Please see the note below from our District 7620 Youth Exchange Acting Chair.
Dear Club Youth Exchange Officers, Counselors, Volunteers, and Rotarians:
This is an email I’d hoped never to write. It is with heartfelt sadness that I tell you that Rotary Youth Exchange has been cancelled for 2020-2021, for all Inbound and Outbound exchanges under the ESSEX organization in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. ESSEX is Rotary’s multi-district organization in Bermuda, the Eastern U.S., and Quebec, that facilitates Youth Exchange and to which District 7620 is a member.
This is a huge disappointment. We can only imagine our students’ disappointments that their dreams for the upcoming year will not happen. This decision was made by ESSEX’s Executive Committee two weeks ago. They weighed all available information and took this decision remembering that our program’s primary directive is to keep students safe and protected. Their decision is both safe and prudent as we do not know enough about COVID-19 in regards to treatment, how long countries will be shut down, and a myriad of other issues presenting to the world.
Pictures from our last YEP event with the students below.
The District Youth Exchange Committee has now talked with each of our seven Outbound students by phone, and also emailed messages to them and their parents. There have been tears and tears. Five younger students have already expressed a desire to defer participation and to go abroad the following year. We’ll do our best to keep these students engaged and to make their deferments possible. It’s very gratifying and consoling to receive such affirmation from these young people and their parents, especially during these uncertain days. Two other students will be graduating high school this spring and will be too old to defer their participation. We’re very sorry to lose them.
Last week we were dealing with students’ initial reactions and working to support them. Although students are already asking, it’s too early to know what the 2021-2022 cycle will look like — recruiting, applications, country options, etc. A couple of working ideas we’ve got is that students who choose to defer might be allowed to submit simply an updated application and not need to be interviewed again. We’ll work to be as creative as possible. We’ll also develop a special calendar for the next few months and work to keep good communications with our students and you, as their sponsors. We’ll also look forward to a special event once it’s safe to socialize, perhaps a barbecue.
If your club was planning to host a student during 2020-2021, ESSEX will take the responsibility for notifying these students’ sponsor districts and clubs. You and your club do not need to do anything.
In keeping with Rotary’s spirit of building goodwill, we are in the process of refunding all program fees paid by students’ families. In the next several days the District Youth Exchange Committee will be reviewing its finances, including Club Sponsorship fees. Although we don’t know whether or not we can make adjustments to Sponsorship fees, if your club sponsored a student this year and that same student reapplies, you will not be double-billed a sponsorship fee.
Again, thank you for recommending your students to Rotary Youth Exchange and for all your support. To the clubs who hosted students during 2019-2020, thank you. To our many volunteers, thank you. Our Inbound and Outbound students are exceptional teenagers.
If I’ve overlooked sending this message to someone, my apologies. Please share this message with other Rotarians and volunteers. If you or any of your members have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.
Stay safe and be well.
Yours in Rotary,
Ric Meyer, Rotary Club of Annapolis, YEP Acting Chair