Surrounded by hippies and drowned out by the sounds of the ‘60s, Yaika Zeeman and Tara Zerbe looked like they had misdialed the destination on their time machine at the Rotary Club of Peachland’s annual fundraiser Saturday night, June 4.
The high school students were there representing one of the Crown jewels of Rotary philanthropy: the international exchange program.
Zeeman, 18, spoke to the Peachland View just weeks shy of heading back to her hometown of Zand, Holland, after 10 months of Okanagan immersion. Zerbe, 17, likewise is preparing to leave for Denmark.
“It’s really bittersweet,” the bright-eyed teen said. “I want to go home because it’s been a long time since I’ve seen my family, but on the other hand to leave all of this behind is hard. I mean, you build a life in 10 months and now you have to leave it again.”
Zeeman toured “a little bit,” including visits to Vancouver and Vancouver Island. Since the Peachland club’s turf extends into the United States, she was able to experience life south of the border with a trip to Oregon. She recalled a rock-climbing excursion as among her favourite memories of the exchange.
Rotary Club of Peachland president Chris Boyle was thrilled with the turnout to the club’s singular fundraiser. All 200 $50 tickets were sold and the silent auction, at first blush, appeared to raise more than $12,000 itself.
“There’s a whole welter of projects we have,” he said, explaining where the money goes. “We have a project with (Vancouver-based) Hands Up For Africa. Also, the Volcanes Community Education Project (VCEP) project helps young people develop skills into school, through to secondary school and into life. They currently have a sewing factory going and we helped to establish that with funding for equipment.”
Closer to home, Rotary has supported the summer reading program at the local elementary school. The exchange program, however, remains probably the highest-profile charity function of the organization, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2017.
“They learn a new language and become proficient in it and develop all sorts of connections through the program which will stand them in good stead for the rest of their life,” he said, “a network that is far larger than it would be when they left school because they’re meeting kids from all over the world.”