Hello fellow Rotarians! I am pleased to share the details of our 14 January lunch gathering.
 
President Jennifer called the meeting to order at 12:30 PM. With members still queuing at the buffet, she spoke over the clinking of silverware, again reminding everyone to arrive on time. After leading us in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, she called on Pat Cunningham for words of inspiration. Pat drew from swimmer Diana Nyad’s TED Talk titled “Never, Ever Give Up.” Nyad is the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage. Confronting venomous jelly fish, large sharks and the turbulent Florida Straits, she tried this swim and failed four times. Scientists, endurance experts and her closest friends repeatedly told her that this feat would be impossible. Yet on 2 September 2013, after 53 hours in the water swimming 110 miles, Diana Nyad achieved her goal at age 64. As she declares, “Never, ever give up!”
 
Next, President Jennifer asked me to introduce guests and Rotarians from other clubs visiting us for lunch:
  • Novin Afrouz, a pianist from Italy’s San Carlo Rotary Club;
  • Dr. Abed Ayoub, CEO of United Muslim Relief, Andy Koval’s guest;
  • Evelyn P. Boyer, invited by Liz Salett;
  • Raven Canty, sales representative at Reliable Churchill, Abrahem Helal’s guest;
  • Whitney Dunn, also invited by Abe Helal;
  • Michael Harper, owner of Imperial Investments, Donnie Shaw’s guest;
  • James Lanning, working in humanitarian aid and formerly a member of our club, now visiting from Maryland’s Silver Spring Rotary Club;
  • Daniel Puls, President and CEO of PASS LLC, invited by Jim Lanning;
  • Michael A. Maniscalco, Chief Compliance Officer at Heartbeat International Foundation, Dr. Sam Hancock’s guest;
  • Sharon Pugh, the lovely wife of Past President Jay Pugh;
  • Robert Schott, President of Airschott Inc., Past President of Maryland’s Olney Rotary Club;
  • Karen Mulhauser, Chair of the United Nations Association of the National Capital Area (UNA-NCA) and guest speaker addressing our club in March 2014, invited by Bob Schott;
  • Mary Roberts, Director of Global Education at the UNA-NCA, also Bob Schott’s guest;
  • Marcus Soriano, Professional Development Chair of the DC Rotaract Club; and
  • Claudie Sossah, Grants and Compliance Officer at IREX, invited by Abe Helal.
In Buz Gorman’s absence, Acting Sargent-at-Arms Tony Cusack skillfully held the gavel to the bell but had no member’s birthdays to announce. Yet President Jennifer informed us of Executive Director Gretchen Kearney’s birthday, an occasion that sparked rousing applause.
Before turning to news about upcoming activities and club business, President Jennifer pointed to Oscar Bartoli who returned from travel and brought us a flag from India’s Bangalore Rotary Club. We then listened to announcements by President Jennifer and other selected members:
  • Our Rotaract Club still needs a new meeting location. If you can help with a site that is metro accessible where members can meet 1.5 to 2 hours a month, please contact Rotaract President Marilyn Cruz, Vice President Kyle Mumford or Gretchen in our club’s office.
  • Mark your calendar for our Post-holiday Party on Saturday, 24 January at Congressional Country Club. Tickets for this family-friendly event are only $40. Details and registration are available on our website.
  • Past President Shaun English came to the microphone to end the suspense surrounding the election for officers to serve during the 2015-16 Rotary year. First, he repeated the results he shared last week: Elected were David Klaus and Shaun English as our Rotary Foundation’s President and Vice President, respectively; Eric Fraint and Lisa McCurdy as members of the Foundation’s Board of Directors; David Treadwell as our next Club President; and Ross Grantham as our President Elect. Shaun concluded by revealing the new members of our Board of DirectorsLynn Holec, Hal Vaughn and Haleh Vaziri.
  • Past President David Klaus approached the podium with another appeal for this month’s fund drive for our Rotary Foundation. He described four youth-oriented programs supported by our Foundation: (1) the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) which entail paying to send four to six students from Dunbar and Roosevelt High Schools to a leadership conference at YMCA Camp Letts on the Chesapeake Bay in Edgewater, Maryland; (2) the Career Fair giving more than 200 students from DC’s public high schools the opportunity to explore career ideas with Rotarians representing 25 to 30 professional fields; (3) the Rotaract Club of Washington, DC composed of members aged 18 to 30 who are engaged in service activities as well as leadership and professional development; and (4) a DC-based Interact Club whose members are high school students aged 14 to 18 involved in fellowship and service activities. David urged Rotarians to contribute to our Foundation with the aim of increasing opportunities for DC’s young people.
  • Past President Howard Davis reminded us that our Foundation has two plots at the Parklawn Memorial Gardens cemetery in Rockville, Maryland for sale at a reasonable price. If anyone is interested, please contact Howard.
  • Membership Committee Chair Abrahem Helal briefed us on the effort to recruit and retain members. He encouraged us to check out the video about our club posted on our site, produced last year with the assistance of his Co-chair Monica Smith who is currently working to have it updated. He also indicated that Monica would soon be rolling out the New Member Engagement Program to enlist “guides” to welcome newly recruited Rotarians and help them to become involved in the club’s various activities. Last but not least, Abe underscored the vitality added to our club by members joining under the rule of 35. Introducing each of these young Rotarians individually, he asked all of us to get to know these newcomers because they are the future of our club.
  • President Jennifer invited CEO of United Muslim Relief Dr. Abed Ayoub to the microphone to describe his organization’s efforts to combat Ebola in West Africa. Dr. Abed distributed flyers to all in attendance and expressed his willingness to talk with anyone who wishes to contribute to United Muslim Relief’s response to the disease.
Before shifting to our guest speaker, President Jennifer awarded new member Dr. Laura Khor her Red Badge.
 
