|This update is from Meggie Smith, your District 6380 Global Grant Scholar. For those of you that I have not met, I am currently studying for a masters degree in communications, culture and mediation at the Université de Provence in Aix-en-Provence, France, which is in the South of France, about 20 minutes north of Marseille.
I was originally chosen as an Ambassadorial Scholar by D6380, but was transitioned to apply to a Global Grant as D6380 decided to take part in the Future Vision pilot. I concluded a one and a half year application process in September, receiving final grant approval then departing for my adventure in late September.
My program is wonderful. There are 19 of us girls, all native French speakers, and much of the coursework is project focused. Our two major projects are both going well. We go to Marseille each week to work in the quartier (neighborhood) St. Antoine with the community center, to work on integrating the traditionally separated Moroccan, Algerian and Armenian communities, a peace project. We have done tutoring, sports, and will be working to organize cultural events (movies/theater). We've worked with the community members to plant a communal garden, and designed "parcours urbains," which are routes that help them move more easily from one section of the neighborhood to the other, to encourage circulation and exchange in the neighborhood.
The second project is also going really well. We have partnered with Rotary Mahamasina in Antanarivo, Madagascar (the capital) and with the Rotary clubs of Aix-en-Provence to bring a potable water pump to this neighborhood, which will serve over 100 families that currently don't have access to safe drinking water. We need to raise about €4,000 euros to bring this to fruition, and are working with Rotary and other companies and organizations to make this happen.
A couple of highlights from Rotary events was the Ambassadorial Scholar weekend that I got to attend in early October in Paris, where I met several other Rotary scholars from all over the world (Japan, Siberia, Germany to name a few). We had a blast touring Paris with the local Rotarians, and had a big Gala at night where all the respective nationalities performed a song representing their country (we chose ''America the Beautiful.")
The second highlight was being invited to do the ''Banque Alimentaire" with the Rotary club of Lyon. This is a massive campaign to collect canned goods to feed the homeless and less fortunate over the holidays, organized by the government and executed during one weekend in November. We spend 5 hours in orange Rotary ''Banque Alimentaire'' vests handing out collection bags, sorting food and packing up boxes. They said it was one of the best years ever for amount of food collected, and it was a very special experience to be part of, and not to mention very fun to meet all the Lyonnais Rotarians.
Thus far, my time in France has been an incredible; I've experienced tremendous personal growth moving to a foreign country on my own, had the opportunity to serve others through Rotary, and made several friends that I feel have the potential to be life-long relationships. Thank you all who have supported me on my journey thus far; your support means the world to me, and I look forward to sharing my adventures with you in the New Year!