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Reflection | The Better Way!

publication date: Aug 22, 2019
author/source: Chris Synder

Pat and I, our daughter Heather, son Stuart and his wife Jordan recently spent some time with a Rotary exchange student (Amy) from Japan. She was staying with our other daughter Jennifer and her family, (Jason, Hannah and Sam), in Canton, New York.

Amy arrived last August and has just returned home to Osaka. Most of the costs of the exchange were covered by Rotarians and other volunteers.

During that time, she has lived with three families, participating in family activities. She went to the local high school, making new friends, and became involved in the community. She learned the basics of cross-country skiing, skating and snowshoeing. She went to New York City, saw small town America and was back and forth to Canada a number of times, including visiting Ottawa, Kingston and Montreal. What an amazing experience for a 17/18-year-old, our family and others who connected with her!

Amy was only one of a number of exchange students from seven different countries coming to this area of Northern New York State and Canada (Kingston east).

In fact, over 8000 students, 17 and 18 from 80 countries, participate in this Rotary exchange every year. The impact on these young people is profound and life-altering, not only for the students, but also to all who come in contact with them. All of this makes for a better and more understanding world. Watching all of this, I was proud to be a Rotarian.

As I witnessed this, I could not help thinking about a certain American who seems determined to pull the world apart and create divisions and hatred one tweet at a time. What is worse: he is followed by millions who seem to think this is a good thing to do.

While I have not seen any statistics, my guess is only a few of his followers have done much traveling. Their view of the bigger world is what appears on TV and their main opinion of people from other countries is, “They are a threat to my job.”

As I think about this more, I have come to realize it is what goes on below the political chaos and rhetoric that counts most. To generalize, examples of people with a more accepting view can include:

• those who look for things we have in common with others

• people associated with Rotary exchanges

• other exchange programs, mostly school-related

• those who have ongoing contact with people in other countries, particularly family

• those who travel to other places

• people in business and government who work with others in different countries and with different ethnic origins

• those who read about people from other places, participate in international associations, and go to conferences

• it is also those from diverse backgrounds who work or go to school together

The common theme in all of these situations is meeting and communicating with people from diverse backgrounds.

As Will Rogers, the much beloved Native American humorist once said, (I paraphrase)

"I met someone the other day I did not like. I need to get to know him better."

Chris Snyder, CFP, RFP is the author of Creating Opportunities - A Volunteer's Memoir. Chris is one of the early pioneers in the Canadian financial planning world. Chris understands that while much of life revolves around money; life is about much more than that. He has been a founder and/or board member of many charitable organizations including Project Mainstream in India, Street Kids International and Bakong Technical College in Cambodia, the Canadian Landmine Foundation, Toronto's Youth Employment Services, the Nature Conservancy of Canada(Ont) and Alpine Ontario. A long-time member of the Rotary Club of Toronto, he leads groups of Rotarians to the developing world to build schools and lead other valuable community projects. Most recently he has been working on First Nations initiatives and is the founding chair of HIP (Honouring Indigenous Peoples). In 2018, Chris was awarded the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers in recognition of his many contributions to volunteering in various communities. He can be reached at

Buy your own copy of Creating Opportunities - A Volunteer's Memoir.


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