The Soviet Union dissolved at the end of 1991 and in the wake of this upheaval, former Soviet block countries attempted to evolve from communism to democracy and capitalism. There was no roadmap for such a transition, no pre-established sets of rules or how-tos for these governments and the fledgling businesses within these countries. Many businesses started up in the region around this time period, and many failed. However, there were many people in both Russia and the US who wanted to see the country make a successful transition.
In 1996, Susan Wait, while President of the Rotary Club of Lamorinda, was approached by the Center for Citizen’s Initiatives (“CCI”) (http://ccisf.org/cci/) about hosting the first delegation of Russians for the new CCI Productivity Enhancement Program (“PEP”). The idea of this program was to bring Russian professionals to the United States to learn about marketing, management, and production methods from their American counterparts. Armed with this knowledge, perhaps more of them could find success back in Russia. President Susan (who later became District Governor) first reached out to the Rotary Clubs of Lafayette, Moraga and Orinda for assistance. This became the first Inter-Club hosting of Russian bakers. The occupation selected by the first Inter-Club committee was bakeries because of the large numbers of these businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Inter-Club team developed a training program then successfully hosted Russian bakers. “Hosting” included keeping costs down for these struggling entrepreneurs. They had to pay for their own airfare and some minor fees for the program to CCI, but the training provided by Rotarians and friends of Rotarians was free. Rotarians hosted each participant at their personal homes.
The CCI program officially ended with the last hosting of bakers in 2006. However, as this program was winding down, Lena Novomeyskaya, (a director of the Ekaterinburg CCI office for 15 years), along with other CCI PEP graduates, decided to develop a similar program for Russian realtors. They coordinated with the same Rotarian groups back here in the US that had been involved with CCI for all those years. Local Rotarians rose to the challenge and developed a whole new training program and then hosted its first group of Russian realtors in 2007. From 2008 through 2010, there was no exchange program. Then in 2011, the Russian Realtor program was resurrected locally. 2011 was the last year of this program and Lena may want to resurrect it at some point in the future.
The Rotary Club of Walnut Creek was invited to participate in 1999 and continued its participation every year through 2011, the last year of this program.
The following clubs participated over the years: Lamorinda, Lafayette, Moraga, Orinda, Pleasant Hill, Clayton Valley-Concord, Walnut Creek, and Concord-Sunrise.
As is the case with so many Rotary programs, many individual Rotarians from these clubs made major contributions to the success of this program. Bob Shusta of the Lafayette club was one of the first people recruited into the program and became the heart and soul of the effort over the years. Every year, he would coordinate with CCI and other Rotary clubs to ensure program success. Bob had gone to school with Walnut Creek Rotarian Russ Anderson. So when Bob thought it was time to get other clubs involved, he contacted Russ. Russ enthusiastically became the Walnut Creek coordinator for these efforts and remained so for several years. Eventually, he recruited Marty Larsen to take over this job. Other Walnut Creek Rotarians who made major contributions over the years included: Remsen Barnard, Clint Collier, Doug Goodrich, and Oscar Wu.
Participating Clubs and individual Rotarians came away from these efforts feeling they were wonderful for international goodwill. Many Rotarians who hosted these Russians continue to maintain relationships with those they hosted.
(Many meeting are both live and Zoom™. See: Our Meeting Schedule)
Tuesday - 12:15 PM
Heather Farm Community Center - Lakeside Room
301 N. San Carlos Drive
Walnut Creek, CA 94598