Though they speak different languages, hold varying religious beliefs and may disagree on politics, Zontians around the world share a common goal: advancing the status of women. Today, two members of the Corvallis Zonta Club will embark on a two-week tour of Zonta chapters in Eastern Europe.Pete Bober, president of Corvallis Zonta, will lead a group of 17 Zontians from the United States, Canada and Germany. They'll visit Zonta coveys in Budapest, Hungary; Uzhgorod, Ukraine; Lviv, Ukraine; and Warsaw, Poland.
Also going on the tour is Corvallis resident Pat Summerton. Like Bober, Summerton belongs to both Corvallis Zonta Club and the Corvallis Sister Cities Association.
For the fees it might have paid professional tour leaders, the tour group will rely on the local Zonta chapters to organize its meals, sightseeing excursions and receptions. That way, this trip will serve as a fund-raiser for the Eastern European Zonta members, Bober explained.
Zonta International is an organization of executives and professionals committed to women's and children's issues. The 33,000 member-strong group boasts more than 1,200 clubs in 67 countries.
After two women from Uzhgorod, Corvallis' sister city, attended a Zonta Club meeting in 2001 while visiting Corvallis, they decided to charter a club back home.
In April 2003 the Uzhgorod Zonta Club was born. Corvallis Zonta provides financial assistance for the group, which hopes to be financially independent in the next few years.
The Eastern European Zontians volunteer in orphanages and children's hospitals. They provide scholarships for women, sponsor fund-raisers, such as fashion shows, and are organizing a conference to combat human trafficking.
Residents of former Soviet countries, such as Ukraine, benefit from establishing private philanthropies and managing clubs, Bober said.
"It's a great exercise in democracy to form their own club, vote and elect officers," he asserted.
Summerton can't wait to rekindle old sister city friendships.
"I know a lot of people in Uzhgorod, and I'm looking forward to seeing them again," she said. "I'm also interested in seeing that part of the world. I haven't ever been to Lviv or Poland, so that will be a first for me."
Bober most looks forward to meeting other Zontians and establishing international partnerships.
"We have so much in common with them based on the values that attract people to Zonta, so there's this instant rapport that develops," he said. "It's fun to watch people come together like that.