2017-18 - Vera Toppara - Urjala, Finland

Vera had a very enjoyable time in Corowa, seeing more of Australia than most Australians. When Vera arrived, the Club realised what an accomplished a sportswoman she was - being the 3rd rank U16 shot putter and discus thrower in Finland. Vera's natural sports abilities became evident when she tried rowing, cricket and tag rugby, excelling in all of them.  In athletics at Corowa High and at regional level, Vera set new records which are unlikely to be broken for some time! 

Vera was a delight to have at our club. We wish Vera all the very best for her secondary and tertiary studies and for the future.

2018-07-04  Farewell Vera

 Goodbye to my Aussie Rotary family and friends in Corowa.

 Hello family, Brydee and all my friends in Finland!!

It was a bittersweet evening for Vera. Sadly, she farewelled her Aussie families and friends, but – at the same time – she was looking forward to seeing her family and friends in Finland.

Rtn Howard Scheetz mentioned that Vera had brought home several Certificates of Achievement from Corowa High School. One of these outlined her record breaking throws in discus and shot put in the Athletics Carnival. The discus record – set in 1999 – was 23m but is now 30m. The shot-put record was 10m, but is now 12.7 m. We are sure it will be many years before these new records are broken!!

President Gary Poidevin gave Vera a gift from the Club and wished her well for her travel home and for her future endeavours. 

2018-06-27  Vera Toppara – A Year on Exchange in Australia

Wearing her by now very heavy Rotary blazer – adorned with all her memorabilia collected during the year – Vera gave a wonderful synopsis of her year in Australia. She illustrated her talk with just a few of the many thousand photos she must have taken throughout the year and worked her way through the year chronologically – from her departure from her family in July 2017 to pictures of her Deb Ball last Friday evening.

She has enjoyed staying with her five host families – Gary & Chris Poidevin, Doug & Julie Lavis, Wally & Lyn Cann, Meredith & Paul Miegel and Howard & Jeanette Scheetz. Her year has been enriched by trips and outings with other Rotarians and being adopted by her Aussie grandparents Gail and John Law.

The year involved many different experiences – from water sports like surfing, knee (not wake) boarding and canoeing, farm work with sheep, bush walking and camping and a HOT Christmas. There were many highlights during the year, one of which would have to be going on the Safari. With 42 other exchange students she travelled over 8,000 km during 21 days. She was able to see much of the centre of Australia as well as the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland and NSW coastal beaches and finished at Sydney with a climb of the harbour bridge.

Learning to play and thoroughly enjoy different sports was a huge highlight. As well as blitzing the Corowa High School athletics carnival in discus and shot, she showed great potential in cricket and rowing. However, the sport she really loved was rugby!!!

Vera thanked the Club and members for their generousity and especially thanked her host families and her Grandma Gail and Grandpa John Law for their love and support through the year.

Rtn Robyn Rhodes presented Vera with a wall hanging and a table runner made in aboriginal fabrics. The items were made by Robyn and Margaret Brown and it is hoped the Club members can all write a message to Vera on the back of the wall hanging. 

2018-06-22 Exchange Student Vera’s Deb Ball


St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church and St John’s Anglican Church Presentation Ball took place on Friday 22nd June 2018. Partnered by exchange student Kilian Vele from France, Vera looked enchanting. A number of our members, plus members of Vera’s host families, were able to attend the evening,

2018-05-16 Rotary Youth Exchange – Vera

President Gary mentioned that it was our lovely Vera’s 17th birthday on Monday – so we all sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to her and wished her well.

Vera greatly enjoyed the recent ‘Rock to Reef’ Safari, which finished on 27th April. The safari took in Horsham, Coober Pedy, Uluru, Kings Canyon, Cairns, Airlie Beach, the Great Barrier Reef, Bundaberg, the Gold Coast, Byron Bay, and Sydney. The best parts? Sleeping under the stars in Kings Canyon (Vera finds the clear sky here gives an amazing view of the stars), seeing the Great Barrier Reef and climbing the Harbour Bridge. The bridge climb was on a sunny calm day and the view was great.

Vera has changed host families again and is now with Howard and Jeanette. She is still playing rugby, and in a couple of weeks will start her deb practices. Vera’s deb partner is the French exchange student Killian Vale. Remember that all Rotarians and partners are invited to attend the ball to support Vera on the evening. 

