Swedish visitors enlightened Rotarians as part of friendship exchange

Members of the Rotary Club of Sylvan Lake learned lots about Sweden when they hosted a Rotary Friendship Exchange tour

Members of the Rotary Club of Sylvan Lake learned lots about Sweden when they hosted a Rotary Friendship Exchange tour from the Scandinavian country last week.

The contingent of eight people visited a club in Canmore, touring that area, before coming to Sylvan Lake. From here they went to Calgary and then Lethbridge.

Sylvan Lake Rotarians billeted the group and showed them around Central Alberta, exploring some places even they hadn’t visited before.

The itinerary included lunch at Cronquist House in Red Deer last Wednesday, a tour of Sylvan Star Cheese, a cruise on the lake by Sylvan Cruises, a tour of a training oil drilling rig at Nabors Production Services, a tour and lunch at Leedale Hutterite Colony, lunch with Rotarians at noon last Friday, followed by a walking tour of the downtown area guided by historian Michael Dawe and a farewell dinner at Hockey Central’s Sports Bar & Grill last Friday evening. The following day the group departed for Calgary.

At Friday’s Rotary meeting, Marley Westerburgen, of Hallefors-Grythyttan, narrated a powerpoint presentation, Getting to Know Sweden. Their Rotary district, #2340, encompasses 54 clubs in an area 100 kilometres from Stockholm west to the Norwegian border.

“Sweden is very much like Canada, just higher (in latitude) than Canada,” she said. It’s the third largest country in Europe, spanning 1,500 kilometres north to south and 500 kilometres west to east.

Interestingly, Westerburgen said, it’s transformed itself from an agrarian economy to a sophisticated industrial nation.

All education up to university is free. Everything for children is free, buses, meals. Medical and dental care is free to 16 years of age.

“Our social services are really well developed,” she said. “It’s often called the world’s most generous social welfare system.”

Sweden is rich in reserves of iron ore, timber and has plentiful hydroelectric power.

Forestry, telecoms, automotive and pharmaceutical industries thrive. “We’re among the world’s 15 richest countries in terms of GDP (gross domestic product).”

Each of the travellers talked about the communities they came from and showed pictures of their residences and scenery in their areas.

Boo Ostling encouraged Sylvan Lake Rotarians to get involved in Rotary Friendship Exchanges. “They open our eyes to the world. One thing that Rotary does is open the hand of friendship to those around the world.”

Joining Rotarians at lunch Friday were dignitaries MLA Kerry Towle, Mayor Susan Samson and RCMP Cst. Mike Arnason in his red serge uniform. He was much appreciated by the guests who posed for pictures with him.

Hosts for the Swedish guests while in Sylvan Lake were Victor and Thelma Maris, Nadine Coyne and Dale and Bonnie Ganske. This group was also instrumental in planning the itinerary.