Paul’s Blog #6
The Influence of Rotary Youth Exchange on My Life
November 1, 2019
It’s been a lot of fun being able to get out and speak about my experiences in Kanazawa and our world that are emblematic of the people and opportunities that have allowed me to be a partner in the creation of Kanazawa Adventures.
On May 25, I had the chance to speak at the Annual National Convention of Japanese Rotary Youth Exchange Program Leaders, which was held at the Ishikawa Music Hall.
The chance to reflect about Rotary Exchange, the chances it brought me and lifelong connections it continues to provide me, proved emotional and empowering. Not only did many local Rotarians come out and show their support for me, a group of Nisui high school classmates and longtime local and basketball friends to come out to encourage me.
Also, I had a chance to bring in a former Rotary Youth Exchange student, who’s now the President of the Crawley Rotary Club, near Perth, Australia. Regan Ashley and I met on the Ship for World Youth, he, as a participant in 2015 and the Head of the Australian Delegation in 2019, and I, as a course facilitator. Regan’s high school Rotary year in Nagasaki has been the bellwether inspiration for numerous opportunities and the impetus for Regan’s ever-expanding global vision and career aspirations.
After the meeting I met many supportive Rotarians who had been exchange students themselves. One Rotarian’s daughter had played basketball on her exchange to Canada and she is still connected to her Sault Ste. Marie teammates.
Another unexpected meeting was with the Rotary Youth Exchange Head from Aomori, Fumito Okutani. Okutani san was a participant in the Ship for World Youth (SWY) 4, a Japanese government program on which I represented Canada on SWY 3. Okutani san was also the Japanese National Leader on SWY 9 and I’ve been fortunate to teach empowerment and leadership on SWYs 28-31. Our common threads of applicability of SWY and Rotary Youth Exchange were further examples of a Rotary meeting strengthening and growing our global spiderwebs of interconnectedness.
What would my life be like if not for the Rotary Youth Exchange program? What if I had not met people like Akio Kitagawa, the man in charge of the Ishikawa-Toyama Youth Exchange Committee, who gave me numerous professional, personal, vocational, and cultural-educational chances and support? What of the Matsumoto, Takematsu, Asada, Yamamiya, Koikeda, and Yamada families, to name but a few? How about the basketball club at Nisui high school and my mates who gave me the opportunity to speak a language on the court that needed no words; an outlet to feel as though I was able to communicate?
If not for my family and these people and the opportunities for growth that they and many others provided me, I think I’d be locked up in some prison, somewhere, with no hope of physical or mental escape. My year as a Rotary Youth Exchange Student in Kanazawa, Japan, is the springboard and pillar that has been the inspiration of my life.