3 month Rotary Ambassadorial Report

Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship Report # 1

Anna Nicole Ripley

Address: 83 Hampton rd. Fremantle, WA 6160

Canadian Sponsor Counsellor: Marvyn Baker

Australia Sponsor Counsellors: Carole Maxwell & Gregory James

I would like to commence my first report by thanking Rotary International for thing amazing global experience. I would also like to thank District 5060 & the Ogopogo Rotary Club of Kelowna, Canada for selecting me for this incredible opportunity and a big thank you Districts 9465 & 9455 and the Rotary Club of Attadale and South Bunbury for hosting me and exposing me to their exciting club meetings, local fundraisers and activities.

My first two months in Australia have been fantastic! I have been adapting to the international student life without difficulty, however the several weeks of 40C heat, the surrounding earthquakes and enduring Cyclone Yasi were challenges I wasn’t expecting! With the assistance of the wonderful Rotarian hosts, the mentors of the University of Notre Dame and constant support from Sandra Urban at RI, I have settled into my new life in Fremantle, Perth, Australia just wonderfully. 

The Masters in Counselling Program at the University of Notre Dame has been the most stimulating and wonderful program I have ever taken. They are primarily focused on the personal development of the individual as a counsellor by extending our therapeutic skills to become a multi-cultural, empathetic, objective listener. The courses surrounding personal development have provided me with the opportunity to learn about each student in the class and their cultural and personal world. My program has only 8 people, all of which I will know inside and out after this year. They come from Sri Lanka, Singapore, Eastern Australia, England, France and Canada. They have experience working in female prisons, in respite with mentally ill and developmentally challenged children, in aboriginal communities of Northern Australia, in areas of domestic abuse, in churches etc. It is a diverse learning environment enriched with varied vocational backgrounds and skill and I am so excited to be apart of it. A key component of this scholarship, in my eyes, is sharing cultural values and learning about peace, conflict and global matters. Having such a diverse class I get to have global dialogue each week and it has allowed for a deeper understanding of the different cultural backgrounds in this world. Sharing my own Canadian values and understanding of the world with this group has also allowed for far more learning that I had predicted and I am embracing this opportunity with excitement and an open mind.

When I look back at the steps I have taken to prepare for this scholarship and the adaptation process after arriving in Perth, what comes to mind first is my participation at the Pacific North West Ambassadorial Orientation in Tacoma. They provided us with valuable information that has been very useful since being here. I appreciated the information on creating interesting Rotary speeches. I also created important friendships with other Ambassadorial scholars of which I am currently in close contact. We are able to share experiences, fears and anxieties and excitement about our journeys. My sponsor Counsellor in Kelowna, Marvyn Baker was also very helpful in attending various Rotary meetings with me and keeping me up to date on volunteer opportunities with our local club, he acted as a liaison with my parents in Canada and Rotary clubs in Perth while I was enduring Cyclone Yasi (no power for a few days). Since arriving in Australia, Rotary has been the core of my success in adapting. I landed in a beautiful host family, Carole and David Maxwell. They treated me as their daughter instantly and we created some amazing memories. I stayed with them for three weeks as I prepared student housing, found employment and made new contacts within Rotary and friends at school. I moved into a beautiful heritage house just a few blocks outside of central Freo (short for Fremantle as the locals call it). It takes me 12 minutes to walk to class at Notre Dame and 10 minutes to walk to my work at Little Creatures. I am living with an Osteopath from Melbourne, an environmental scientist from Brazil and a business student from South Africa; we have the best international food nights. There is also consistent stimulating conversation surrounding global politics, socialism and endearing world views. These are friends I have become very close with, just another reward for being a part of this wonderful scholarship program, these friendships will be for life.

My Rotary involvement has been a blast. I regularly attending meetings on Monday nights at the Attadale club and it has been fantastic! Getting to know the Rotarians has been extremely gratifying, I feel more like family each meeting I go to, and they have been very supportive in my settling into Australian lifestyle! The club itself is quite small with about 35 members, with majority of its members over 60 years old. There are only two women in the club as well, but they are welcoming and cheerful members who have vocalized their enjoyment of my presence at each meeting. They took me lawn bowling the other night, a sport I am just terrible at, however they had a good laugh at my efforts.

