Rotary Club of Belfast

Group Study Exchange

This programme closed at end June 2013.

The Group Study Exchange Programme was a unique short-term cultural and vocational exchange programme between districts in different countries for non-Rotarian business and professional men and women between the ages of 25 and 40 who were in the early stages of their careers. It was designed to develop skills among young adults, so that they could address the needs of their communities in an increasingly global workplace.

Rotary districts in different countries were paired and travel grants provided for teams to exchange visits. For four to six weeks, a Rotarian team leader and 4-6 non-Rotarian team members experienced the host country's culture and institutions, observed how their vocations were practised abroad, developed personal and professional relationships and exchanged ideas. In a typical four-week tour, applicants participated in five full days of vocational visits, 15 to 20 club presentations, 10 to 15 formal visits and social events, two to three days at the District Conference and free time with host families who were Rotarians in the local area.

At a District level the Club has always been active in the Group Study Exchange Programme and most years has acted as host for incoming teams for part of their visits. This has included teams from the USA, Australia, Japan and Canada and some of these have resulted in long term friendships developing. The Club has also nominated members of the outgoing Irish Exchange Teams.

01.team2013The 2013 outgoing District 1160 Group Study Exchange was to the South Island of New Zealand and the team was hosted by 8 District 9980 clubs.

This was the last Rotary Group Study Exchange in its present format. The team was selected by District 1160 and led by Club Past President Marnette Lyons.

It comprised of 4 young business and professional men & women from across Ireland– (from left) Peter Cardwell, Caroline Moran, team leader Marnette Lyons, Gillian McAtackney and Catherine Renfrew - who all bonded and blended together extremely well. The Club are particularly delighted that one of the selected team members was the Club nominee Peter Cardwell.

During their intensive and busy 5 week trip they

  • stayed with 9 host families (each)
  • made 12 presentations and
  • attended the 3 District Conference days.

03.intervieweeA significant part of the exchange is to participate in Vocational Days and experience a similar working environment in a different culture. Peter Cardwell was delighted that for one of his vocational days, with special permission from RI, he was able to travel to Christchurch and spend his day interviewing some of the NI workers rebuilding after the earthquake. It was shown on UTV Live on his return. District 9980 in New Zealand had also arranged for Marnette to have a separate very interesting vocational day in Christchurch where she met the leader of the design and planning team, who also was a landscape architect, was responsible for the planning and design of rebuilding the centre of the city and staff of the city council, and members of a private landscape architecture firm. The devastation of the centre of Christchurch was greater than expected with some high rise building still to be demolished. Several small shops, cafes, banks and other services in the city centre are accommodated in modified shipping containers.

06.demolition 05.demolition 07.christchurchmall

It was an extremely successful Exchange enjoyed by the team members and hosts alike. Peter Cardwell gave a lively and fascinating presentation to the Club on Monday 20 June of his montage of memories.

They began the Exchange at the south of South Island NZ in Milton where they visited sheep and dairy farms learning that even the growth of the grass is computerised for grass management. They also visited a woollen mill producing different yarns from a variety of sheep, especially the famous up country Marino sheep. They were introduced to a mix of Marino wool and Possium which produces very light weight and warm garments and is only available in New Zealand.

10.Dunedin Club11.rotaryAt Dunedin they were honoured to make a presentation at the 90 birthday celebrations of the local Rotary Club. Each member of the team had very interesting vocational opportunities and Catherine was able to join the graduate students in a special lecture on paediatric dentistry. On ANZAC day the team was pleased to attend the outdoor dawn service at the Cenotaph in Dunedin and were encouraged to see so many young people there. As it was a public holiday the day was relaxed and a wonderful day was spend together with all the host families visiting the beach and taking a trip on the Monarch where fur seals, yellow eye penguins and the Royal Albatross were seen not only in flight but also feeding their young.

13.Dunedin Lord MayorThey presented to Dunedin Lord Mayor Dave Cull  the Coat of Arms of Belfast from the Lord Mayor and citizens of Belfast. 

