DUNWOODY, Ga. — Dunwoody looks a little like the United Nations this month. That’s because 15 teens from around the world are here as part of the Lions Club International Youth Exchange Program.
The teens are staying with Dunwoody and other Georgia families for two weeks, and will spend their third week attending a leadership camp at Oglethorpe University. The youths hail from 14 countries including Brazil, Russia, Taiwan and Northern Ireland.
“I truly believe the exchange is building world peace, one student at a time,” said Becky Jarrell, Lions Club state coordinator. “I love how the youth ambassadors are sharing their own cultures while learning about ours.”
The teens will participate in activities designed to introduce them to American culture. They are visiting attractions such as the Atlanta Zoo, World of Coca-Cola and the Georgia Aquarium. American Family Insurance donated their box so the students could attend the Atlanta United game against the New York Red Bulls.
Their itinerary includes a visit to the Carter Center, where they will learn about efforts in Africa to combat trachoma, the world’s leading preventable cause of blindness. Former President Jimmy Carter has been a Lions Club member for 65 years.
The youths marched in the Dunwoody Fourth of July parade and collected used eyeglasses as part of a community service project. The Lions Club’s main charitable cause is sight. The students will clean the glasses and recycle them through the Georgia Lighthouse Foundation.
The Lighthouse has sent more than 130,000 pairs of glasses to impoverished areas internationally via medical mission groups.
Jarrell discovered the Lions Club International Youth Exchange Program when she was looking for an affordable way to send her twin daughters abroad when they were in high school. The program has been in existence since the 1970s and now has more than 100 camps throughout the world.
The Lions Club put Jarrell in charge of the program for Georgia, and she coordinated Atlanta’s inaugural summer camp. This summer, six teens from the Atlanta area are going abroad, half of them from Dunwoody. They are visiting Italy, Turkey, Canada, Martinique and Slovenia.
Aleksandra Burtseva, 16, is staying with the Jarrells this summer. She is from St. Petersburg, Russia.
“I think the United States is so beautiful,” Burtseva said. “The houses are larger. We don’t have houses like this. Atlanta is so good-natured. It’s so cool that I can meet people from all over the world.”
Jarrell will also take the group to the mountains in North Georgia, where they will spend one night in the homes of Towns County Lions Club members.
In addition to American Family Insurance, the Jett Ferry Chick-fil-A and the Perimeter Pointe Chick-fil-A have donated breakfasts for the kids.
Eyeglasses will be collected through the end of the month. A donation box is at the Ace Hardware on Dunwoody Village Parkway or you may contact Jarrell at 770-355-7726 or firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange for a pickup.
For information about the exchange or to donate to support the effort, contact Jarrell or visit the Atlanta Lions Club Facebook page.