When it comes to Rotary fundraising efforts, the main project I have been a part of is their fundraising for WA’s Rotary commitment to raise $6 million to enable the establishment of a public cord blood bank in Perth. The fund-raising appeal was formally launched in 2005 by the three Rotary districts in WA. Since then the three districts have combined into two Districts (9465 & 9455). The Rotary WA Cord Blood Bank will be managed and run by the Australian Red Cross Blood Service (of which I have donated already and plan to every 2 months). It will be the first public cord blood bank in the state. At present, apart from commercial facilities that store cord blood for private use, WA patients requiring cord blood must have it sourced from the eastern states or overseas. The Rotary club of Attadale has dedicated many events to the blood bank fundraiser and I have been fortunate to be involved in these fundraisers and event planning. Specifically I was involved in the movie fundraiser. I also partook in the golf tournament fundraiser, independently selling one thousand dollars worth of raffle tickets. I used my Canadian outgoing personality and limited knowledge of golf to sell these tickets in less than 2 hours. I am also involved in the distribution of community services newsletter in the upcoming months. I have presented at the Applecross Rotary club, the Attadale Rotary Club of District 9465 and the Heirisson Rotary Club of District 9455. These speeches have been a lot of fun, they enjoyed having me there to share their Rotary traditions and my jokes seem to make a few people laugh. At Applecross, the sergeant had me running around collecting fines; apparently we did really well that day. I was able to participate in the Annual Forum for Generating Club Solutions at the Attadale club which was a neat experience! At the Heirisson Rotary Club, I got to watch their eldest member stand on a chair and strip in front of the entire breakfast crowd to show us his green underwear! In his defence, it was St Patricks Day. I have also connected with two local Rotaract clubs (South Perth and University of Western Australia) and I’m excited to get more involved with their club efforts as well.

I had an amazing weekend at the District Conference a few weeks ago at the Burswood hotel. I was able to meet and connect with the GSE team from Portugal and the USA. I was able to speak with last year’s Ambassadorial scholar and saw many thought provoking presentations. At the dinner event during the opening of the conference I had a long conversation with a wonderful Rotarian about many different aspects of Rotary and exchange etc. He then gave me his business card and said if you’re in New Zealand please contact me, we would love to host you. I later found out by looking at his business card that he was past year’s Rotary International President, William B. Boyd. It was a very exciting conference weekend; I made several new contacts for upcoming speeches as well.

My experiences outside of Rotary and university have also been amazing. The town of Fremantle has so much to offer. It is a vibrant laid back beach town and port city, with more 19th century buildings in the city itself than in all of Australia combined. The streets are lined with trendy cafes and the beaches are white sandy and very private. The food is amazing; Australians pride themselves on their barbeque skills and vegemite sandwiches. The seafood here is also plentiful and absolutely delicious. The culture that Fremantle offers is unlike anywhere I have ever been. The alternative vibe proves a friendly nature of people. People here are kind and courteous, they take time to talk to you and show you around if you are lost. They live in a laid back nature which is entrenched in green living and earth awareness. Western Australian has a very strong economy in with an unemployment rate of only 4.1% this being said I was interested in working with local homeless population as that is my area of expertise. Being that their social programs are advanced and their homeless populations are low it was difficult to assume this vocational position. Luckily, within my class I made some great networking contacts and my skills have been broadened into the child protective services and working with youth dealing with mental illnesses. The opportunities here are plentiful and I have enjoyed every minute of learning about this magical state of WA.

I will be heading down to South Bunbury (3 hours south of Perth) to get to know my other Host Rotary Club and to be given the opportunity to see locations outside of Perth, there are many beautiful areas around Perth, however Perth itself is the second most isolated capital city in the world. However, with my new 1,000$ Lamborghini I think I will be able to discover much more of the countryside.

