TABU is a Rotary Club of Belfast exchange project with the Rotary Club of Highland Park/ Highwood in Chicago which aims to create a better mutual understanding between different communities by studying Conflict Resolution. This includes finding ways to break down barriers among people, particularly young people, and learning how to reconcile differences. Six Northern Ireland students from different religions, schools and backgrounds are carefully selected to go on this exchange every other year while, in between, six Highland Park students visit Belfast.
The project had its first study visit in 1992 and one has taken place every year since.
This year's exchange was the 22nd and 6 students, 2 Rotarians and a teacher from Highland Park High School spent 10 days 20-29 March 2013 in Belfast. Picture shows (from left) Anna Fox, Rtn. Cheryl Levi, Suzanne Warshell, Drew Gerber, Rtn. Paul Munk, Lupita Estela, John Starkey, Isa Spoerry and Highland Park Teacher Genevieve Misfeldt.
The students were hosted by the families of the students who experienced the Programme in Highland Park last year and the Rotarians and Highland Park School teacher were hosted by Club members. They participated in a very busy and varied schedule, action packed from beginning to end and they found it quite an experience... The full report on the visit can be seen here.
The impact the programme has had on its participants can be illustrated in that three parents, one from Belfast and two from Highland Park have been so impressed by the positive changes they saw on their sons’ return that they have joined their respective clubs. Past President Martha Gray (Highland Park) and Doris Houston (Belfast) have been to the fore in the programmes since the participation of their respective sons, Jesse and Kyle. The second Highland Park/Highwood member, Paul Munk, joined after his son's visit to Belfast in 2009 and he led the 2013 team to Belfast.
The rather clever logo for TABU was designed by John Armstrong, then a member of the Club.· The banner reproduces the Edmund Burke quote:·
All that is required for EVIL to prosper
is that good men do NOTHING
It first featured, just before the first visit to Chicago, in an article in the Belfast Telegraph, 22nd April 1992, written by Robin Morton, the son of our past member PP Stanley Morton and one time Honorary Secretary.
PP Martha Gray of the Highland Park/Highwood Club says that: "TABU has forever linked the clubs of Belfast and Highland Park, Illinois in a bond of friendship and working together in a common purpose to help the youth of our countries to better understand the conflicts and issues that confront each of us in our daily lives and our countries in their search to make a more peaceful and better life for its citizens."
The Club has been recognised many times for its work to improve community understanding.
- In 1994/5 the Club were awarded the Rotary International Significant Achievement Award for outstanding service in promoting World Understanding and Peace in the local community.
- In 2003 and 2008 the Club were presented with the District Mutual Understanding Award for having organised the best mutual understanding event between clubs.
- In 2004 the Mayor of Highland Park, Michael D Belsky, honoured the TABU Programme by declaring April 12-16 as TABU Week.
The TABU program has raised the awareness level of our students and Rotarians of issues on a global level and has prepared them to journey forth to their universities and the world beyond with new ideas and an open mind in ways that would not have been possible if the program did not exist. It has also fostered friendships that have had a lasting impact on those who have participated in the process. Many of our former students have ventured into Law, Foreign Service, Teaching and International Banking as well as politics. Many can trace their career paths to TABU and to their trips, the Rotarians they met and the ideas explored in meeting with students, political activists and the opportunity to absorb a culture and set of ideas that were different from their own.
We have all benefited greatly from this experience and anticipate continuing the program for many years to come.
TABU is producing great young people committed to the ideals of Rotary and who are now coming through as members of Rotaract and even local Rotary Clubs. In 2009 three of the students who participated in the 2008 programme to Chicago joined the Belfast Rotaract Club, whose founding President was a 2006 participant, and in 2012 another student 2006 participant also joined the Belfast Rotaract Club.
A very sincere thanks and congratulations to all those Rotarians who have been involved in any way, both here and at the Highland Park/Highwood Club, who have over the years really put so much effort into TABU, a great international project, ensuring the visits prove to be a worthwhile and memorable experience for all concerned getting great results and some wonderful young people now wanting to put something back into our community.
In particular we thank all the organisations and individuals who meet with us both in Northern Ireland and Chicago and note that in every case we receive a strong and positive desire to be a part of our programme.
However perhaps the best testament to the Programme are the reports of the programmes by the students themselves which can be read on the yearly report pages and encapsulate the type of impact that the programme has had on all the young people who have participated..
A few are:
We understood that everyone was different, but we also understood that this was a good thing, and wasn't a barrier from working together and getting along. We also understood that through communication and an open mind, people can get along where they might not be expected to. It is difficult to find words to depict how big an effect this scheme had on the 6 of us, but it is undeniable that the experience will stay with us for the rest of our lives, and that we have made many strong friendships. We moved towards a better understanding. It is now our task to help others along the way. (Paul Chambers, Chicago Exchange 2010)
TABU was life-changing for me but even more importantly my experience at TABU has given me the tools to change the lives of others. (Drew Gerber, Belfast Exchange 2013)
TABU doesn't just change lives, it changes the world. We gained the skills necessary to become some of our generation's leaders. More importantly, though, we gained the relationships that will last us lifetimes. (Anna Fox, Belfast Exchange 2013)
I had heard from several previous TABU students that this trip was life-changing, but I did not understand the weight of those words until I experienced it for myself. I have returned home with a wealth of knowledge and a new perspective, both of which are invaluable and will be used in my own community and others for years to come. (Isa Spoerry, Belfast Exchange 2013)
I don't want to say good bye and have this end, but the magic of TABU is that it doesn't have to. The skills I have learned over the past ten days will stay with me for life and I am eager to employ them in situations both locally and internationally. In the words of the author John Green, "I go to seek a great perhaps." Thank you for pushing me to explore and question and expand and grow. TABU is more than a trip on conflict resolution, it is a trip that understands that it is youth involvement that will shape the future. It is our job as the next generation to keep an insatiable hunger on our lifelong search for that great perhaps. Truly, deeply and humbly, I thank you. (Suzanne Warshell, Belfast Exchange 2013)