ROTARY LOG    July 26, 2018
President Cleo called the meeting to order. Following her Pledge, Al Lantinen led us in singing “God Bless America.” Greeter Nancy Notis tested us. Sara Treacy offered a meaningful invocation.
Assistant Governor Larry Marsolais (Hampton club) was a welcome attendee. Other guests (and Rotarian hosts) included:
Rob and Anna Ricci (father Bud)
Jacques Breton (Susan Gold)
Mikayla Terenzoni and Madison Stewart (Madeline Warren)
Kayla Whitaker (Judy Lotto)
Ira Korinon (Haverhill club) also attended.
Joanie Dickinson shared a “thank you “letter from a grateful participant in the Rotary Interact Leadership program.
Cleo reminded us that luncheon fees will rise to $20 starting in August. That will still be a bargain for a Justin-sized plate portion!
Happy dollars.
In his own words, Tom Decker’s “once-wayward” son is now engaged.
Your scribe’s first daughter is also now engaged
The most unusual Happy Dollar story came from Steve Wood. It involved a bicycle and a too-tight helmet. While out cycling Steve had to sharply turn his head to observe something. The too-tight helmet strap proceeded to tightly constrict his neck artery.  The consequent loss of blood flow caused Steve to temporarily “black out,” nearly precipitating a severe accident. Using Mixed Martial Arts terminology, Steve is probably the first Rotarian to be brought under submission by a choke out from a bicycle helmet! We’re just glad that Steve survived to fight another race!
Mark Lorusso won the $36 raffle but went no further on the match.
The Program: Historical background.
Leonard Seagren, our club’s Friends Forever International (FFI) advocate (and an effective one he is!) revealed the special treat in store for us. We would hear from five members of this year’s Friends Forever International’s Alumni Team.
But first, we offer a historical digression for the sake of recent club members. This comes courtesy of Leonard’s pre-meeting discussion with your humble scribe. Thanks, Len, for this information!
In 1986 Portsmouth Rotary Club member Robert “Bob” Raiche was reading about the continuing conflicts in Northern Ireland. Bob decided to do something about it. That summer he invited 10 teenagers from Northern Ireland for a two-week New Hampshire visit. The group was evenly divided between Protestants and Catholics, males and females.
Bob intended to create a “lifeboat situation” for these kids. That is an environment where people don’t have to spend much time together in a lifeboat before they get to know each other. Often very well! In that environment prior barriers could possibly come down. Trust and then friendship could then emerge. Bob hoped that this would happen to these young people. Perhaps they would go home and tell their experiences to their family and friends.
“Hey, these other people aren’t so bad,” Bob hoped they’d say. “In fact, some are now my new friends.”
The idea proved to be wildly successful.  So much so that Friends Forever International expanded beyond our Portsmouth Rotary Club. It became a 501©(3) non-profit organization.
Each year FFI teams are formed from interested young people in geographical areas that are subject to sociological conflicts. This draw now includes Northern Ireland, the Middle East and Cyprus. These local teams undertake a year-long program consisting of three tiers of development. First, speaking and team communication building. Second, skill building. (This takes place during the team’s two week stay in the U.S.) Third, a local community action project.
Guest speakers.
Our first Alumni guest speaker, Jessica, explained that the formation of Alumni Teams is the major new initiative of FFI. Alumni teams are composed of prior FFI participants who showed promise and evinced passion for FFI’s goals. They are awarded Fellowships. As part of these Fellowships, they work with the local teams before, during and after their summer stay in the U.S. They bring to bear their knowledge and experience for the new FFI members. They provide continuity for the local relationships.
Jessica is a graduate of the 2014 Northern Ireland FFI Program. While in the U.S. that summer, she worked with an elderly woman who had severe communication disabilities. The grateful woman gave Jessica a one dollar bill to symbolize the help that she had received from her. Encouraged to pursue her plans for a nursing career, Jessica still retains that dollar bill as an inspiration.
Next up was Amit, a 2016 FFI Middle East graduate. She described how FFI has changed her relationships for the better. She intends to continue volunteer service.
Noam is a 2016 FFI Middle East graduate. A key moment for her was after a long and difficult day working with disabled five-year-olds. One child came up to her and just hugged her. The stress of that day melted away, renewing Noam’s desire to pursue medical courses to help other children.
Hannah is a 2017 FFI Middle East Program participant. She intends to continue social work.
Paul is a 2008 FFI Northern Ireland Program graduate. Now 26 years old Paul serves on the FFI Alumni Board. After this years’ service, he will be pursuing a Sport Management career. Paul is committed to the cause of engaging FFI’s alumni to leverage their impact on the program.
Each Alumni Team speaker had their own unique story and their own future plans. But they all shared the same passion for FFI and its mission. They all bore witness to FFI’s life-changing impact.
Steve Martineau, Executive Director of FFI, was also in attendance. The Alumni speakers were concrete evidence of his capable management and forward-thinking direction of FFI.
As Portsmouth Rotary Club members, we have much to be thankful for. Our club has been a seminal organizing force with two significant programs. RotaPlast was given a huge boost by James Labrie. Friends Forever International was literally started by Bob Raiche. We are blessed by that legacy. It falls to us, the current membership, to ensure that these two programs (and others to follow) continue to flourish. In so doing we will truly provide Service Above Self.
Respectfully Submitted, Richard Greulich
Photos by Sarah Treacy