Again, I want to extend a huge thank you to RI for their constant support and for allowing me this amazing opportunity. Every day I wake up to the beautiful Australian sunshine and I am thankful for this exposure and experience. Each day I have the opportunity to interact with diverse groups of people, to build relationships, to learn about different ways of life, and to share about my background and country, so thank you again for this amazing opportunity!!

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Semester One Complete!

What an incredible academic journey I am on! I have the most amazing classmates, professors and supervisors! Just finished up semester one with by handing in 3 assignments, one of them more than thirty pages long. Wrote a final exam on Theories and Approaches to Counselling, which I felt really good about. Walked out of there thinking now I have 6 weeks of free time!! This essentially will be work, travel and rotary time!! This is a busy week, Rotary club of Attadale on Monday, Rotary Club of Fremantle on Wednesday and Sausage sizzler on Sunday! The speeches have been pretty consistent and I’m starting to really enjoy them. A few weeks ago, Greg James my sponsor picked me up in Freo and drove me to the beautiful south areas of Busselton and Bunbury. I presented at my second host club Rotary Club of South Bunbury and really had a good time. There location was in this beautiful old restored hotel, the most beautiful dining room I’ve ever been in. They had a special Lounge and Hall room- I felt like I was playing Clue – looking for Mr. Green with the lead pipe (haha).
Greg took me everywhere, while letting me drive his fancy convertible! We went to the Busselton jetty which is the longest wharf in Australia, about 1.8 km long. At the end there is an underwater viewing room, so you get to go down about 12 meters, pretty neat experience. When we were out there I had mentioned to Greg that I had never seen a kangaroo and so he said lets go golfing! At the course there was roo’s everywhere!! It was great, babies and adults, all hanging out on the greens. Such beautiful creatures! I spoke at the rotary club of Collie which is a town fuelled by the mining industry. Their meeting was really interesting, I found out what a rotary Club song book was! I was giving an invite to take a tour of the Coal mine, which I hopefully will be able to do in the next few weeks! One of the Rotarians down south invited me to go to their home where they rescue animals, specifically baby joeys found in the pouches of kangaroos that were hit by deer. I got to hold a baby roo, it was so special. I felt very lucky!
A bit has changed in my employment as well and I am very happy about it!! I enjoyed working at little creatures, met some great people, tried great beers but I was itching to get back into the field of mental health. So the last few weeks I set out to find some new opportunities and I was able to find a casual position as a Community Support Officer working with children with disabilities and mental illnesses. I also secured a PT position as a Youth Diversion Officer with Centre care. There services work in conjunction with Corrections WA. Young offenders are referred to us and we work with them and their families to work towards a better life for the youth divert them from crime essentially. So this all starts next week and I will let everyone know it goes!!
Life outside of work and school has been wonderful as well. I’ve been trying to make use of all free time with outdoor adventures, rugby games, live music, road trips, wine tours, biking, BBQs, hiking, swimming and beach mellow days, although it is getting cold now!! I wasn’t aware that Aussie winters get down to only a few degrees. I’ve been learning to play guitar and I have met some truly amazing people, great Irish, fun local Aussies and recently some great Canadians who love the Canucks as much as I do!! We have been making early morning to go to the Burswood Casino to watch the Canucks play in the Stanley cup finals, two big screens a room full of Canadians and one Boston fan… GO CANUCKS in game 7!!!
I have also started my new Rotary project with my housemate Jules. It is in its early stages, but since the mass destruction in Japan, there are boy’s schools and orphanages that have been closing in India because they have lost their funding from Japan. I am leading the fundraising to come up with enough to help these schools become sustainable and get back on their feet while finances are sorted out in Japan. Pretty exciting, I will send more details in the near future. Rotary may be on board to help us out!!I also have recently qualified to play at the Australian University Games with the Notre Dame Beach volleyball team!!! Sooo stoked!! Heading to the Gold Coast in September!! 🙂 Things are very good here in all realms and once again I can’t thank Rotary enough for this adventure!!!
I hope everyone is well across the world, I really hope the Lobster fundraiser did well for my host Rotary Ogopogo Club!!!

