A group of professionals from the Philippines visited two local Rotary Clubs, toured local businesses and made lasting friendships this week – thanks to Rotary Foundation’s Group Study Exchange (GSE) Program.

“I have been helped both professionally and personally by this experience,” said Diana Velasco, a geologist and newspaper columnist from Davao City, Philippines.

Velasco joined three other GSE members, including Lorenzo Mendoza, a professor, and Alisa Bernan, a cardiologist, both also of Davao City; and Eugene Tan, a businessman from Taclaban City, Leyte. The team is led by Ted Locson Jr., a Rotarian from District 3860.

The Group Study Exchange (GSE) program of The Rotary Foundation is a unique cultural and vocational exchange opportunity for young business and professional men and women between the ages of 25 and 40 and in the early years of their professional lives. The program provides travel grants for teams to exchange visits between paired areas in different countries. For four to six weeks, team members experience the host country's institutions and ways of life, observe their own vocations as practiced abroad, develop personal and professional relationships, and exchange ideas.

The GSE Team arrived in the Bluegrass State April 22. The month-long visit ends following this weekend’s Rotary District 6740 Conference at Cumberland Falls.

During the exchange program, the Philippine contingent has visited cities throughout central and eastern Kentucky, including Newport, Ashland, Pike-ville, Lexington, George-town, Carlisle, Augusta, Flemingsburg and finally Somerset. They visited each location for 2-4 days.

“I really enjoyed meeting (magician) David Copper-field at the Paramount Theater (in Ashland),” said Lorenzo Mendoza. “I find that people here are warm and hospitable.”

Velasco echoed those sentiments, “The best thing about this trip is the people. We were treated like family here (in Kentucky).”

Both John Adams and Winter Huff, presidents of the morning and noon clubs in Somerset, respectfully, arranged for the Philippine GSE team to have full slate of interesting tours during its brief stay. It all began Tuesday evening with a dinner at Dr. B.J. Parson’s castle-like home.

They also visited Lake Cumberland Regional Hos-pital, Lee’s Ford Marina, the Commonwealth Journal, local industry, the Center for Rural Development and Somerset Community Coll-ege.

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