Changing their lives forever, a group of 11 Rotarians, friends & spouses from throughout District 6250 traveled this past September to District 1913 in Croatia for an unforgettable Rotary Friendship Exchange (RFE) outbound adventure.  This RFE was the culmination of relationships formed between the two districts when they executed a Global Grant sponsored by the Rotary Club of Beloit which increased digital literacy of school children in Croatia.
Arriving in Zagreb, the charming capital of Croatia, the group was greeted by Danijel Jozic, the Croatian RFE leader, and local host families.  What followed were incredible days filled with food, wine, fun & fellowship.  Zagreb, with its rich history of foreign invasions, earthquakes & wars, was reflected in the resiliency of the people, diverse cuisine & rich culture.  Like most RFE trips, District 6250 Rotarians stayed with Rotarian home hosts and the daily activities were organized & led by local Rotarians - truly a “back-door” travel experience.
The Zagreb activities included a visit to a local school where the Beloit Rotary digital literacy Global Grant was changing lives.  Grant funding provides micro-processors, software & training to schools throughout Croatia via the non-governmental organization “Croatia Makers”.  The children are being introduced to computer coding, critical thinking skills and practical applications at a very young age.  The RFE group saw 2nd grade children demonstrate their newly-acquired skills- all while explaining what they were doing in English, their second language!
After 4 days in Zagreb the RFE group boarded a bus and traveled 5 hours Southwest for three days in the vicinity of Split which is located on the Adriatic coast of Croatia.  Stops along the way included Plitvice National Park and its spectacular waterfalls, and a tour of the birthplace of Nikola Tesla (the man, not the car).
Split and the Adriatic offered an entirely different backdrop filled with coastal views, rugged mountains, seafood, and of course more wine.  Daily excursions included the Krka National Park, Roman ruins, meetings with local Rotarians, and a wine-tasting fundraiser.  A highlight was a full day spent on a boat touring the islands off the coast, eating seafood (including squid potato salad & mussels), sipping wine, swimming, snorkeling, and conversation with Rotarians from WI, Croatia and beyond.
Saying goodbye to Split, the group returned to enjoy Zagreb for the final two days of its RFE adventure.  Rotarians attended a Blues, Burgers & Beer fundraiser, dancing until the bands stopped playing well after midnight.  The abilities of WI Rotarians for consuming beer and polka-dancing were on full display.  The final day in Croatia included a car trip into the nearby countryside, a visit to the Museum of Neanderthals (fossils of which were discovered on the site), a tour of a car museum, and a farm-to-table al fresco feast at an agri-tourism establishment.
Exhausted, but sad to leave, the RFE team departed knowing that their newly formed friendships with Croatian Rotarians and with each other will be renewed when the Croatian RFE team visits Wisconsin in September 2024.  The sights, sounds & flavors of Croatia were a delight.  But it was the one-on-one conversations with our Croatian counterparts that left the most impactful impressions.  Our shared hopes to make the world a better, more peaceful place are universal.  And through Rotary we are in a position to do just that.
How can you learn more about the Rotary Friendship Exchange program?  Want to host an inbound Rotarian or be a tour guide, travel outbound, or do you have a potential RFE international connection?  Read the District 6250 monthly newsletter for announcements of upcoming RFE opportunities or visit  for a list of district co-chairs and other information.

If you are interested in having an RFE team member speak to your club about their Croatian adventure & about the RFE program please contact one of the following:
Edwin Bos (District 6250 RFE co-chair, RC of Ft. Atkinson):
Michelle McGrath (RC of Madison - Downtown):
Bill Beckley (RC of Beloit):
Tom Byerly (RC of La Crosse - Valley View):
Jim Van De Bogart (RC of Beloit):
Linda Olson (RC of Waunakee):
Chuck Hanson (RC of La Crosse):
Barbara Anderson (RC of Menomonie Sunrise):
Greg & Mary Clark (RC of La Crosse - Valley View):