International Exchange Success


 The Sussex Vale Rotary Club was delighted to host the annual international meeting with their sister Rotary Clubs of Oss (Holland) and Kluisbergen (Belgium), last weekend. It is always a popular event and this year we welcomed 16 guests from Belgium, with a further 24 from Holland.

It began on Friday evening at the Mid Sussex Golf Club, where we enjoyed renewing old acquaintances and meeting new friends before sharing a buffet supper, whilst being entertained by the Metropole Jazz Band. The following morning we travelled in a vintage open topped bus to Newhaven Fort, which was a new experience for our guests and fortunately it stayed dry. Umbrellas are difficult to deploy when you’re up on the top of the bus! A big effort has been put in to the facilities at the Fort and after a humorous and knowledgeable briefing about the Fort’s history, we were able to explore the various interesting exhibition rooms.

After a light lunch we returned to our homes and hotels to prepare for the Gala Dinner in the evening. This year we held it at Jeremy’s in Borde Hill and as you might expect the food and service was excellent. During the course of each meeting, a ‘challenge’ takes place between the three clubs, with a cup awarded to the winner. This year the clubs were asked to sing ‘Hello Mary Lou’ in a Barber Shop style. The performances by the Dutch and Belgian clubs were exuberant and vastly entertaining, but bore no resemblance to Barber Shop singing, so Sussex Vale’s singers triumphed and were adjudged the winners. As it was a pleasant evening we were able to get our breath back and cool down, outside on the patio, when taking a break from dancing to live music by the excellent ‘Black & Gold’.

Sunday morning included a presentation from IMPACT and a Barber Shop performance by the choir Vocal Fusion, who demonstrated just how ‘Mary Lou’ should be sung by including it in their repertoire. These meetings are wonderful social events, which help develop greater understanding and friendships with our near neighbours, which will become even more significant with Brexit. But, most importantly they also involve a large donation to charity. The host club is given the responsibility of identifying a suitable international charity and a total of £5,000 is donated by the three clubs to the chosen one. This year we selected the IMPACT Foundation, a charity based in Haywards Heath, which believes that no one should become or remain needlessly disabled through disease, lack of knowledge or shortage of medical services. It operates across 11 countries in Africa and Asia and we have agreed to support a project in Bangladesh. The village and community we are helping suffer from the natural occurrence of arsenic in its soil, affecting the water supply and contaminating their crops and livestock. As you might imagine, this poisoning results in many severe health problems with children being particularly vulnerable.

After lunch on Sunday our friends from Oss and Kluisbergen Rotary Clubs left for home. So, it is Belgium next year and previous experience suggests it will be an entertaining and ‘full on’ weekend, looking forward to it already! The Sussex Vale Rotary Club draws its members from Burgess Hill, Hassocks, Hurstpierpoint and surrounding areas. Rotary uses the money raised for both local and international causes, so if you are interested in learning more about Rotary International and how you can help or join us, please contact our club secretary on, he will be pleased to hear from you.