District 7780 Cultural Exchange Teams
The Rotary year 2012-2013 was the last year of the GSE (Group Study Exchange) program in the form we have known for many which consisted of a Rotary team leader and up to four non-Rotarian team members.
The decision to continue sponsoring cultural exchanges in District 7780 was a result of our District 7780’s Foundation planning seminar held in October, 2012.  This opportunity is supported by a portion of our district’s designated funds from The Rotary Foundation.  In the Rotary year 2013-2014, we had our first District 7780 Cultural Exchange Team made of Rotarians and non-Rotarians alike.
In April 2015, the second District 7780 Cultural Exchange Team went to Bulgaria made up of all Rotarians.  They told of their experiences during the District Conference at the Wentworth by the Sea Hotel in Portsmouth, NH on April 24-26, 2014.  The team of six Rotarians this year were Team Leader David Kitchen (Yarmouth); Catherine Callahan (South Portland-Cape Elizabeth); Israel Collins (Saco Bay); Michael Lassel (South Berwick-Eliot); Martha Netsch (Seacoast Portsmouth); Anamaria Gonzalez-Salguero (South Portland-Cape Elizabeth).
On April 15th the six member Cultural Exchange Team returned from a two week tour of Bulgaria, and then gathered again at the District Conference to make a presentation on the experience.
During thirteen days the team visited Sofia, Blagoevgrad, Bansko, Plovdiv, Stara Zagora, Veliko Tarnovo, Russe, Varna and Belchik, before returning to Sofia. They made presentations to ten clubs and met for meals with others. The local clubs arranged quite a bit of sightseeing and there certainly are a vast number of fascinating historical sites to see; as well as beautiful bucolic country side between the cities.
The basis for future cooperative projects was established through touring projects and all of the personal conversations that were fostered during long days and evenings of discussions. That process will continue when the reciprocal team arrives from Bulgaria in June. Please make an effort to meet their team and invest a few hours in creating your own relationship with fellow Rotarians.
District 7780 Bulgarian Cultural Exchange Team
From left to right - Catherine Callahan (Cape Elizabeth/South Portland), Martha Netsch (Portsmouth),
Mike Lassel (South Berwick/Eliot), Team Leader David Kitchen (Yarmouth), Israel Collins (Saco Bay),
Anamaria Gonzalez Salguero (Cape Elizabeth/South Portland).
In March 2014, the District 7780 Rotarians’ request to continue a cultural exchange and build on existing Rotary Relationships had its first District Cultural Exchange Team.  Our first team of five Rotarians and one on-Rotarian, each with an interest in music, were in Uganda for two weeks, learning about the culture and music of that country. They will visit clubs and projects to learn how we might partner with our friends in Uganda in the future. There already exists strong bonds between D7780 and D9211 clubs, which this outreach seeks to strengthen and enhance.  These six musicians who traveled to Uganda were Team Leader Curt Combar (Freeport); Mary Bastoni (Fryeburg); John Dennen and Ken Brunsvold (Brunswick Coastal); Jennifer Davis (wife of Brett Davis, Kennebunk), and Marty Helman (Boothbay Harbor).  The six musicians who explored Ugandan music and returned humming African rhythms.  If you attended the District Conference at the Westin Harborview Hotel in Portland, ME on May 16-18, 2014 you had the opportunity to see and hear these returning District 7780 musicians perform!
District 7780 Uganda Cultural Exchange Team
Left to right in back:  Barbara Sutcliffe (Sanford-Springvale); Ken Brunsvold (Brunswick Coastal).
Left to right in front:  Jennifer Davis (wife of Rotarian Brett Davis – Kennebunk); Marty Helman (Boothbay Harbor);
Team Leader Curt Cumbar (Freeport); John Dennen (Brunswick Coastal); Mary Bastoni (Fryeburg).