Posted by Elizabeth Edozie on Feb 28, 2019
Isaac Owolabi, District Governor, District 7670 USA (Team Lead)
“Am a Nigerian but I only lived in Nigeria for about 24 years. I have lived in U.S now for 39 years, I live more in US than I lived in Nigeria. Actually, coming to Nigeria now as a Rotarian on a friendship exchange visit, I was extremely surprised to see; first of all, the involvement of Nigeria in Rotary.
"I was not a Rotarian when I left this country, I knew about Rotary but I was never a Rotarian and it wasn’t as popular as it is today. It was like an exclusive group of people, secluded people in the society. I am so excited today to see that Rotary is so inclusive.
"Secondly, I have been impressed with the level of commitment of Rotarians in Nigeria and also, I want to say how much I appreciate the friendliness of our people. I came purposely because I didn't want people from my district to have a bad experience.
"Thinking about it now and with what I have seen, I didn’t really have to come, they would have been in good hands; they would have been well taken care of. This is my first time in Nigeria on a Rotary assignment, I have been to Nigeria several times on different assignments but not related to Rotary.”
Past District Governor Jim Efland, Chair, District 7670 Friendship Exchange Committee and Spouse, Judi
PDG Jim, "The committee has done an exceptional job. It’s pretty much what I expected having been here before. We have really enjoyed the fellowship and all the people. We wish we can take some of these energy home but you have never been to an American Rotary Club probably; we are very low key. What you do is really exciting.
"I led a Group Study Exchange team to Northern Nigeria in 2008. The things am interested in here, that I will like to take back to our clubs is how to make our clubs more energetic, more fun. I think you all have a great time in your clubs. I felt it when I was here before and I have really felt it this time.”
Judi, "I have been a Rotarian for five years. When I heard about this trip, I really wanted to go because my husband, Jim Efland, after he was District Governor, led a Group Study Exchange team to the Northern part of Nigeria and it was just a great experience for him.
"He has talked about Nigeria, Nigerian people and friends he has made ever since so I was curious and really wanted to see for myself, and I have found out that everything he said is true. He said the people are the warmest, friendliest, and most welcoming. He said he has never been treated so well in his life and my experience has been the same thing."
George Milner, member of Rotary Club of Morganton, North Carolina and Spouse, Karen
George, "My experience in Nigeria so far has been very rewarding. The hospitality, friendship, and particularly, the warmness of the people has really surprised me. I have been to Africa three other times; that is Tanzania, Botswana, and Kenya and this is by far, the most welcoming country I have been to."
Karen, "Our own review of Nigeria was what we saw in the news; all the negative sides so I wanted to come and meet Nigerian people and see what their lives are like and I found that Nigerian people are warm and friendly. Everybody shake your hand or hug you or hold your hand. Americans don`t do that much unless it’s family or someone you know very well. The women are beautiful, the Rotary meetings are wonderful because they sing, they shake hands, they laugh but ours are more boring."
Katherine Morosani, Chair, District 7670 Polio Plus
"So far, the people have been fabulous and the hospitality is just so warm and welcoming. In the city, you see the rich and the poor but then you also see in all the Rotary club meetings, how much the club members want to give back, they are just so generous.
"And everybody is doing different projects so whenever I hear about the different projects, I compare them with what our clubs are doing, if it’s the same or different and like the Sergeant at Arms (SAA), we don’t go around and do fund raising like that. It’s just different and funny and you guys drop a lot more. Then, you sing, everybody can sing here, everyone is beautiful here.
"Also as a woman, I like seeing so many women as members and in leadership roles; that’s nice. We were at Rotary Club of Lagos Island yesterday, that’s a diverse club and they have a lot to be proud of. Comparing that with my club for example, we are looking for our next signature project but they have three or four signature projects. Also, you guys are a lot more innovative with your Rotaract Clubs and the Rotaractors."
Deborah Francis, member of Rotary Club of Asheville, Down Town
"I have met a lot of warm, friendly and welcoming people in Nigeria, they greet us like we are old friends. Lagos is not what I expected it to be, although I have been to Northern Africa, I have never been down in this direction. Nigeria has got a lot of bad publicity so we had a lot of concerns.
"We had such a hard time getting into the country so we were not sure what could happen but once we are here and we got this royal treatment at the airport which was really nice, that laid to rest all the concerns. I did expected more electric power and I didn’t realize being without power is a daily occurrence and regular because Lagos is such a huge city so I find that kind of surprising."
Joanna Gollberg, President-Elect, Rotary Club of Asheville West
"My experience in Nigeria has been fantastic, everyone has been so friendly, generous and sincere. More so, almost than every other place I have been. Am overwhelmed by the generosity and what am really surprised about is that I didn’t really expect to make relationships that I thought would last.
"They say that "Oh, you will make friends for a lifetime" and I thought "Hmmm...we will see" but I think it’s true, I think I have met people here that I want to keep in touch with, whether it’s Rotary related or personal friendship, that’s a really nice surprise for me.
"I wouldn’t have to change anything about the trip, I think it’s been absolute fantastic and I don’t want to leave. I will really love to visit Nigeria again only if I will come back here (laughs) because I want to see my friends again. I was never interested in coming to Africa before, am not sure why but am so glad that I came."