This Photo is from the Rotary Ambassadorial Conference in April.

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Fitting in just perfectly!

Couldn’t be happier!

Wow, I look at my life at the moment and I feel sooooo lucky!! Australia is just beautiful and each day I get to experience something different, meet new people and share my Canadian stories. I moved into a beautiful heritage house just a few blocks outside of central Freo. Takes me 12 minutes to walk to class at Notre Dame and 10 minutes to walk to my work at Little Creatures. I am living with an Osteopath from Melbourne, an environment scientist from Brazil and a business student from South Africa; we have the best international food nights! School has been absolutely wonderful; I have never felt such a drive to be at school, to conduct research, to converse about my passions in counselling. It is a really well developed program and I defiantly made the right selection of school. My class has 8 students only, all ages and races; it’s so culturally diverse and rich I couldn’t ask for a more vibrant educational setting. My research teacher is pushing hard for us to decide on thesis and that has been a challenging but exciting factor! My new position as a waitress at a pub brewery on the shores of Fremantle has been a blast! They call it little creatures to represent the yeast “creatures” that they add double of to their Rogers Ale. They brew all of their beer right there in the brew pub where we serve it. It’s a fun place to work because there are no rules but to provide friendly service, be fun and have fun! People were crazy clothing and wild hairdos, its alternative to say the least~!! Rotary involvement has been a blast as well, regularly attending meetings at the Attadale club has been great, getting to know the Rotarians has been rewarding, I feel more like family each meeting I go to, they have been very supportive in my finding a place to live and work as well! I assisted a few weeks ago with their moving fundraiser; we all say the American film conviction which was a big hit! I also partook in the golf tournament fundraiser, selling one thousand dollars worth of raffle tickets!! I was very proud of myself!! I think I may have been a bit to outgoing but got the job done!!! Presented at the Armadale Rotary club which was great, they enjoyed having my there, my jokes seems to make a few people laugh. The sergeant had me running around collecting fines; apparently we did really well that day. I was able to participate in the Annual Forum for Generating Club Solutions at the Attadale club which was a neat experience. I will be giving my formal speech next week. The following weekend is the District conference! Really looking forward to the weekend of events for that conference. Apr 10 will be the Ambassadorial Weekend conference as well, so really looking forward to meeting some other scholars. All in all m experiences have been amazing, I’ve been to beautiful beaches, backyard barbeques, rugby games, lawn bowling tournaments and much more!! Ive also seen some pretty crazy spiders and cool snakes, not my favorites but they all add to the experience! All THANKS TO ROTARY!

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Hello Western Australia!

I have made it to Perth and have fallen in love with Western Australia!! My host mother Carole and my Rotary Sponsor Counsellor Greg James and his wife Helen, were waiting for me as I arrived late Saturday night. They let me know that my new nickname was “Disaster”. Greg says to me, “You were in Thailand during Tsunami and you survived, you choose to go to Queensland when we have the worst floods in 50 years, then you are in Cairns when the worst Cyclone in our time decides to hit… What next an earthquake?!”… now they call me Disaster…  

We drove to Carole’s place to meet David her husband. We had some wine from WA and it really was a lovely greeting. Carole and David have been so accommodating and have taken me all around Fremantle and to different parts of Perth. David works at the Perth Mint and is in the process of creating the world’s biggest gold coin, one tonne of gold! Carole is very active in the rotary community and acted as president in 2008. I met with the rotary club last Monday night, and they were a blast! Carole happened to mention my specialisation in Sexology in Psychology and introduced me to the group as a Sex therapist!! The club has not let it down since… constantly asking questions about the field of sexology and my ‘experience’, haha. It is a small club with 33 members (only 2 are women). There club is very active in the community and I was able to sign up for several projects! The one Carole and I are leading is a fundraiser for the local blood bank. I am also part taking in the distribution of a community connection booklet and with their bi-weekly sausage fundraiser. We are also attending a movie night fundraiser on Sunday, and a golf tournament on Mar 4. We went lawn bowling the other night with all the Rotarians and their partners and had a really good time; I am awful at Lawn bowling!! But demonstrated how we are good at ‘Curling’ back home.

