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Osoyoos Rotary Club’s first foreign exchange student returns to town last week to say hello
When Itala Charur first visited Osoyoos almost a decade ago, she was a shy Mexican teenager who didn’t speak a word of English.
What a difference a decade makes.
The first-ever foreign exchange student sponsored by the Osoyoos Rotary Club made a return visit to say hello to her former host family and dropped in to the club’s weekly meeting to say hello last Thursday.
Charur, who visited Osoyoos to attend a wedding, has transformed from a shy and quiet teenager into a confident young lady with an excellent command of the English language and a zest for life she says was guided in large part by her visit to Canada 10 years ago.
“I found out who I was when I came here,” said Charur, during a brief presentation to Osoyoos Rotary Club members at the Best Western Inn. “I really didn’t know anything about the world until I came here.
“Now I want to see the world and travel … and I don’t judge anybody anymore.”
Leaving home for the first time in her life and learning English and all about Canadian culture was one of the most memorable things she has done in her young life, said Charur.
“I was only 15 years old when I came here … I was pretty young and I hadn’t done a lot,” she said. “My visit here really helped me a lot and I started being a lot more confident about myself.”
The visit to Canada created a thirst for travel and knowledge that continues to this day as she was preparing to travel to Italy for another exchange program, beginning next month, said Charur.
Charur thanked the Osoyoos Rotary Club for allowing her to become the club’s first exchange student, adding Rotary clubs continue to do good work for young people around the world.
She encouraged other young people to get involved in Rotary’s foreign exchange program saying it’s an experience they will never forget.
Charur spent several months in Osoyoos as an exchange student back in 2004 and was hosted by local couple Wayne and Debbie Holoboff.
The Holoboff’s enjoyed their roles as host family so much they have stayed in touch with Charur on a regular basis since she returned to Mexico. She stayed with them during her stay to attend the wedding this past weekend.
The Holoboff’s have visited Charur in Mexico and she has returned to Osoyoos on several occasions over the past decade.
Deb Holoboff said Charur has become “like a daughter” to her and her family and she couldn’t say enough good things about the foreign student exchange program sponsored by the Rotary Club.
Charur had never seen snow until she visited Osoyoos and very quickly fell in love with the sport of snowboarding after spending a lot of time learning the sport at the Mount Baldy Ski Area near Osoyoos.
She hopes to return to Osoyoos and Mount Baldy with her snowboard in the near future, she said.
Current Osoyoos Rotary Club president Brian Rawlings thanked Charur for dropping in and saying hello to former members she met 10 years ago and new members who have joined since.
Over the past decade, the Osoyoos Rotary Club has sponsored one “incoming” student to come to Osoyoos, attend school here and stay with local families, while also sending one local student on an exchange program to other countries.
The local club is completing interviews to determine which local student will travel abroad next year.