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Posted: May 22, 2012 5:02 p.m.

Kimble: Rotary experience: it’s a small world after all

We had the opportunity to travel thousands of miles in the largest Rotary district in the world, while our Group Study Exchange counterparts toured north Georgia, including Covington.

I met hundreds of people along the way, and experienced Australia in a way few people have the opportunity.

But as everyone asks -did it really benefit me professionally?

Without a doubt, yes.

In 4-H, we pledge our heads to clearer thinking.

This has been a once-in-a-lifetime chance to step back and really clear my head.

It was a chance to not only serve as an ambassador for Georgia 4-H and our community, but to truly examine what I do and why, and to refocus on what is most important.

We pledge our hearts to greater loyalty, and after this trip and I can certainly say I'm more devoted to our community and 4-H than ever.

About half an hour after meeting a group of Rotarians in one small town of the wheatbelt of Western Australia, they were suggesting I could easily find a place working with their youth.

In fact, a few of the ladies were even familiar with 4-H, but couldn't recall how - I've realized since they probably remembered it from Green Acres.

I have to admit it was a tempting thought, but I'm more loyal to home than ever.

4-H'ers pledge their hands to larger service, and in Australia I found Rotarians, educators, and youth working in incredible ways to serve others.

From the entirely volunteer operated Wheelchairs for Kids program, to people serving the indigenous community in the Kimberly region through Save the Children, I found myself inspired at every turn of the trip.

Finally, we pledge our health to better living.

While I'm sure my newfound love of pavlova is not entirely healthy, I also discovered people working to improve the physical and mental health of their communities.

In the Kimberly region, they're involving adults from the indigenous community to learn to better serve the youth of that community, instead of using a cookie cutter approach.

At one high school, an educator started a TV-inspired "glee club" to let students work through emotions without even realizing they're getting therapy.

At another high school, I met educators providing lunch out of their own paycheck for youth who show up to school hungry.

We pledge all of those things for our club, our community, our country and our world.

Clubs and communities are pretty easy, because those are the people we see every day.

Or are they? I've been reminded that we often don't see everyone in the community - depending on your vocation and activities, it's easy to miss some of the diversity of our community.

Are there hungry youth, homeless people, immigrant families, or other people we forget to see?

At a youth homeless center I visited, feeling invisible was a theme among clients.

Working at a local level, it's hard to realize you're working for your country, but on this trip I was easily reminded how anytime we travel we serve as ambassadors of our country.

I was also especially proud each time a club went out of the way to include the American flag on the podium, or even to play our national anthem in our honor.

But perhaps this trip most emphasized that last bit - "and my world."

The Honorable Kate Doust, serving in a role equivalent to state senate leadership here, talked to us about not liking the design of newer neighborhoods, which seemed designed to enhance privacy instead of community.

I think she'd like to sit on a front porch in the Gum Creek community.

She'd appreciate gathering on the square at 4:30 a.m. and knowing half the folks there to represent us on a news show, or eating at Bradley's BBQ and running into old friends.

What I found in the most distant place on earth was that people are essentially just like us. Travel truly does make the world a smaller place.

I'd like to thank the Rotary Club of Covington as well as all the clubs of both District 6910 and District 9455 as well as the Rotary International Foundation for this incredible opportunity.

If I can share my experience with your group or class, please feel free to contact me.


Terri Kimble is the Newton County 4-H Agent through UGA Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at (770) 784-2010 or tkimble@uga.edu.

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