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Didsbury resurrects twinning program with Japan

The Maple Leaf Exchange Program was put on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic
Japanese exchange student Takaki Tsutsui teaches calligraphy to a group of Didsbury students at Westglen School in March of 2012 during that year's exchange. File photo/MVP Staff

DIDSBURY - Town council supports the renewal of the Maple Leaf Exchange Program, which will see students from Japan visit Didsbury in 2025.

The move came by way of motion at the April 23 regularly-scheduled council meeting.

A joint effort from the Town of Didsbury and the town of Miki in Japan, the program saw 15 junior high students from Japan first visit Didsbury for a week in 2005.

“During the week the students participated in school activities and were billeted out to Westglen families and other families in the community,” chief administrative officer Ethan Gorner told council.

In 2011, the Town of Didsbury was officially twinned with Miki Town in a show of commitment to continuing a relationship between the two towns.

The Maple Leaf Exchange Program continued until 2019 (with more than 200 students having participated), but with the COVID pandemic starting, the program was put on hiatus.

Officials in Japan recently approached the Town of Didsbury to ask if the program would be resumed with a student visit next year, council heard.

It is proposed that a total of 16 Grade 7-8 students from Japan would visit Didsbury in March 2025.

“They are also requesting that the program be changed to take place once every two years instead of annually as in the past,” he said. 

“The Town of Didsbury would support the program by seeking out home-stay families, hosting a welcome dinner, and providing the rental of the multi-purpose room to host a party.”

Mayor Rhonda Hunter said the renewal of the program is good news for both communities.

“That will be great to have them back,” she said.

Council passed a motion to have Didsbury provide $5,000 in support of the program in 2025.

Coun. John Baswick did not attend the April 23 council meeting.

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