Fear for exchange trip in the future

Zena Stewart during the first ever visit to Pendleton back in 1992.
Zena Stewart during the first ever visit to Pendleton back in 1992.

ZENA Stewart, herself a veteran of SEVEN trans-Atlantic jaunts to Pendleton and a member of the Lewis South Carolina Youth Exchange Group, has expressed her fears that rising costs could mean the end for the annual Pendleton pilgrimage.

Having been part of the first ever group to visit the South Carolina township - and since then throwing herself into fundraising and fostering and nurturing the link over the past two decades – Zena is desperate to keep the bond strong but she confesses it won’t be easy.

Nicolson Institute staff and pupils in Pendleton in 2000.

Nicolson Institute staff and pupils in Pendleton in 2000.

“My concern now is that as most of the original ‘shakers and movers’ are now retired, fundraising is becoming more and more difficult and travel costs have escalated which could mean the end of this valuable programme,” she admitted.

“It would be a great loss to our young people and to our community but the future for the exchange is not looking promising.”

It was back in 1992 that headed across the pond to visit Pendleton but looking back she didn’t expect the link to last so long.

“Little did I think having been asked by Iain Stewart (Education Department) if The Nicolson Institute would be interested in pursuing an exchange programme with Pendleton High School (PHS), South Carolina that it would still be active 20 years later,” she smiled.

“This was a new venture for me and for the school. After an amazing initial visit by myself and Ellis Macleod (Education Department) to PHS I knew that if the programme was to succeed I had toinvolve other staff. The following year Tom Clark

(then PT English) and Neil Macarthur (then PT Guidance) took the trip across the pond and came back equally enthused and as they say the rest is history.

“Since then many groups of young people and adults have participated in this life changing experience. The kindness and hospitality we receive is second to none but I am assured that we reciprocate likewise.

“Gradually we extended the exchange to include the community and eventually the local council leading to Twinning Ceremonies in both towns and visits to each other by the Civic Heads – the Comhairle Leader – Angus Campbell, Convener – Alex Macdonald and Chief Executive – Malcolm Burr and the Pendleton Mayor, Carol Burdette.

“The recent November visit by a group from Pendleton rekindled old friendships and new ones were formed.”