Posted by Doreen Higgins on May 29, 2017
Every year the Rotary Clubs in the State of Georgia fund about fifty students from around the world to come to the USA. These students spend one academic year in one of the universities within the University of Georgia system. The Rotary clubs pay for their tuition and their dorm accommodation; they also host them during vacations. The students qualify by being of appropriate academic standing, having fluent English, and are able to afford air fare and medical insurance. The objective is to broaden international knowledge of the US and to offer a life changing experience to young people. This ongoing cultural exchange program is known as GRSP (Georgia Rotary Student Program).
This year the Skidaway Island Rotary Club and two other Rotary Clubs in Savannah welcome two students to Savannah: Nipuna Ambanpola from Sri Lanka and Soley Vera Helgadottir from Iceland. Last week these two made brief presentations to us, telling us about their lives and experiences.

Nipuna is from Sri Lanka and is studying for an undergraduate degree in economics at Armstrong State University. He is the chairman of IVolunteer International, which he founded. For the coming year he will be the Armstrong Student Government President, and he plans graduate studies in International Development and Diplomacy.

Soley comes from Reykjavik in Iceland, and is just finishing a year at Armstrong. She has a passion for travel, has visited Europe, Saudi Arabia, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, South America and the U.S. She spent a year in Brazil as a part of a Rotary Youth Exchange and became fluent in Brazilian Portuguese. She is interested in product design and pottery and is involved in Rotaract activity at Armstrong, in which Rotary principles and activities are made known to the students.

Nipuna told us about the non-profit company he founded, operating in the US and Sri Lanka, with the objective of “elevating the quality of human life across the globe.” Named “IVolunteer”, the company’s business is to connect volunteers to projects around the world; the company’s activities include all causes. "If you have a project,” he told us, “Let us know, we promote it in the relevant community to get volunteers. We have a virtual training program to train volunteers and teams.” Nipuna started small in 2016, has connected more than 900 volunteers for more than 20 projects internationally and in the US. The volunteers choose the projects on which they wish to work. The company also connects persons from everywhere looking for scholarships, exchange programs, internships, workshops and conferences. Nipuna’s ambition is to create international alliances and chapters. “Get connected,” he said, “Visit us on our website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email:” Soley told us about Iceland, about which most of us knew little. Its temperatures in the winter are around 32F and in summer rarely exceed 55F. The highest temperature ever recorded is 86.5F. Iceland is a dot in the far northern Atlantic with 330,000 inhabitants, most of whom live in or near the capital city of Reykjavik. The North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet in the island’s mid-section, and there is a possibility that one day, because of their activity, the island may become two islands. There is natural hot water everywhere, geysers, and the purest water on the planet. Geothermal energy (for space heating) heats 85% of houses in Iceland. As a part of her presentation, Soley showed us pictures of her homeland, including people taking baths in the (hot) local streams. These pictures also showed us spectacular scenery with lots of “the biggest” – the largest waterfall in Europe, the biggest glacier, and many pictures of herself and her family.

The Rotary Clubs of Georgia, including our own, are proud to call as friends these students from around the world. When their academic year comes to an end they are, of course, free to go home or stay and pursue their own ambitions. We look forward to welcoming “new” students for the fall term of this year; they will fly into Georgia and be welcomed by their host families and introduced to the Georgia College which will be their academic home for the next academic year.

Pictured below are Napuna, President Bill, Susan Kleine, Soley and Anne Dauray.