Members of the Rotary Group Study Exchange from Capetown, South Africa visited Los Alamos recently including from left, Matt Haywood, Simisha Pather-Elias, Tabiso Mokwena, Robin Gilfillan and Viennie McShane. Photo by Gil Butler
By President-elect Linda Hull
The Rotary Club of Los Alamos would like to thank everyone in the community who so warmly welcomed our Group Study Exchange (GSE) visitors from Capetown, South Africa of Rotary District 9350 during their brief stay here last month.
The GSE program offers opportunities for four young professionals, ages 25-40, to travel to a Rotary district abroad under the guidance of a Rotary team leader from their home country.
Once the five-member team has arrived in the host country, they travel for one month throughout the host district, meeting counterparts in their career fields for networking and meaningful exchange of ideas.
The South African guests on this recent visit to District 5520, which includes all of New Mexico and parts of west Texas, were Rotarian and team leader Robin Gilfillan, an educator, publisher, and rancher; and team members Matt Haywood, a school athletics director; Thabiso Mokwena, a process engineer for a petroleum company; Vienie McShane, a Waldorf school teacher and jeweler; and Simisha Pather-Elias, a conservation manager at a botanical garden.
Local Rotarian Jim Nesmith, Foreign Nationals coordinator for Los Alamos National Laboratory and chairman of our Club’s International Service projects, arranged our guests’ vocational tours and sightseeing, as well as lodging with Rotarian families Beverly and Martin Cooper, Paul and Rosmarie Frederickson, Skip and Linda King, Chris and Arnie Sierk, and Gaye and Thurman Talley, and a Club dinner at the home of Tony Chan.
Assisting in the GSE team’s welcome and tours were Georgia Strickfaden of Buffalo Tours; Dr. Bob Parmenter, chief biologist of the Valles Caldera national Preserve; Superintendent Jason Lott of Bandelier National Monument; engineer Bob Hull of Los Alamos Technical Associates; geologist Rick Kelley, meteorologist Dr. Manvendra Dubey, and climate-change scientist Dr. Chick Keller; Pajarito Environmental Education Center; potter Gloria Gilmore-House; Ken Nebel, director of the Fuller Lodge Art Center; photographer TK Thompson of Karen Wray Fine Art Gallery; Barbara Yarnell, director of the UNM-LA pottery studio; golf professional Donnie Torres of the Los Alamos County golf course; John Arrowsmith and staff of the Department of Public Utilities; programs coordinator Joe Harris of the Larry R. Walkup Aquatic Center, and Mick Matuszak of the Los Alamos High School Athletics Department.
We also thank Sonic for being the first drive-in our guests had ever visited!
Our South African guests have returned home now, after additional stays in Albuquerque, Taos, Santa Fe, Silver City and El Paso.
They left us, though, as friends, not just visitors, and we have all been made richer by this experience made possible by Rotary and our community.
Thanks to all.
Editor’s note: The Rotary Club of Los Alamos has nominated two of its team members for the next Group Study Exchange, a 4-week trip to India beginning in late November. Michael Erickson of LANL, nominated by International Service Chair Jim Nesmith, was selected as a team member and Ken Nebel, executive director of the Fuller Lodge Art Center, was nominated by President-elect Linda Hull and chosen as alternate.