Yang Jia-Chen, who prefers to go by his Canadian name “Michael,” is a 21-year-old electrical engineering student from Taiwan. He is visiting the province for four weeks as part of the International 4-H Youth Exchange (IFYE) program.
“Very (good) so far,” Yang said. “Very different in Taiwan.”
“Mostly we’ve just been touring around showing him the boreal forest, showing him the different things in Saskatchewan,” said Rhonda Michaels, one of the leaders for the Northern Spirits 4-H club in Weirdale. “Today, because it was raining, we came to P.A. to show him the museum, which was great!”
Michaels and her family volunteered to host Yang on their acreage from July 31 to Aug. 7. Yang will be heading home on Aug. 16.
They took Yang to Candle Lake as well as Deschambault Lake to camp. Michaels said they also plan to take him fishing and canoeing.
“He’s been horseback riding at our place,” Michaels said. “We have horses so he’s just been out at our acreage with us for the last few days.”
Before he arrived in Weirdale, Yang stayed with a host family in Lumsden where he visited the Natural Science Museum in Regina. He also stayed with another family in Vanscoy.
“He’s been seeing those historic sites all over the place,” Michaels said.
The IFYE program involves members from 4-H clubs across Canada trading places with members from 4-H organizations from around the world.
“It’s an agricultural exchange,” said Janet-lee Ferris, program co-ordinator at the Canadian 4-H council. “So they to go to learn about different agricultural aspects in each country, and what they use, and how it works for them, and if it can be implemented in Canada or on their own farms and vice versa.”
Since 1995, the W. Garfield Weston Foundation, a private Canadian family foundation, has funded the IFYE.
Until 2011, the exchange program was only open to 4-H members in the United Kingdom and Canada. However this year other countries joined, including Costa Rica, Jamaica and Finland.
Usually only three to five members from Canada would get the chance to travel to another country, however, because of the additional countries, 16 members from Canada were able to experience different nations. From Saskatchewan, two travelled to Jamaica and another to Taiwan.
“Up until last year, (the program) was on a rotation schedule but so many countries come aboard this year and could take more than one person,” Ferris said. “We were able to offer at least one from every province, ideally two. Just some of the provinces unfortunately didn’t have enough time for the pick up — (it was a) very late process this year. Saskatchewan was able to fill one of the extra spots.”
“These members that go over are ambassadors for the Canadian 4-H program … we hope it provides the opportunity for Canadian 4-H families to broaden their outlook on the world by hosting a young adult from another country,” Ferris added.
Michaels and her family has learned a lot about Yang’s culture back home. They also have experienced different kinds of music.
“It’s beautiful, he’s been playing for us,” Michaels said. “He’s a musician he’s been playing it for about three years … It’s the same as a … small mandolin. It’s got bone carving on it; it’s really nice.”