My university starts tomorrow and I am very anxious to get my courses selected and get to know the university. Yesterday, David and I went on a brewery tasting tour and I was able to discover a lot of downtown Fremantle and it’s a beautiful area right on the water. Fremantle is a very old standing British Port in Australia, they have their Fremantle Prison which is a huge tourist attraction. The streets are busy and full of cafes, markets, breweries, seafood shops, pubs, art stories and Ugg Stores. It’s very bohemian and hippy style, with lots of artists and people of free spirit wandering the streets, which reminds me of my home town in Nelson, BC.

I have met some truly amazing people so far. I met a wonderful Australian girl named Julie, she is an osteopath from Melbourne, and we started looking for a house together and secured a beautiful 3 bedroom house in the heart of Freo. There is a beautiful courtyard with a small pond to hangout and drink tea and talk about our world travels. There is another couple who will be living with us they are from Brazil and South Africa; it will be quite the international house of students!! I am having an amazing journey so far and have been blessed to land in such an amazing rotary club and host family! Thanks again to rotary!

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From Reef to Rainforest to Cyclone Yasi

Quite the experience so far! I’ve had some exciting days since flying up to Northern Queensland to visit from friends who I used to live with back in Kelowna. KB and Douggie were my flatmates in my first year of college. They both work on a large commercial reef ship, KB is a hostess and Douggie is an engineer for the ship. My second day here in Port Douglas included a helicopter ride out to a pontoon in the middle of the corral sea. From there I went on a glass submarine for a tour of the underwater world of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), it was absolutely amazing! Soon after I went on a private snorkel tour of the GBR with a marine biologist who taught me about the fish, corral and their ecosystem. I enjoyed some lunch and fine Australian wine on the pontoon, it was an amazing afternoon. Another interesting day included a trip through the rainforest to cape tribulation. This rainforest is immaculate, the most amazing forest with endless amounts of things to see. There is a large bird which looks similar to an ostrich, they call it a Cassaware. It’s a magical thing to see during the rain forest expedition, but most people who have lived here 5 plus years have never seen one. I kept saying to KB I think we are going to see one, and she kept thinking no way. And right in the middle of the road on our way home, a big beautiful Cassaware, with a peacock blue head and red feathers, was standing there looking at us. We stopped at 4 different beaches and found shells and crabs, went for a walk through the botanical forest and saw amazing tree structures that have been around for ions. It was pretty cool sensation being underwater looking at the amazing environment, now being in a rainforest, two different worlds only a few kilometres apart. We have spent a few days touring through port Douglas, a beautiful city built on tourism, nice fresh seafood by the seaside and trips to swimming holes in the gorge. We went into the native reservation here and KB explained how their social systems work here in Australia. They are quite different from the Ministry of Social development back home. Our Income Assistance policies are much stricter and we constantly battle for affordable housing. Here the ‘Doll’ – which is income assistance, is 320 weekly in BC, it is 610 monthly. Here those on assistance are provided with safe and affordable housing; back home most of my clients can be waitlisted for 2 years prior to getting into affordable housing. The main different I have noticed is the lack of homeless people on the street and buskers asking for money. Very interesting. I’m guessing the large amount of taxes and heavy tourism contributes to their social success here in Queensland. It has been hot and sunny until just a few days ago when the lurking Cyclone Yasi starting coming our way. Of course I choose to be in Australia when they have their worst flooding in 50 years and now their biggest cyclone ever seen in the past documented generations. Just perfect! The eye of the cyclone was due to hit 50 km south of us at Cooya Beach, and the eye being 100 km wide, would pass right over us. We prepared for the worst, getting fuel, perishable food and boiled tons of water. Gas stations ran out of fuel, markets ran out of food, it was an insane time. We taped all the windows so when the winds hit them they wouldn’t shatter everywhere. The storm was due to hit at 10pm on Wednesday night Feb. 3. We waited with extreme anticipation, watching the news and listening to the radio for constant updates. We put their two year old Xavier to bed praying he would sleep through it. Our bed for the night was a safe room in their walk in closet, where we had two mattresses on the ground for all of us to crawl into once the winds picked up. They forecasted 300 km winds with water rising to 7 metres. Very scary for the small town Canadian. Once Xavier was sleeping and the power cut out, we sat in the living room around a small tea candle and listened as the wind grew more forceful. We had a glass of wine to calm to the nerves and swapped stories of close calls with Mother Nature. Mine topped theirs as I was a survivor of Tsunami when it hit Thailand. It was a scary evening, however we were very lucky, as Yasi came inland it veered south and the eye moved towards Townsville, lessening the winds to 125km and leaving less destruction. We did some yard work the next day to pick up after the snapped trees and cleaned up the landscape. We lived without power for the next 48 hours, which is not easy in a hot environment. Their fridges and freezers defrosted very quickly, leaving perishable foods and yummy classic vegemite for our meals. All in all, an exciting but nerve racking adventure. I am due to fly to Perth on Feb. 12 where I will hopefully find affordable accommodation near the campus.

