanding and strong relationship with the clubs of the Chennai region and is an international partner of many of their Global Grants. And so we visited several of these projects such as the Bone Bank Project at Adyar, the Aravind Eye Care project,
the Children’s Heart Surgeries where children from as young as two weeks old undergo successful heart surgery. We attended the inauguration of phase 1 of the Kannan Kottai Village toilets where RC Cataraqui Kingston’s International Service Chair was the guest of honour.
Each house had its own private brick toilet built in its backyard. The group was also taken to prospective projects. We had a traditional lunch in the refectory of “Boystown”, a school for disadvantaged rural youth. Sitting at very long tables, lunch is served on a banana leaf and consists of rice, feather light dumplings and array of delicious spicy chutneys, to be scooped up with your right hand. The one week in Chennai was followed by a week’s tour of the Tamil Nadu province with its interesting history and architecture. Here also several project visits were planned along the way. This proved to be a bit much for some of the tour participants and the Tamil Nadu program was amended. We joined the meetings at several clubs, enjoyed numerous cultural sites and discovered the cities of Pondicherry, Thanjavur (the city of temples), Karaikudi and Madurai. Visiting many temples, we took off our shoes and treaded lightly in order not to disturb the worshippers. The tour was guided by Rotarians of Chennai.
A return Friendship Exchange from Chennai to Kingston and other Canadian cities was foreseen for October 2020.  Due to the Covid pandemic this has not materialized.
However, through contact and conversation the Indian Rotarians became interested in the FAR project in Kingston and after a private visit of two RC Madras Chenna Patna Rotarians to Kingston in the summer of 2019, several Chennai Rotary Clubs are now partners in this Global Grant project.