03/29/06 — Rotarians take tour of Wayne County

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Rotarians take tour of Wayne County

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on March 29, 2006 1:46 PM

A contingent of Danish members of Rotary International visited Wayne County this week, getting a big slice of Southern hospitality while learning about the area's businesses, government, schools and its people.

The group, which included a police officer, account manager, psychologist, teacher and accountant, was sponsored by the Goldsboro, Fremont, Mount Olive and Three Eagles Rotary clubs.

The group will spend four weeks in the U.S., with stops in Tarboro and New Bern before leaving for Washington, D.C., and New York City.

Denmark Rotarians at Fremont Elementary

News-Argus/Phyllis Moore

Ella Setliff, a second-grade teacher at Fremont STARS Elementary School, seated at left, talks with Danish Rotarians about technology and the educational system in the U.S. During their three-day visit in Wayne County, the group also made stops at the central schools office, county commissioners and Mount Olive, as well as the Goldsboro Rotary Club meeting, where they made a presentation about their country.

During their three-day stay in Wayne, the group toured Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, Fremont STARS elementary school, the Mt. Olive Pickle Co., the county courthouse and the News-Argus.

Karsten Poulsen, 59, was the leader of the group. He said they found American culture similar to that in Denmark.

"The purpose is to actually go and find out how is the other country, how does it work, how is it built up socially and by law," Poulsen said.

"I think the main interest or theme behind this project is the better you are to learn and speak to other people, the better the world will be because then you may find people, perhaps be able to pick up some issues, and understand why you're different," he said.

Anette Schultz, 30, said she was impressed by the reception the group received at every stop.

"I learned so much, and it has been amazing," she said. "Everybody is being so friendly and my expectations were high but nothing compared to what I've been going through right now.

"Seeing the pickle farm and how they are doing so much for the employees, how they are concerned about their health, I didn't know that the Americans did so much about it," Ms. Schultz said.

Twenty-seven-year-old Lars Stagaard Jensen is a certified public accountant in the small town of Varde on the west coast of Denmark.

"What makes the largest impression on me was visiting the Fremont Elementary School," he said. "There was so much joy and happiness. The principal really understood the children and you could see they were having such a great time."

He said he is taking some new ideas back to his homeland, especially for his line of work, which is business. "Talking to some of the Rotary members and visiting some of the companies has given me some different perspectives on how to do things.

Mette Thorlund Lauritzen, 31, is an organizational and work psychologist. She, too, really enjoyed seeing the children perform at Fremont STARS.

She said visiting the courthouse was also very exciting for her because there are so many differences between the court system in Denmark and here.

She emphasized how kind people were to the group, wherever they went.

"My expectations were very high and already on this third day, they're exceeded," Ms. Lauritzen said. "We're experiencing more than we expected."

She said the team members are bringing new ideas here and taking new ideas home with them. She said she has been extremely impressed with the way that management involves employees in some of the decision making policies.

Thirty-seven-year-old Henriette Kristensen has been a policewomen for 10 years. She lives in Aarhus, the second largest town in Denmark.

"The most exciting thing has been the courthouse because a lot of the things are different here," she said. "It's been overwhelming.

"It's been much more than I expected. It's a lot happening all the time. People have been very interested in what we have to say."

Simon Moller Grimstrup, 29, is a school teacher, working with children with social and emotional disorders.

He's very interested in the American system of testing in the schools. "The good thing from your system is that parents get more involved with their children's school," he said.

He said the best part of the trip is how welcome he's been made to feel in Wayne County.

At least 1,000 trips are made every year all over the world through Rotary efforts, Poulsen said. It helps that the group is multi-lingual so they can communicate with their counterparts in the U.S.

"I think the main interest or theme behind this project is the better you are to learn and speak to other people, the better the world will be because then you may find people, perhaps be able to pick up some issues, and understand why you're different," he said.

Rotary International helps sponsor hundreds of trips by club members around the world each year.

Tim Finan, the president of the Goldsboro Rotary Club, said the group study exchange program is designed to help promote good will and good relations between nations.

Mary Lee Flowers, president of the Fremont Rotary Club, said the Wayne County clubs have plans to send a group from to Denmark in the future.