Volume XII, Issue 38: May 17, 2013

We didn’t have a regular meeting on May 10th because that week was devoted to our Club’s small-group planning sessions for the coming Rotary Year.  President-Elect Jessica McNkight reported  that each of the four Fireside Meetings provided her with “a lot of feedback”. She and the incoming Board of Directors planned to spend last Friday night and Saturday morning sleeping on it at their Retreat in Samoa (California). It was a jammie session, and I’m sure we’ll hear more about it at our next meeting … maybe with photos? A big thank you to the hosts for Firesides: Julie Vaissade-Elcock, Dawn Ellsbree, Romi Hitchcock Tinseth, and Bob Johnson!

This year, May includes five Fridays. That means that this coming Friday will be Foundation Friday, and there will also be a Fifth Friday Fellowship Meeting. This month, it will take place on Wednesday, May 29th, and we are going to attend a class called “Tequila 101”! We will learn about the South-of-the-Border (and sometimes Under-the-Table) potent potable from our Club’s good friends Ted Rose and Susan Hill. Ted and Susan will also provide an update on the good work they do at Project Amigo. The fun begins at 6 pm, and it will take place at the Blue Lake home of Barbara Browning and Ron Sharp. Please bring a potluck finger-food to share. 

We are also closing in on “Oh, The Places We’ll Go” – the big fundraiser for Logan White and two of his fellow Outbound Rotary Exchange Students. The steak dinner will take place on Friday, June 6th at the Bayside Grange. You can save by purchasing your ticket in advance – just call Logan at 845-2922 or talk with him at Friday’s meeting. There will be live music and an auction.

Julie Vaissade-Elcock reported that her recent birthday was a “blowout”, and I think that included more than just the candles. She was the honoree at a big party at her mother’s house, and she reports that it was a great day!

At last Friday’s meeting, we were visited by the Group Study Exchange Team from Rotary District 1700, which includes 2756 Rotarians in 89 Clubs, and encompasses Southern France and Andorra. There are also 11 Rotaract Clubs in the District. GSE Teams are led by Rotarians, but the other team members are non-Rotarians. The program is an important component of Rotary International’s efforts to achieve “world understanding, goodwill, and peace”.

Rotarian and Team Leader Lionel Lainard is a Leadership Development Coach. He said the city of Toulouse is in the approximate center of District 1700, and a few kilometers east is Balma, which is also in the Department of Toulouse. Lionel said that the District currently has three major projects, or “recurring actions”: My Blood for Others – the largest ongoing blood donation project in Europe, Hope is Heading – a cinema preview event that raises funds for research on brain diseases, and Food Bank – the collection of food for distribution to the poor. The District is involved with Rotary Youth Leadership in Action, Rotary Youth Exchange, and (of course) the GSE program.

Lionel told us about Toulouse, noting that it is famous for La Cité de l’espace (The City of Space) – a theme park dedicated to space exploration and a major cancer research center known as l’Oncopole de Toulouse. He also showed slides of some major sights in District 1700, including the fortress town of Carcassonne, a cable bridge known as the Millau Viaduct (which looks somewhat like a longer version of Redding’s Sundial Bridge), the famous pilgrimage site of Lourdes, the Pyrennees Mountains, and Andorra. Lionel said that the popular sport in the area is not soccer, but rugby.

Lionel then introduced Emmanuelle Delon, a 38-year old IT Project Manager, who is sponsored by the Rotary Club Portet sur Garonne. The Club is very active, and its projects include sending supplies to needy people in Dakar.

Emmanuelle told us that she began her IT career in France, but she moved to Spain for seven years to work as a project manager. She returned to France about three years ago, where she lives with her two children, 5-year-old Thomas and 7-year-old Mathilde, both of whom were born in Spain. 

We next met Anesthesiologist Jésus Diaz, who is 32 years old. The Rotary Club of Montpellier de l’Or is Jésus’s sponsor. They are a relatively new Club, formed only four years ago. Their projects include ultraviolet water purification, professional meetings for young workers and students (which is coordinated among 10 Rotary Clubs in Montpellier), and supporting the District’s blood donation efforts.

