NEWS RELEASE from Bob Jehn, November 10, 2018:
Imagine yourself in a foreign country trying to communicate in a new language when suddenly a massive wildfire sweeps through the town where you are living, destroying your house and everything you brought with you except your passport, your cell phone, and the clothes you are wearing. That’s exactly what happened to Valeria Romo Mejia, a fifteen-year-old Rotary Youth Exchange Student from Columbia, as she was preparing to leave for classes at Paradise High School on November 8th.
Victims of the most destructive fire in California history, Valeria and her host family endured the four-hour drive to Chico with more than 20,000 others who were trying to escape the flames, not knowing what would be next.
Thanks to the Rotary support network and a quick decision by Rotary Club President-Elect and Burney Fire Chief Monte Keady, Valeria is safely in Burney in her own room at Monte and Robin Keady’s home. The Keadys were already hosting Austrian Exchange Student Katharina Schatz, who had made friends with Valeria at the Interact Kickoff Event in Winters, California last month.
Rotary Youth Exchange Officer Bob Jehn along with Rotary District personnel is coordinating the effort to provide immediate financial assistance to Valeria, so she can purchase new clothes, school supplies, and other personal items lost in the fire.
Jehn says, “We hope Valeria decides to stay in Burney for the rest of her exchange year, but we’re taking it one day at a time. I’m just so proud to be part of an organization with members like Monte and Robin, who are always thinking of how they can help others.”