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Rotary Youth Exchange student returns home after year in Finland

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    The Rotary Youth Exchange program gives the promise to participants of learning a new way of living, a great deal about themselves, maybe even a new language. It also gives people the opportunity to be an ambassador, teaching people about their country, culture, and ideas.
    “You can help bring the world closer – and make some good friends in the process,” they say about the program on their site.
    Drumhellerite Lian Lister has just returned from a year long Rotary Youth Exchange trip in Finland, sponsored by the Drumheller Rotary Club. When The Mail spoke to her about her experiences, it is clear that the Rotary Youth Exchange program kept its promise.
    There she attended high school, lived with three host families and got to discover the world through Rotary organized tours in Europe and learned about herself in a way and depth she hadn’t anticipated.
    A determined person, Lian crammed three years of high school into two to get her Alberta diploma before leaving. She knew she wanted to stay somewhere in Europe but hadn’t expected to be assigned to Finland.
    “It wasn’t my first choice of destination, but I really wanted to go to Europe. I didn’t know what to expect about Finland, because I knew nothing about Finland before I left.  As it turned out, I was so glad I went to this country people don’t really know about, because I know that otherwise I would have never gone there. I can even speak a bit of Finnish now!”
    Filled with fear and excitement about what was awaiting her, Lister flew off to Finland a year ago, and told The Mail she came back a more worldy woman.
    “The trip has broadened my horizons. It sounds a bit cliche, but I have lived in Drumheller my whole life, and I was really looking forward to travelling and seeing what else the world had to offer me. I really feel like I have learned a lot, not just about Finland but other countries as well because I met so many exchange students and we were really like a big family from all over the world, so I really got a perspective about different cultures and how we interact, similarities and differences.”
    It wasn’t easy though at the start, she explains she felt overwhelmed at first, the different language being a barrier, she found the country itself very similar to where she came from.
                “It looks very similar, the nature is very much the same. I thought I was going to be so cold going so far north, but it wasn’t any colder than I am used to here,” she laughs.
    “I didn’t know any Finnish when I went there, it was terrifying, it really was, being there, not understanding the language or the culture and not knowing anyone, it was really really scary,” she remembers.
    “I feel like I have changed so much and grown so much as a person. I missed home so much in the beginning, it took me a few months to get over that. Everything was so new and overwhelming, families were doing things so differently from my own family, that made me miss my own family but it also made me appreciate what I have here.”
    She plunged into Finnish life, attending one of the top high schools in the country, took classes, and even decided to take exams at the end of the year.
    “I didn’t have to take any exams but did a few anyway.  The papers were given to me in English, although I was expecting to get them in Finnish!”
    She studied math, physics, english, geography and music classes during her year there and was taken aback by the school system, saying it was a really good system and highlighting most people could speak english, so it made it easier for her.
    “I was doing well in school here but there, their schooling is really tough. They have to apply to get into their high school, and it depends on their marks in junior high. I went to one of the top school in the country so the students there were there to study. The classes were intense.”
    Part of the Rotary exchange program is to be an ambassador for your country. This, Lian says, was what she enjoyed the most.
    She gave presentations about her country and says she felt more comfortable up in front of a classroom giving a presentation than she did in the school surrounded by people that she didn’t know or understand.
    “Actually they don’t know anything about Canada just like we don’t know anything about Finland. I told them about Canada and where I am from, Alberta, talked about Drumheller and dinosaurs. I really liked doing it. Over there I felt more Canadian than I ever have. I felt so proud to be a Canadian, I had never felt that before. How great life is here and how blessed we are, how fortunate we are with everything we have here. I think going abroad makes you have a stronger identity.”
    Now back home, adjusting to life again and the reverse culture shock as she describes it - “it’s weird to hear people speak English and be able to understand!” she laughs - she is already planning a return trip in a few years, to meet up with the many new friends she has made.
    “My new friends were the hardest ones to leave. I’m looking forward to seeing them again.”

Rotary White Elephant Sale coming up July 24,25

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    After a few years hiatus the Rotary Clubs White Elephant sale is back this July.
    This was a mainstay of the Rotary Club for many years, and this summer it returns Saturday and Sunday, July 24 and 25.
    The concept is simple. Residents are invited to donate Items they no longer use, and the Rotary Club will come and pick it up. On the weekend of the event, everyone is invited to come and wheel and deal the best buy they can. The proceeds from the sale go toward the many local projects the Drumheller Rotary does in the community.
    This year’s event will be held at the former Liquidation World space in Greentree Mall donated by the Drumheller Co-op
    Historically the White Elephant Sale was held at the Drumheller Memorial Arena, and the Town of Drumheller and the Rotary Club worked hard to make that happen again, however, they just couldn’t make the timing work.
    “The vacant space at Greentree Mall will be excellent for our purposes, and we’re grateful to the Drumheller Co-op for this donation,” said event chair Jay Garbutt.
    Garbutt said now is the time to book an appointment for members of the Rotary Club and volunteers to pick up a donation to the White Elephant Sale. They will be available in the evenings on Monday to Thursday next week preceding the sale to pickup items. Residents can make an appointment by calling 403-823-4407 or 403-823-0680.
    “We’ll also be open at the mall to accept drop-offs that week for anyone able to bring in their items,” adds Garbutt.
    This is the perfect time for residents to rummage through their basement or garage for useful items they no longer need.
    Garbutt explains while they are appreciative of all donations, however there are some stipulations. He says the Rotary cannot accept mattresses, cribs, children’s car seats and computers for safety, sanitary and security reasons.
    That leaves myriad of other items ranging from housewares and large appliances to clothing, tools and sporting goods.

Tourism Master Plan expected to complete by January 2011

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    Identified  as part of Council’s top five priorities for 2010, the Tourism Master Plan for the valley is expected to be completed by January 2011, according to a press release.
    Malone Given Parsons Ltd (MGP), appointed to work with the tourism industry in Drumheller to develop the plan, will be reviewing the town’s and their partners’ current economic development and tourism strategies with a view to creating a new, single consolidated and revised document that encompasses all tourism components and responds to the shifting economic climate.
    In the press release, Mayor Bryce Nimmo stated, “As one of the hubs for the Canadian Badlands we need to ensure that we are leaders in the tourism industry. We have close to a half a million visitors to the valley every year and we have a large role to play in growing this industry.”
    Funded through the Rural Alberta Development Fund obtained from the Canadian Badlands Ltd, some of the components in the Tourism Master Plan will include:
Providing recommendations for planning, operational and capital investment requirements to realize tourism goals.
Include recommendations for green space or parks buf    fer areas to minimize negative impact on residents as a result of increased tourism visitation.
Include Way Finding Signage.
Identify market opportuni    ties (art and culture tourism, shoulder season business)
Review and make recommendations regarding streetscape    improvements, parking, traffic flow, pedestrian/cyclist areas, lighting, additional washroom facilities and capacity for motor coach turn arounds.
Recommendations for the    feasibility of connecting the     commercial district south of the rail lines to the downtown.
Work with a specialized planning consultant to make recommendations for a sustainability component to the Town’s Master Plan. Green planning will include but not be limited to reviews of suitability for a shuttle service, the landscaping and downtown/riparian environment, business and residential density, architectural design and tourism zoning standards for the community and improved trail and pedestrian connectivity across the town and downtown.
The strategy will need to    create a realistic implementation plan for both private and public sector to establish goals (both short and long term) identify roles, responsibilities, timing, funding requirements, necessary partnerships and relationships, and linkages to other plans currently underway in the community.

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