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Long Journey to Paradise!

What an interesting journey. I received my first taste of being a minority in Vancouver, as I checked in with Japan Airlines, my luggage (clearly overweight) was gently put through and I attempted to converse with the lovely customer service rep, with hopes she might not charge me and it worked! Security was not a major issue minus the fact that my liquids always seemed to be at the bottom of my travel pack! The first ten hour flight was quick and painless, I even managed to stay awake for the entire flight to avoid major jetleg, planning to sleep on the next flight. I stayed awake thanks to the wonderful man from Prince George who chatted with me practically the entire trip. He is a successful helicopter pilot who has two daughters, we discuss global economics, social issues, facebook, world travels and much more. He was en route to Sapporo, Japan for a two week ski trip, a place I now long to visit. I shared with him my upcoming Rotary adventures and he was very interested in the process of me receiving the scholarship as he would like his teenage daughter to consider a youth exchange or potentially applying for the Ambassadorial when she is older. We parted ways in Tokyo, which was a beautiful stop over, sky was clear blue and I was met with many smiles, again the only Caucasian insight, I found my way around. I was on a mission for authentic Japanese sushi however I was too hungry to search very far. The Yen vs the Canadian Dollar was a bit confusing, I still think I must have overpaid, but ending up eating some rice and vegetables, drenched in oil… gave me a bit of fright for a soar tummy for my next ten hour plan trip to Sydney. The hustle and bustle has distracted me a bit from the incredible journey that awaits me, but I am soooo very excited and ready for this new era in my life! As I sat in the cafeteria during my 6 hour layover, listening to the broken English cover band melodies coming from the music system, sipping on a Budweiser (which is cheaper than water I might add), I couldn’t help but smile and recognize just how lucky I am to have been chosen for this amazing opportunity.  I boarded my second flight to Sydney and managed to sleep the entire ten hour flight. I arrived in sunny Sydney at 730am ready for a beautiful day!! Checked into my hostel at Bondi Beach which has a resemblance to Monaco in Europe, it’s incredible!! Within 20 minutes I have met several fellow travellers, from Ireland, Ontario and England!! I just ventured down to a small cafe to write a first short blog, so there will be much more to come!!!

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Inn from the Cold – Cooking with Rotary


I spent an amusing and eye-opening evening at one of Kelowna’s Winter Shelters for the homeless. I worked alongside Greg and other wonderful Rotarians to cook a huge pasta dinner. We had laughs and interacted with the residents for the evening. Many of the residents accessing Inn from the Cold were clients of my life skills and employment program and it was nice to see some familiar faces and to catch up with some of my clients who had ended their time at our program to get an update on how things are progressing. We had many nice desserts and the residents were very grateful for our service. Rotary Ogopogo Club generously donates one evening a week to the Inn to assist with suppers for the needy, they are tasty dinners that are very much appreciated!

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