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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About Nicole Ripley

Chosen as the 2011-2012 Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar for District 5060. I will be studying a Masters in Counselling Psychology at the University of Notre Dame in Fremantle, Australia. I will be hosted by the Rotary Club of Attadale and South Bunbury in District 9465.
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