On Thursday, Feb. 19th, Allegro Product Manager Mike Benge and four of his new friends will be wheels up and off to Australia as the latest Rotary Foundations "Group Study Exchange" (GSE) Team.

Mike and the team are businesspeople and professionals from the Phoenix area, chosen to participate in a unique cultural and vocational exchange with the Aussies.  During their 4-week stay they'll experience the Australian culture and institutions, observe how their vocations are practiced abroad, develop personal and professional relationships and exchange ideas. 

Mike's team - the Rotary's first "all wheelchair" GSE group - will focus on learning about Australia's disability laws, medical insurance companies, accessibility and public acceptance and in turn will educate the Aussies about how we manage these issues in the US.  All five team members have spinal cord injuries which, along with their professional experiences, will provide a unique perspective about how "truly able" Americans with disabilities are. 

Darol is an Entrepreneur, Jennifer is an RN and Teacher, Rob is a Police Officer, Kerry is a Student and Enrollment Counselor at the University of Phoenix and Mike is a 7-yr veteran at Allegro Medical, specializing in Product Management and Medical Supply Sales. 

Mike says, "My primary focus will be on the medical supply distribution channel and how Australian medical supply companies compare to ours.  It's a great opportunity to learn more about my profession and teach them about Allegro's way of doing business online.  So far I can't find any Australian companies like us over there so I may be able to shed new light on potential business opportunities."

"As we go along," Mike added, "we plan to dissolve any negative or misguided perceptions of people living with disabilities.  We want to show people that we're productive members of society and we do essentially everything that everyone else does." 

To prove his point, the team will be busy making presentations, attending meetings around the country and having tea with the Governor, but they will also be doing things like touring wineries, climbing mountains, camping, SCUBA diving and deep sea fishing . 

"We're hearing that Australia is not as disability accessible as the U.S. and we want to help their cities understand how imporant not only social impressions of disabilities are but how vital accessible public facilities are."

In April, a similar group from Australia will be visiting the U.S.  For each team member, the Rotary Foundation provides the most economical round-trip airline ticket between the home and host countries.  Rotarians in the host area provide for meals, lodging and group travel within their district.

Follow the team on Mike's blog AZWheelsDownUnder and find out more about the RotaryFoundation's Group Study Exchange Programs.

Meanwhile, We'll MISS YOU MIKE!!  How will we survive without you? Be careful, kay? Eat your greens and stay warm, mate.  Smooch.

L, -v