Friday, June 3, 2011

"Swiss Exchange" Recipient Visits the NCGA

Nicole Iten of Zug, Switzerland, is an individual living with MS who won an all expenses paid trip through the National MS Society, Eastern NC Chapter’s “Swiss Exchange.” On May 10, Nicole and her father, Josef Iten and her friend Andreas Tanner were "extended the courtesy of the North Carolina House Gallery" by Speaker Thom Tillis thanks to Representatives Wainwright and Sanderson. The gallery applauded their attendance and at the end of their trip, all stated this was a highlight of their visit. Following the recognition, our Swiss friends were also introduced to Krispy Kreme Doughnuts.

The Swiss Exchange idea began last September during the Bike MS: Historic New Bern Ride, which was part of the City of New Bern's 300th Anniversary celebration. Markus Walther of the Swiss Embassy and the Swiss Consul General Claudio Leoncavallo participated as representatives of New Bern's sister-city Berne, Switzerland. Both men rode over thirty miles through the streets of New Bern during Bike MS: Historic Ride, hosted an information table throughout the weekend, and shared the connection of the two cities with more than 3,000 Bike MS participants.

To further the connections between the National MS Society, the City of New Bern and Switzerland, the National MS Society, Eastern NC Chapter and the Swiss Consulate agreed to host a “Swiss Exchange” to which an individual living with MS and a chaperone in both Switzerland and Eastern NC would trade places for a week and visit one another’s homeland.

In an article posted in the Sun Journal of New Bern, Josef Iten said he and Nicole had reasons to be optimistic, including the awareness of MS in the US. "There is some awareness at home," he said, "but nothing to parallel this in Switzerland." He also noted that in spite of how
complicated of a disease MS is, "there is a lot of research going on and there are some signals of hope."

After beginning their week in Raleigh on May 9, 2011, Nicole and her father finished their stay in New Bern.
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