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Best of Friends

Melissa Sieben (center) and Martin and Mara Geshonke

LCR’s own Melissa Sieben spoke of a unique and dear friendship that started in 2008 in a Rotary Club in Gardner, Kansas. Melissa volunteered to be a liaison advisor for a local family hosting a Rotary exchange student from Germany. The job involved providing “back up” for the sponsoring parents, and generally helping out with a busy and energetic teenager. Mara Geshocke was the German student and in the course of the year, the two became fast friends. Melissa would go on to other Rotary Clubs and communities in Kansas, and Mara would return home to Germany. However, the relationship continued through letters, phone calls and visits and grew stronger through the years.

Mara joined the meeting via Zoom from her home in Uelzen, Germany and Melissa interviewed her about her Rotary years in America and various shared experiences through the years. Mara said her initial experience here was quite overwhelming but the host families were great. She learned the value of not worrying too much and being open to new experiences. Mara did all the things that American high school students do and benefitted from Melissa’s coaching. A high point of the year was a trip to Chicago to see the sites. Since that time there have been numerous trips back and forth and Melissa and Mara communicate with face time on birthdays and holidays. Mara has a lovely family and lives in a beautiful area south of Hamburg. Shared experiences in a Rotary exchange program have lead to life long friendship, which would seem to exemplify the values of Rotary.