Patti Shales Lefkos
Special to The Morning Star
Rotary is a family affair.
Ruby Sharma, owner of City Furniture, his son Justin and son-in-law Ryan Nickoli have become Kalamalka Rotary Club’s first corporate member.
A member of Kalamalka Rotary for 30 years, Ruby is the recipient of the Vocational Award, which is presented to those who have achieved a high level of excellence in their vocation and through their vocation, extended outstanding service to the community.
Justin’s involvement with Rotary began with the youth exchange program in 2003, when he was 18 and spent a year in Austria.
He chose Austria because of his involvement with classical piano.
“The chance to live in and experience the cultural mecca that is Vienna was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” he said.
“My Rotary Club offered to support me in studying a year of piano at a conservatory. During that year, they sponsored me to compete in an international piano competition in Italy.”
If this all sounds too serious, think again. When asked what was the most fun of the year, Justin’s response was, “Everything. Every experience, every city I visited, every cultural difference encountered, every person I met, every high or low point. It was all incredibly fun.”
A family bond was developed with his host family.
“To this day I’m in constant appreciation for how blessed I was to have had them during that year,” he said.
“It was difficult as they did not speak much English but they are a wonderful family, ironically quite similar to my family at home,” he says. Justin sees his host family at least once a year. I truly acquired another family and they bonded with my parents as well.”
Justin counts the Rotary student exchange program as having a huge impact on his life.
“It completely changed my path. I guarantee had I not gone on exchange, 95 per cent of my life would not be the same,” he said.
Besides his marriage to an Austrian, Justin has since studied, worked and lived in four different countries in the past six years and has travelled to 30 countries.
“I maintain various international relationships, both personal and professional with people from all over the globe. I would have no clue how to communicate with them effectively had I not been on exchange,” he said.