Aussie Family Bids Leduc Goodbye

Pipestone Flyer

What would possess an Australian family to travel 15,445 km to exchange lives with an individual for an entire year and go live in a country where the cold was a shocking surprise?

Adventure. Education. A desire to spend quality time together while discovering another culture…

This is what Peter and Sonya Elek, residents of Perth Australia, set out to do. They embarked on this adventure in June of 2013. Their research for a teacher exchange for Peter, an elementary school teacher, focused broadly on Canadian opportunities and soon the best option was to pack up Jacob and Dylan, 9 and 7 at the time, and for Peter to trade home and job with Ms. Bonnie Spurrell, a Notre-Dame Elementary School teacher. Sonya, a musician and music teacher, was told that she could lend her talents locally.

Their extensive research did not prepare the Elek family for the brutal temps of the 2013 winter. Arriving on December 27, their first Canadian shopping adventure was to acquire winter clothing. The boys and their father had never seen snow so this was the more pleasant aspect of the epic winter they experienced.

Life was rich and busy for the Eleks. Peter settled in his new teaching position, where he found both administrators and teachers friendly and welcoming. Sonya’s talents found a niche in the Black Gold Community Band and Piatta Forma where she discovered her love of singing and was impressed with the size and quality of that Leduc choir. She also joined the Salem Manor Volunteer Program, while the boys happily settled in their new school, making friends quickly. Hailing from a city of 1.5 million people, Peter particularly enjoyed the “small town feel” of the city of Leduc.

Jacob was in Miss Gilbey’s Grade 6 and enjoyed Astronomy and class parties. Musically inclined, he started playing the trumpet in grade four back home and was fortunate here to find an instructor to come teach him at home.

Dylan was in Miss Jalbert’s Grade 4. A young dynamo, he enjoyed artistic projects. He even took knitting classes with his mother, and proudly shared this with his classmates! Both boys admit that they will miss their Canadian friends, and like their parents, will keep in touch via email.

The Eleks have traveled as much as possible throughout Canada, mostly in the summer. They visited their good friends in Toronto and happily discovered Niagara, the Maritimes, Vancouver Island, Calgary and Drumheller. Their adventurous spirit took them dog sledding in the Rockies, snowshoeing and skiing at Rabbit Hill where Mr. Elek’s small injuries were thankfully covered by their temporary residents’ medical insurance, a must to obtain when living in another country for an extended period.

The Eleks have stayed in touch with Mrs. Spurrell, who while living in their home is also enjoying their family dog. They all agree that the time spent together, the sports and increased physical activity they’ve enjoyed here has made them closer and stronger as a family. Travel is enriching for kids as well as for adults and this bold adventure has created for them a huge collection of precious memories!

There are many types of professional exchange programs on the global scene: firefighters, teachers, athletic coaches … one only has to do some research, fill extensive paperwork, and pray for an ideal match. It certainly worked out for the Eleks…and hopefully, for Bonnie Spurrell as well.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer
Halloween spirit out in the City of Wetaskiwin

City of Wetaskiwin residents show off their Halloween decorations

(Photo Submitted by the Gord Bamford Foundation)
Lacombe’s Gord Bamford to perform a virtual concert for a good cause

The concert aims to raise awareness for Operation Santa Clause

Alberta Health Services' central zone jumped from 162 active COVID-19 cases to 178 on Friday. Five additional deaths were reported provincewide, bringing the toll to 323. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
622 new COVID-19 cases set another daily high Friday

Province confirmed 622 additional cases Friday

City of Wetaskiwin Mayor presenting the AUMA Above & Beyond Award to John Maude and Susan Quinn. Ren Goode/ City of Wetaskiwin.
Wetaskiwin County residents win the AUMA Above & Beyond Award

John Maude and Susan Quinn are being recognized for their role in Wetaskiwin’s sustainability.

Alberta children whose only symptom of COVID-19 is a runny nose or a sore throat will no longer require mandatory isolation, starting Monday.
477 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in Alberta on Thursday

Changes being made to the COVID-19 symptom list for school-age children

Over the years, Janice Blackie-Goodine’s home in Summerland has featured elaborate Halloween displays and decorations each October. (File photo)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about Halloween?

Oct. 31 is a night of frights. How much do you know about Halloween customs and traditions?

A man runs across the Carcross Dunes in Carcross, Yukon, on July 2, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘No manual or checklist:’ Yukon ditching fall time change this year

The territory decided to adopt year-round daylight time in March

Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains makes an announcement regarding vaccine procurement, in Toronto, on Wednesday, Aug., 5, 2020. Despite its status as an artificial intelligence hub, Canada has yet to develop a regulatory regime to deal with issues of privacy, discrimination and accountability to which AI systems are prone, prompting calls for regulation from businesses and experts. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov
Canada crawling toward AI regulatory regime, but experts say reform is urgent

5 million images of shoppers collected without consent at Canadian malls

FILE - In this Jan. 23, 1987 file photo, actor Sean Connery holds a rose in his hand as he talks about his new movie "The Name of the Rose" at a news conference in London. Scottish actor Sean Connery, considered by many to have been the best James Bond, has died aged 90, according to an announcement from his family. (AP Photo/Gerald Penny, File)
Actor Sean Connery, the ‘original’ James Bond, dies at 90

He died peacefully in his sleep overnight in the Bahamas

(Photo submitted)
Rimbey resident avid author despite Parkinson’s

Wins more accolades for her writing

(Photo Submitted by the Gord Bamford Foundation)
Lacombe’s Gord Bamford to perform a virtual concert for a good cause

The concert aims to raise awareness for Operation Santa Clause

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday October 28, 2020. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Conversion therapy ban gets approval in principle, exposes Conservative divisions

Erin O’Toole himself voted in favour of the bill, as did most Conservative MPs

(Pixabay photo)
Spoooky, scaaaary: The ultimate Halloween-in-quarantine playlist

All the costumes, trick-or-treating and spooky-season fun is essentialy off the table due to COVID-19

Pilots Ilona Carter and Jim Gray of iRecover Treatment Centres, in front of his company’s aircraft, based at Ponoka’s airport. (Perry Wilson/Submitted)
95-year-old Ilona Carter flies again

Takes to the skies over Ponoka

Most Read