Chechen visitors get taste of sunny San Diego, thanks to Del Mar Rotary Club

Six visitors from a Rotary Club in Grozny, Chechen Republic, were hosted by the Del Mar Rotary recently.
Six visitors from a Rotary Club in Grozny, Chechen Republic, were hosted by the Del Mar Rotary recently.
( / Courtesy photo)

The Del Mar Rotary Club recently welcomed visitors from a Rotary Club on the other side of the globe.

Hosted by the Del Mar club and sponsored by the Open World Leadership Center, delegates from Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, visited Del Mar from March 27 through April 4.

“We’re trying to build bridges through Rotary,” said Del Mar Rotarian Marty Peters, who coordinated the trip. “We use sister club relationships to build trust through service.”

Six Chechens endorsed by Del Mar Rotary’s sister club, Grozny Rotary Club, participated in the nine-day trip: youth professional Rakhman Zaburayev, former UNICEF officer Zaret Israilova, lawyer Emiliya Salamova, journalist Khava Khasmagomadova, lawyer Magomed Israilov and facilitator Ilya Kvyatkovskiy.

Peters coordinated the program after he met a Rotarian from Del Mar Rotary’s sister club, Grozny Rotary Club, at a Rotary International meeting. Rotary International is a service organization of approximately 1.2 million people in 34,000 clubs around the world.

From the Salk Institute research organization to the world-famous San Diego Zoo, Peters led the group on about 40 hours of site visits throughout Del Mar and the greater San Diego region. Other stops included the Cabrillo National Monument and USS Midway Museum.

“The whole trip was eye-opening for all these people,” said Peters. Open World translator Sergei Vladov stayed with Peters during the trip.

In an effort to expose the group to the many cultures and social issues of San Diego County and the United States, Peters drove a 15-passenger van about 800 miles and also visited other local Rotary clubs, branches of the Boys and Girls Clubs of San Dieguito, Interfaith Community Services, the Islamic Center of San Diego, and more. Delegates met with government and religious leaders, including Del Mar city staff.

“We were trying to teach them, through exposure to these various places, how we work with our refugees,” said Peters, a Del Mar resident since 1976, who joined Rotary soon after moving to the community.

Rotarians Al Tarkington, Haylea Minks, Pat Caughey and Pat Dougherty opened their homes to the delegates.

“I thought it would be enlightening,” said Dougherty, a Solana Beach resident and Del Mar Rotarian. “I thought it would be neat to get to know someone who comes from halfway around the world, comes from a different culture and different ideals.”

Khasmagomadova stayed at Dougherty’s home. He noted the 27-year-old was reluctant to visit the zoo and was surprised to see “how well we take care of our animals.”

Caughey, a Solana Beach resident and San Diego Rotary Club member, said he invited his guest, Salamova, to the Friday Fish Feast at St. James Catholic Church on her first night in town.

“She was very open and very comfortable sitting with us,” Caughey said. He noted how the 34-year-old cried when she saw the ocean for the first time.

“It was a great opportunity to meet her and get to know her. It was an eye-opener for us as it was an eye-opener for her.”

Minks, a Solana Beach resident and Del Mar Rotary Club member, said she was “compelled” to participate in the program after hearing about the wonderful experiences past host families have had.

“It was mutually beneficial,” she said. “I learned a lot about their country and I hope they learned a lot about our culture and way of life. It was inspiring and humbling. I truly made a wonderful connection and friendship with a few of those that participated. I would highly recommend other Rotarians consider this act of service for their club.”

For more information on the Del Mar Rotary Club, visit