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ROTARY CLUB NEWS: The joys of participating in youth exchange

December 29, 2017
By CHANDLER RALPH - Lake Placid Rotary Club , Lake Placid News

At a recent Lake Placid Rotary Club meeting, Carol Hunter, Rotary Youth Exchange Director (District 7040) gave a presentation on the benefits of adopting a youth exchange program for our chapter.

Just hearing Carol speak about this incredible opportunity, brought back some strong, warm and heartfelt memories.

Back in 1993 when I was working in Watertown, New York, I was an active member of the Watertown Rotary Club. The idea of participating in this wonderful student exchange program definitely appealed to my husband, David, and me. So we committed to hosting the club's exchange student in our home for six months, from January through June.

Article Photos

Chandler Ralph, right, with her adopted European daughter, Babeth
(Photo provided)

We felt privileged and fortunate to host Elizabeth DeVaux (Babeth) from Belgium.

The first night she was with us was undoubtedly the most challenging. She came downstairs from her bedroom crying and sharing how homesick she felt. It was then that I looked at David and wondered what we had let ourselves in for. Perhaps, a little more than we had bargained for.

Thank goodness, it didn't take long before Babeth felt more at home with us, and day by day, week by week, our relationship grew from strength to strength.

Naturally, we exchanged traditions and cultural differences. We compared our educational, political and health care systems. She definitely thought that prom was strange. Our diverse conversations helped to enrich, enhance and improve our understanding of each other's countries and backgrounds.

Since Babeth was with us for such a short period of time, we wanted to expose her to as much of the Adirondacks as we could. We made several area excursions sharing the beauty of this remarkable area, as well as spending some special time at our farm in Gansevoort. Obviously, no trip to the U.S. is complete without the Disney World experience to visit "the Mouse."

June came around quicker than expected. By that time, we had formed such strong bonds that parting was filled with much sadness and tears. I'm not sure who cried more, David or I! However, on the flip side, we appreciated the feeling of great joy that we had been blessed to have Babeth in our life, even it was for just a short period.

It has been 23 years since this wonderful experience with the Rotary Youth Exchange program. We still keep in close touch with each other via Skype, Facebook, and emails.

Babeth is now married to Gregoire, a perfect husband for her, and together they have a remarkable son, Charlie. She has her own physical therapy business and has become quite successful.

At least every other year we travel to the Netherlands to visit my sister, who lives in Amsterdam, and we never miss the opportunity to reunite with our adopted European daughter Babeth and her family.

We will forever be grateful that Rotary provided us with this unique opportunity.

Rotary's fourth "Avenue of Service" is International service aimed at advancing international understanding and goodwill. Our incredible experience with the program certainly achieved this in a small, yet extremely meaningful way.

 
 

 

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