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International exchange visitors help at zoo
GEC exhange working 2019
Exchange visitors from Latvia and Poland pick up litter and weeds during the first week of August at the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo.

Latvian and Polish students are in Great Bend this summer on a cultural exchange program run by Southwestern Advantage and Global Educational Concepts (GEC) through the United States Department of State. During the first week in August, exchange visitors conducted a service day at the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo. 

Participants removed litter and weeds from the property and assisted staff with groundskeeping duties. Diana Backure, a student from Latvia said, “Four students from Latvia and six from Poland spent a great day volunteering at the zoo. The staff was amazing. The people of Kansas have been so kind to us. We wanted to give back to the community in some small way.”

GEC is a public diplomacy program designed to help young people from around the world have a better understanding of United States culture, commerce and values, spokesman Trey Campbell said. One out of every three world leaders have participated in this type of exchange program.

The local service project was part of Exchange Day, a nationwide celebration of the power of international exchanges and an opportunity to raise awareness of educational and cultural exchange programs. Under the motto “Eat, Play, Give,” exchange visitors across the United States held similar events providing both participants and local citizens an opportunity to give back to their local communities, enjoying American cuisines, and sharing cultural diversity and customs, Campbell said.

foreign exchange group 2019
The exchange visitors pose for a photo after a day of service.