Jésus said that his parents are from Spain. He studied medicine in Marseilles, then he worked in Reims, which is in the Champagne region of France. He noted that wine and anesthesia share certain attributes. Now, he works in the city of Nimes. Jésus recently created a medical encyclopaedia app for smartphones that is used by doctors, nurses, and students. His home is in Montpellier, and he enjoys improvisational theater and epicurian pursuits.

Céline Mazières, 27, was our next team member. She works as a Commercial Assistant for four wineries that produce wines for sale in supermarkets, and her sponsor is the Rotary Club de Gaillac. The projects that this 29-member Club has taken on include support for the Gaillac Hospital, sponsoring a school in Madagascar, and helping orphans at the Bamako Orphanage in Mali.

Céline lives in Lisle sur Tarn, which is located on the banks of the Tarn River. On her last “holiday”, she went to Morocco, which she greatly enjoyed. Each summer, the wineries that she works for host the “Vinovalie Jazz”, a nice pairing of wine and music.

Céline introduced Jérome Marty, 32. Jérome is an IT Security Engineer sponsored by the Rotary Club of Revel. This Club was founded in 1957, and has 38 members. 21% of the membership is women, including the Club’s President, Martine Maréchal. Among the Club’s projects are supporting cognitive stimulation to help people suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease, funding for pediatric oncology efforts, assisting with the District food collection project, providing Christmas presents to poor families, and sending medical equipment to the Ivory Coast.

Jérome said that he comes from a family of grape growers. They do not make wine from the grapes grown, but they sell to companies that do. Jérome wanted to become an engineer from an early age, so he studied network engineering and telecommunications. He enjoys dancing, playing music, photography, and driving race cars. (I wonder whether he and Angelo Baciagaluppi compared notes after the meeting …)

25-year-old Sophie Guérandel was next up. She is a lawyer sponsored by the Rotary Club of Toulouse, where she lives and works. The Club is the second oldest in France, chartered in 1923. Sophie is the President-Elect of the Toulouse Rotaract Club, which was founded in 1968.

She comes from a small village of 800 in Southern France, where her family still resides. Sophie studied at the Université Toulouse 1 to become a lawyer. She now works for the Federal Union of Consumers, which assists people who take issue with corporations over various legal issues, whether they are “poor or rich”. She noted that Californians “don’t really like lawyers”. However, she assured us that “I’m a nice lawyer”.  

Sophie re-introduced Lionel, who told us that he is a member of the Rotary Club of Balma, which has 45 members, 9 of whom are women, including the Club President. The District Governor Nominee is also a member of the Balma Rotary, the first time that has occurred since the Club was chartered in 1991. For the Club’s 20th Anniversary in 2011, they raffled off a car to raise funds to fight cancer. Along with two other Rotary Clubs, the Balma Rotary also sponsors an annual car show featuring Ferraris. Last September, this fundraiser saw 5,000 visitors over two days, and netted 40,000 Euros to support hospitalized children. The Club has a distinctly international focus – they have a sister club in Portugal, they have hosted many GSE teams, and Lionel is the fourth GSE Team Leader selected from his Club since 2001.

Lionel grew up near Toulouse, where his parents owned an auto dealership. Lionel studied electrical engineering in college. After nine years working for Airbus, he started his own leadership development company, Action Croissance. There, he provides coaching to help individuals develop their talents, he supports team building, provides management consulting, and helps managers develop leadership skills. In his free time, Lionel likes to dance and play music, and he is involved in improvisational theater.

Starting his own business led Lionel to become a member of a GSE team.  Upon his return, he wanted to stay connected to Rotary, so he joined. Now, he says, “I feel like I’m contributing to a bigger, better world.”

Above, the District 1700 GSE Team strikes a McKinleyesque pose with members of our Club. Kahuna Kavinta (aka President George) is directly behind the RCAS sign. To his left (your right) is Celine, then Emmanuelle, Jésus, Sophie, Jérome, and Lionel. And our Exchange Student, Fa Sillapajarn, is to Lionel’s left.