A GSE (Group Study Exchange) Team from Brazil visited the Westfield/Mayville Rotary Club in October as part of its journey to the United States and Canada.
Club member Dan Smith, Rotary District 7090 GSE co-chair with Canadian Robert Gosselin, introduced team leader Alex Knapp Bakof, Alessandra Luther, Gustavo Hansel, Claudio Renan Correa Filho and Larissa Ferreira Vargas Marafiga Emerenciano, all of whom participated in a PowerPoint presentation of their District 4660 locations.
It should be noted that the only Rotarian in any GSE is the leader, while the team members are not, nor are they related to a Rotarian. Sponsored by Rotary, the purpose is to give young business and professional men and women between the ages of 25 and 40 a unique opportunity to experience a cultural and vocational exchange.
Westfield/Mayville Rotarian Dan Smith, seated center, holds a small local remembrance flag presented to the GSE Team and a Santa Maria Rotary Club flag memento from the team members, seated from left, Alessandra and Larissa; and back from left, Gustavo, team leader Alex and Claudio.
Alex, who speaks excellent English, noted that he was glad to hear about county Rotary clubs making polio their continued concern. ''No matter where you go, you find people like you,'' he said.
A businessman in the plastic industries and gas station/university teaching, Alex joined Rotary in 2006 but has been involved in it since he was a child because his father has been a Rotarian. His professional activity is connected to plastics transformation, such as fiberglass. In addition, he is a university teacher for law and accounting so that he can help education and community ''sharing my economics master's degree and major.''
His hobbies include traveling, spending time with family - he married Camila in 2007 - scuba diving, tennis, reading, motorcycling and bicycling. ''I strongly believe that Rotary provides us unique experiences, contributing effectively to world peace and integration, as well to community and personal development,'' he explained. ''Rotary gives us the opportunity to practice some principles which I really believe in: borders shortening and differences comprehension.''
Alessandra is a geography teacher and lives in Santa Maria with her father, mother and older brother. ''Our pet is a little cat. I graduated in geography by the Federal University of Santa Maria,'' she said. ''I took my Master Degree in rural development at Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul.''
Having taught geography in private schools since 2006, she said, ''I believe that education is a very important field for society, and I am dedicated to work in it by doing my best and (convinced) of the educator's role in the classroom.''
A graphic designer/businessman, Gustavo lives in Santa Rosa, his hometown, and is a university student with two majors - advertising and graphic design. ''I'm a businessman and own two different companies in Santa Rosa. Recently I decided to live (on) my own and move out of my parents' house, which was a very good decision.'' He did, however, admit, ''I sometimes miss the family and the dogs nearby.'' He also noted, ''I enjoy practicing soccer and squash.''
Claudio, 27, graduated in law from Universidade Federal de Santa Maria and has worked in the federal judiciary since 2006. ''Besides the study of law to grow in my profession, I enjoy reading about history, politics (non-partisan) and economics, as well as my passion for soccer.''
A member of Rotaract (a program for college students) since 2007, Claudio said, ''My hobbies are watching action movies and comedy. In music, I like international rock, hard rock and some metal (not too heavy). I also listen to Brazilian music.''
Larissa was born in northeast Brazil and now lives in Santa Maria with her mother. ''My professional activity is geared towards legal area. I am a lawyer and professor of criminal law, election law and criminal procedure.''
In addition, she said she has always been interested in ''the performance of the intelligence of policemen, as a tool to unravel and solve major cases. Nowadays, I am a lawyer linked to a large office in the Brazilian Southern region. I am working in criminal, civil and electoral areas, and also as a teacher of preparatory courses for public procurement in several cities.''
Internationally, Rotary Clubs are divided into districts: Westfield/Mayville is in District 7090, which stretches from Hamilton, Ontario, to Jamestown and west to Olean. The GSE Team is in District 4660, which includes 34 cities, according to Alex. Further, he said that this includes 1,300 members and 12 Rotaract Clubs.
Major economic activities within District 4660 are cattle raising; agriculture, where the prominence are cultures of wheat, corn and soybean; and many other important and diversified industries. Also important are trade, tourism and educational services.
''Our culture is what makes this region special and different from the rest of Brazil,'' according to the team. ''We cherish the traditional ways of Gaucho culture, gastronomy (being home of the world famous Brazilian barbecue), poetry, music, dances and, most of all, hospitality.''
The GSE Team arrived Oct. 2 in Toronto to visit until Oct. 16. From there they were in LeRoy until Oct. 20 when they traveled to Fredonia until Oct. 23. From there the team spent four days in Jamestown until Oct. 27 (with a visit to Westfield that week) and then to Lockport until the end of October. This also included attendance at District 7090's conference. On Oct. 30 it was back to Brazil.
The Westfield/Mayville Rotary personnel brought the team to its area where they broke up to visit different places: Jamestown Plastics in Brocton, Brocton Central School to observe graphics education, Chautauqua Lake Central School for geography, and Family Court with Judge Steven Cass in Mayville.
After their luncheon presentation to Rotary, they visited Growers Co-Op processing plant and the McClurg Museum. The visit was topped off by dinner at the Bemus Point home of Dan and Katie Smith.
A good time was had by all, to say the least.