In Timaru the team met different Rotary clubs each day. They visited the Peel Forest Estate Stud in Geraldine, home of the exclusive Furzeland deer herd. The farm engages remarkable state-of-the-art breeding technology and cross herd genetic analysis to maximise genetic gain thus it has established itself as an important source of world-class red deer genetics. Some of the team were taken out of their comfort zone when it was time for some physical challenges including climbing and walking high wires.

Team members, who did not enjoy flying, soon changed their minds when Timaru North club took them on an air safari of Mount Cook in a 8 seater plane. The weather conditions were perfect with a clear blue sky and they found the views of Lake Tekapo, the braided Godley River the snow-capped Alps and glaziers were breath taking.

After the flight a visit was made to the beautiful Glenmore High Country Station, home of the daughter of one of the host families and which farms 10,000 Marino sheep, also Marino Stud, Angus cattle and Red deer on 19,000 acres. Travelling back through the Mackenzie Basin they noted the Memorial trees, one for every soldier in the area, were in fall colour. These trees are maintained by Rotarians in District 9980.

19.45wayIn Timaru the team members all had a vocational day when as noted Peter and Marnette, travelled to Christchurch. The team's next stop was at Cromwell's wine and fruit region, where vocational day included visits to a local newspaper in Alexandra, Winpro Wine Bottling, Central Otago District Council, a landscape planners practice and a dental practice. The team climbed the path being constructed by the local Rotary club to the 45th parallel (which made it half way between the equator and the South Pole).

Next stop was Queenstown where a spectacular trip was made on the famous TSS Earnslaw (Twin Screw Steamer) which is the last surviving steamship of a long line of steamers that have graced the waters of Lake Wakatipu. The team luckily had a beautiful clear day to admire the unique and stunning scenery around the lake before arriving at Walter Peek farm for afternoon tea and a walk around the farm and watching sheep shearing .

Whilst at Queenstown the team members had a mid-term break and also fitted in a jet boat ride on the Stopover River, the Gondla, the luge, a visit to Arrowtown and some shopping.

23.controlIt was then on to Te anau hosted by the Rotary Club of Fiordland on the shores of Lake Te Anay, the largest lake in South Island. Time was spent at Milford Road Avalanche Control Centre learning about the severe weather conditions along the upper parts of the road and how the team worked to keep the road open, using helicopters and road vehicles. The team then travelled along the road taking in its magnificent scenery on the way to Milford Sound. At Milford Sound the team took a cruise and drew in the spectacular scenery of water falls up to 1 mile high, majestic peaks and wildlife including fur seals which put on a display in the water.

At Gore the team visited a stud sheep farm and the Hokonui Moonshine Museum and Art Gallery. They went to the Croydon Aircraft Company where they saw classic aircraft being restored and some rebuilt. Adjacent to the company was the vintage aircraft museum and it was not long before they spotted the airworthy 1942 Tiger moth. After lunch the weather improved making it just perfect for a flight in the Tiger moth when all the team experienced loop the loop and other aerobatic manoeuvres. Following this one team member totally lost her fear of flying! While staying in Gore as part of a vocation day Peter and Marnette talked on the local radio where they tried to teach the Irish meaning of 'craic'!

21.NZpaperThe team's last designation was Invercargill where they met Mayor Tim Shadbolt, visited Stirling Point and saw the sculpture of the Tatura of the south which was presented by Invercargill Rotary Clubs as a Millennium project. The next day they flew to Stewart Island and from there took a water taxi to Ulva Island. The visit was also highlighted in the local press.

29.conf3After another interesting vocational day for each of the team members it was time for the District conference which had the theme "Wild 45". It was a fun conference with lots of variety and surprise with even the town's Mayor arriving to give his presentation on a Harley Davidson! District Governor John even closed the conference with the Irish Blessing.

The team thank The Rotary Foundation, the Rotarians in District 1160 and 9980 and especially all the host families and clubs involved.

A Gallery of some of the pictures taken on the visit.

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