A delegation of nine 4-H’ers and two adult leaders from Alberta, Canada, are in West Virginia learning about the states 4-H traditions, including its nationally recognized camping program.

The Canadians are attending Alpha II State 4-H Camp, along with 316 4-H members from 39 counties across the state, at West Virginia University Jacksons Mill.

The Canadians are not the only exchange campers at Alpha II. Campers from two other states and visitors from Spain and Mexico are also learning first-hand about the traditions of West Virginia 4-H.

The Canadians spent their first week in the Mountain State in the homes of 4-H hosts before they traveled to WVU Jacksons Mill, near Weston in Lewis County.

Our host group is made up of eight 4-H members from Monongalia, Morgan, Preston, Roane and Doddridge counties,said Jeffrey Orndorff, 4-H Youth Development specialist with the WVU Extension Service.Our Canadian guests arrived Monday, July 7, and will be in West Virginia until July 19.

Our visit to West Virginia has been filled with unforgettable memories,said Shelley Tymofichuk, a chaperone of the Canadian group.Despite the great distances between our locations, geography and landscape, there is so much similarity in our programs and way of life.

Regardless of where the Alpha II campers began their journey, the 300 youths who entered WVU Jacksons Mill on July 13 all began a trek forThe Kingdom of Alpha: A Noble Journey.

Alpha is always designed to be a growing experience,Orndorff said,but the cultural exchange between West Virginia youths and Canadian youths has enriched all of our learning experiences.

The Canadians said they have many fond memories, including one that was not planned by the 4-H hosts: they discovered fireflies.

They dont have fireflies like our lightning bugs in Canada,Orndorff said.All the Canadians caught them and looked at them as they discovered something we all enjoyed during our childhoods.

This has been a wonderful experience for our Canadian 4-Hers,said Canadian 4-H leader Gail Plante.We have had the best time, and I hope to bring home many ideas back to Canada. I have already learned in one week that 4-H runs very deep in the hearts of people here in West Virginia.

Canadian 4-Her Amanda Meger, 16, agreed, saying,This has been the most amazing experience. Ive learned so much in a short time. My hosts have been so nice to me. I have found West Virginians to be the kindest, sweetest people.

What special memories could Alberta hold for West Virginia 4-Hers? That answer comes in July 2009 whenWest Virginia meets Canada.”

We are excited to host this summer, and we are excited our group will travel to Alberta in July of 2009,Orndorff said.

International travel is not new to Orndorff or many members of his 4-H group. He has taken 4-Hers to Russia five times.

International experiences have been a part of WVU s 4-H program since just after World War II,he noted.

Through these exchanges, we begin seeing the differences between our cultures,he said.But in the end, we see how much alike we are. Youth love meeting other youth from around the world, and as adults, we all strive to provide opportunities for our children that we did not have. This is true all around the world.

The Internet brought the groups together. When a trip to Quebec fell through for the Canadians and a trip to Russia had to be postponed indefinitely for the West Virginians, Plante found stories about Orndorffs travels on the Internet and called the WVU State Extension Office. Orndorffs daughter, Meredith, had met several Canadian 4-Hers at the National 4-H Conference in April, and she pushed her father to move forward with the exchange even though there wasnt much time to plan.

The Canadian delegation includes Ian Brousseau, Clayton Poulin, Marc Lamontague, Gabrile Corbiere, Darren Tymofichuk, Laura Plante, Meger, Martine Chamberland, Jennifer Brousseau and chaperones Plante and Tymofichuk.

Host families and 4-Hers include:

  • Doddridge CountyChelsea Welch, Mandy Yeater and Shane Yeater
  • Monongalia CountyAshley Sydney Lavengood, Sydney Lavengood and parents Mike and Sheri Lavengood; Meredith Orndorff, Joel Orndorff and parents Jeff and Cathy Orndorff; and chaperone Connie Williams
  • Morgan CountyRonald Fifield
  • Preston CountyCharles Brown
  • Roane CountyKati Hildreth

For more information about international exchange opportunities or local 4-H clubs and activities, contact Jeffrey Orndorff at 304-293-2694 or ” jeffrey.orndorff@mail.wvu.edu rel=nofollow> jeffrey.orndorff@mail.wvu.edu .

The 4-H Youth Development Program is sponsored by the WVU Extension Service. Discover more information about WVU Extension Service programs on the Web at http://www.ext.wvu.edu .