Dr. Allen Dyer—Psychiatric Preparedness and Responses in the Face of Disasters
Erminia Scarcella introduced her colleague psychiatrist Dr. Allen Dyer who discussed the contributions of mental healthcare in cases of natural and man-made disasters. With the aid of his Powerpoint presentation, Dr. Dyer explained that a disaster is an event that “disrupts a community beyond its ability to respond” so that others have to provide assistance. He distinguished natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Haiti earthquake in 2010, from calamities created by human beings, such as the Rwandan Genocide of 1994 and the ongoing civil-international wars in Iraq and Syria.
 
Insisting that the best time to respond to any disaster is before it happens, Dr. Dyer acknowledged that advanced preparation is rare, particularly in socio-economically developing countries throughout the Global South. Although, as he noted, India and Japan are societies that emphasize preparedness more than others. After a natural or man-made disaster, survivors of the event experience intense emotions which mental healthcare professionals have conceptualized as unfolding roughly in stages—starting with denial, going to anger and guilt, then bargaining, falling into depression and eventually settling into acceptance.
 
Dr. Dyer contended that the length of time which some disasters last may degrade a survivor’s ability to process her/his emotional and physical reactions to continued negative stimulus. Pointing to the example of the Middle East, he remarked that the region’s various conflicts have been long-lasting, intense and overlapping because state borders are artificial relics of imperialism and identities are fluid. Consequently, those living amid the everyday hostilities and oppression in Gaza, Iraq and Syria among other conflict zones experience “ongoing traumatic stress disorder”—a term he coined as a contrast to post-traumatic stress disorder.
 
Psychiatry has an important role to play in disaster situations. Dr. Dyer concluded that psychiatrists and other mental healthcare professionals can and should be engaged in: training teachers in life skills, counseling the counselors who help survivors cope, promoting socio-economic development as well as cultivating truthful dialogue and reconciliation among adversaries.
Dr. Dyer’s remarks clearly resonated with Rotarians who were intrigued and inspired by his commitment to improve what he called “global mental health” which he perceives as vital to peace-building efforts.
 
Adjourned Until Next Week
President Jennifer awarded our “Trees for the Capital” certificate to Dr. Allen Dyer as Rotarians waited to find out who purchased the winning raffle ticket from Heather Jaffan. When President Jennifer read the lucky numbers, serial winner Ken Kimbrough claimed the small pot of $87. Yet he did not draw the ace of spades from the diminishing deck of cards, and so the big pot of $1,900 will increase again.
 
Thank you to Tom Kern and Jennifer Galloway for greeting all who came to our meeting and to Johnny Allem and Stu Shalloway for welcoming visitors at the Hospitality Table.
At our 21 January lunch, our guest speaker will be Nicholas Alexander Brown, concert producer at the Library of Congress Music Division.
 
President Jennifer adjourned the meeting at 1:30 PM … And then I put down my pen—for Red Badge member Thomas Kern to pick up as he has kindly volunteered to take notes at next week’s meeting, giving my writing right hand a respite!