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A long, long way from home

Two Fort Simpson youth going continental

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Fort Simpson (May 18/01) - A work exchange program will introduce a couple of Fort Simpson youths to foreign cultures.

Derek Erasmus and Felix Isiah are each trying to raise $1,500 to travel abroad through the Canada World Youth program. Isiah, a Grade 12 student, will be leaving for Meadow Lake, Sask., following his departmental exams next month.

In Saskatchewan, he will meet nine other Canadian youth involved in the program as well as eight Uruguayan students and two Brazilian students. They will spend a few months getting acquainted before departing for Uruguay.

Erasmus, a member of the Thomas Simpson school class of 2000, will depart in August for British Columbia. There, he will get acquainted with a counterpart from Sri Lanka for three months. They will travel to Sri Lanka for the following three months.

"I've always been interested in travelling. To overcome the language barrier is part of what I'm supposed to learn to do," Erasmus said. "I'll be trying to fit in as best I can, but I'm not going to lose my identity while I'm over there."

Canada World Youth, a non-government organization, was established in 1971. Since then, more than 25,000 young people have participated in its programs. Erasmus and Isiah will be expected to donate their time to health and social services causes, in addition to education, agriculture and community development.

"I won't be staying in a resort. I'll be learning about the culture, the history and the customs," said Erasmus.

Through Internet research, he has already found out that the Sri Lankan languages are Sinhala and Tamil. Seventy per cent of the population is Buddhist. Their diet consists primarily of rice, curry, fresh tuna fish, vegetables and tropical fruit.

He's also aware that Tamilese rebels are fighting for independence in the northern part of the country -- that's something that troubles his parents.

"They're a little worried, but I'm sure they'll support me," he said, adding that he'll be staying in southern Sri Lanka.

Erasmus and Isiah applied for the exchange program via the Internet. They were asked to list their placement preferences on their application.

With an interest in how democracy is evolving in former communist countries of the Soviet bloc, Isiah listed Eastern Europe as his top choice. Nevertheless, he wasn't disappointed to learn that he'd be going to South America instead.

"I was happy. You wouldn't be disappointed to be spending three months in a tropical place," he said, smiling.