2018-04-05 Exchange Student Vera

Vera has been enjoying participating in a women's rugby team. This Saturday 7th April Vera leaves to go on Safari for three weeks and she is very excited at the prospect. Vera intends to make her debut in June.

Vera competed in the Corowa HS athletics carnival this week .... and of course she excelled in her special disciplines. She is leaving CHS with a couple of records that future track and field athletes will find a challenge to beat!! While the shotput record was about 6.5 m, our Vera threw 11m. The discus was the same story, with Vera throwing a massive 32.23 m, which was over double the previous record. According to a devoted fan,  Vera ‘ran like lightening’, and she came first in the triple jump event.  Well done Vera!

2018-02-15 Vera - Exchange Student Information

Our Vera has been a very busy traveller these last few weeks, Wally and Lyn took her to the Bundanoon area, where she saw the Sky Bridge - north of Wollongong, many water falls including the Fitzroy Falls and visited the Don Bradman Cricket Museum at Bowral. This week she is off to Mt Kosciusko with the school and then away to the Jenolan Caves with Rtn Neil and Wendy the following weekend 

Vera showed a PP presentation she had compiled for Dookie on

“20 Things I have learned about Australia”

1. Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi

2. Australians are amongst the friendliest people in the world

3. There are spiders everywhere

4. Aussie Barbie (BBQ)

5. Vegemite on toast

6. Vera studies only 3 subjects at school compared with 17 in Finland

7. “See ya this arvo” – ‘arvo’ in Finnish means ‘value’

8. You can’t get alcohol in supermarkets (in NSW)

9. Surfing is harder than it looks

10. Australia has hot winds. The only hot wind in Finland is a hair dryer.

11. Chicken Parmigiana is the best thing!!!

12. Drive on the LHS of the road.

13. Wild life is ‘next-level’ (ED Meaning: on a level above the rest of the world)

14. Cold weather is 20 degrees C

15. Australian English is a lazy language (ED Meaning: we abbreviate everything)

16. Sydney and Melbourne have the world’s dearest airport car parks

17. You have to make your own lunch. In Finland, a hot lunch is provided at school free.

18. The sky in Australia is huge

19. You can drive 6 hours but it doesn’t mean you have moved on the map


20. Everything else but not Collingwood!! 

2018-01-18 Vera Toppara


Vera loved her first taste of kayaking. The weather was perfect, the water in Lake Moodemere was like glass and there were plenty of pelicans and other birds to observe.  


2017-11-30 Vera Toppara

Vera gave a quick 3-minute talk, to fill the Club in on things she has been doing for the past few weeks.

She had a busy weekend in Dookie with the outbound exchange students before they head off on their big trip overseas. It appears that there is very little sleep to be had at Dookie.

Vera is still excelling at cricket with the school team and was delighted to be able to tell us that over 2 games on Thursday, she hit 6 x sixes, 2 x fours and took one wicket. (For those overseas readers of this Bulletin, that means she hit 6 balls out and over the fence, two balls into the fence and bowled one of the opposing batsmen out.)  


2017-11-09  Exchange Student Vera

Vera has been all over the place these past few weeks. She spent three days at Borambola Sport and Recreation Centre on a school camp. Over the last couple of weeks, Vera and 11 other inbound exchange students, along with a dozen or so other young people spent time at Mittagundi Outdoor Education Centre.

The ten days had the following organisation:

1. Meet at Albury railway station, night in Tawonga hut

2. Begin walk to Mittagundi from Watchbed Creek near Falls Creek, overnight camp in tents

3. Continue walk, arrive at Mittagundi mid afternoon

4. Half the group abseils, other half has a farm day

5. Vice versa day 4

6. Half the group rafts/sleds on the Mitta Mitta River - depending on river levels

7. Vice versa day 6

8. Commence walk out, over High Plains

9. Continue walk out over High Plains

10. Complete walk out, arrive tired and elated at Albury station

Life at Mittagundi is simple and full of rewards. The time spent on the farm is utilised by activities such as feeding animals and working in the blacksmith forge or joinery. All of the farm activities at Mittagundi have a purpose, be it chopping wood for the kitchen stove so that the group can eat tea that night or picking fruit from the orchard so that that preserves can be made for the hike out. There are no clocks or watches (except in the first aid kit) at Mittagundi and programs are delivered without time constraints. All of the activities done at Mittagundi are performed without power tools or electricity and in a fun, safe atmosphere. 

