'World citizen' makes stop in Wapakoneta

Deb Zwez

A morning spent in the company of Myron Fledderjohann, touring the New Knoxville Historical Society’s museum complex, left Sytse Altena more convinced than ever that he has a distant relative or two living in Auglaize County.
Altena spent a year in Wapakoneta in the early 1970s, a high school exchange student who graduated with Wapakoneta High School’s Class of 1972. He was back in town over the weekend, traveling from his home in the Netherlands to attend a 45th reunion Saturday. As has been his habit, he’s ensured this trip reflects his long-held practice of combining altruism with pleasure.
At 63, Altena considers himself a “world citizen, not a touristic consumer.” A degreed geologist and environmentalist, Altena works for a regional governmental agency near his home in Rotterdam. It was the 2005 tsunami in the Philippines that prompted his resolve to make a difference in the world around him.
He explained that as an Earth scientist, the tsunami was an interesting phenomenon that he began to study via the internet. During that research and reading, Altena came across the stories about relief efforts, which led him to a Dutch woman asking for help.
“I replied; I said I can do something,” Altena said, intending to help from home. But it turned out she was looking for someone to travel to her. It took him three weeks to arrange travel but in February 2005 he arrived to provide hands-on assistance.
“It was quite interesting, but quite tough,” Altena recalled.
Altena believes the best way to learn about a society is “from the inside,” which is part of what drives him to spend his spare time in hands-on service where needed...

For the rest of this story and more, pick up Monday's edition of the Wapakoneta Daily News.