2017-09-21 News of Exchange Student Vera


Vera has been having a marvellous time on the Gold Coast with the family of 2018 exchange student Brydee Lavis. Here we see Vera and Brydee outside Warner Bros Movie World chatting to a young chap in blue and red. 

2017-09-14 News of Exchange Student Vera


Vera has moved from hosts Gary and Chris to the home of Brydee Lavis – our outbound exchange for 2018. The Lavis family have driven up to the Gold Coast for a holiday – packed a bit like sardines in their car!!


During the previous week Graham and Margaret took Vera to Mt Pilot and the aboriginal rock paintings at the base. One highlight was spotting two brolgas at a local pondage, as well as admiring all the yellow wattle in the Chiltern Forest and the yellow canola in nearby paddocks.  


 Vera Toppara – ‘Me and My Family’

Vera addressed the Club and many guests, illustrating her talk with a slide show. She introduced us to her mother, father, 11 siblings and several nieces and nephews. Her oldest sibling is 36 y.o. while her youngest is 2 y.o.

The interests of the family are diverse, with some enjoying horse riding while others love playing ice hockey. Vera herself enjoys athletics and soccer, with a special love for shot put, discus and hammer. At home she would spend about 20 hours a week in developing her skills in these areas.

Vera then spoke about her homeland – Finland – which gained its independence on 6-12-1917. Finland is known for Nokia, Santa, the northern lights and the Moomins. There are about 180,000 lakes in Finland, and about 70% of the land is covered with trees. All lakes in Finland freeze in winter and can be used as skating rinks. The population is concentrated in Helsinki, but the Toppara family live at Urjala – see map. Wild life includes the seal, brown bear, wolf, wolverine, lynx and swan.

Vera capably demonstrated her skill in knitting beautiful socks with specialised Finnish designs. Many folk admired her skill and were keen to give her orders!!

Chair Paul Miegel thanked Vera for her talk and presented her with a Rotary pen 

2017-08-10 DG Bernie Bott – Official Visit


The Club had the privilege of welcoming DG Bernie Bott as its special guest this evening. 

After his introduction, DG Bernie’s first job was to present to our Exchange Student Vera her official Club Dinner Badge for the next 12 months. He hoped she would wear it with pride and have a great year in Australia.


Pictured with DG Bernie and Vera are two of the Conference theme ‘Charlie the Bull’ toys. Charlie is spending the year travelling around the District, being present at many Club functions and pro,oting the Conference. (Charlie will even go on Ride to Conference in March!!) Before Charlie came to visit our Club, he had visited Melbourne and Tasmania, but it was now time for him to return to Yarrawonga.

2017-07- 28 Exchange Student Vera

After only 5 days in Australia, we were delighted to meet our new exchange student - Vera Töppärä from Finland. Vera presented President Gary with a banner from her Sponsor Club, and then gave each Rotarian present a little lolly – which tasted rather like an aniseed drop. Vera has enrolled at the High School, and is starting to use her English skills. To assist Vera, Rotarians should remember to speak more slowly to her for a while and to ensure she can see your face while speaking, as she finds we speak very quickly. Vera’s name is not pronounced ‘Veer-a’ in the English manner, but more like ‘very’ with an ‘a’ on the end instead of a ‘y’. Vera is an accomplished track and field athlete, with skill in discus and hammer throw.


Her counsellor Gail Law was looking after Vera for the evening, but we should all get to know her and have the privilege of Vera’s company not only at Rotary but out and about. It was noted that Vera’s first Aussie Rotary meal was pie and chips!! 

2017-07-21 Exchange Student Vera


We would like to extend a very warm welcome to our new exchange student - Vera Töppärä from Finland. Vera met with her new counsellor Gail in Singapore while Vera was en route to Melbourne and Gail was holidaying for a few days in Singapore with her Dad and daughter Naomi.


Vera was met by Gary and Chris Poidevin at the airport and she will start school on Wednesday. Meanwhile Vera and Chris enjoyed lunch at the Chocolate Factory.


Vera is currently being hosted by Gary and Chris Poidevin.