Shiraz Zack-Kanga

Member since December 15, 2014

February 2021


It is incredible it has been six years since I joined Rotary. Time has gone by so soon as I have enjoyed every event and meeting I shared with my fellow Rotarians. Mark Watson, my son’s Scout Master introduced me to the Rotary Club of Foster City. During the first three meetings I attended, I was very impressed by the Club’s playground projects. The environment, pollution, and garbage are among some of the issues I deeply care about. This project resonated with me as it meant reusing a playground that was going to be disposed off and instead turned into a “new” play structure for children in undeserved schools in Mexico. The decision to join Rotary was an easy one for me. Who can refuse a great lunch buffet with kindred spirits, while learning about local and world issues, and working to solve them, too?

One of the other things I enjoy about Rotary is our speakers. I learn something new at every meeting. We have had impressive speakers from around the world talking about such diverse topics as animals in Africa to cancer survivors to our prison system. Also learning about the great work done by other nonprofits is very inspiring and informative.

Above all, the greatest gift of Rotary is meeting like-minded people. Rotary is a family of caring individuals that puts “service above self”. We recognize this in the moist eyes of our members when listening to our young Interactors or a success story from one of our Club’s many projects. We also see this as we work together to cook for community events all day in heat or cold as people are pushing heavy carts, cooking, washing pots, and cleaning the kitchen until late evening. There are no complaints about their body pain, just a smile and a satisfied look in their eyes at all that we achieved together.

Connecting and getting to know my fellow Rotarians happened when I started volunteering for our events and fundraisers. There is always great food even as we roll up our sleeves, put on our Rotary apron, and serve or sell food and drinks. I enjoyed working in the Rotary booth as we sold food and drinks at Holi Festival, Diwali Festival, Concerts in the Park, the Foster City Arts & Wine Festivals, etc. It is deeply satisfying to work together towards a common goal, when we cook, serve, and sell to raise funds for our community projects.

Throughout my years in Rotary, I have learned a lot from fellow Rotarians when I served on committees and worked with them. Many Rotarians have helped me along the way. Bob Mike, helped me see the value of his detailed charts and organization during Holi events when we serve around a thousand drinks. Cyndy Simms is a great support and always there to advise on Rotary policies, rules, district designated funds, global grants, etc. We also had a wonderful time at Stanford when we attended the Rotary Peace Fellowship conference.

Our District-level meetings and classes are also invaluable. Rotary International service meetings at the District level are a good place to meet other Rotarians and learn about their global projects. Cyndy and I also volunteered and worked with the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) camp. It was uplifting to see the transformation and sense of achievement of the teenagers.

I served on the Club’s Board as the International Service Chair. During this time I learned a lot about the many amazing Global Grant projects our District does. Our Club has contributed and supported projects by other Clubs, however my great joy was in being able to start and manage our own Global Grant. Mark Watson was our Club President then, and supported a Global Grant for E-Learning Centers in partnership with another Rotary Club in India. It took a long time to get approval as we had to work within the stringent guidelines and requirements set by Rotary International. Our first project was not accepted by Rotary International, so we had to work with a non-profit and a Rotary Club in India on a different idea. We eventually got our project funded and approved which is to train teachers and provide e-learning kits and software to rural schools of India. My other small contribution to the Club is in designing and printing our annual Club Directory.

I feel lucky to have Elaine Pitts step in as my mentor when I first joined the Club. She made it a point to sit next to me for lunch and started my Rotary journey with the Membership Committee. Elaine never ceased to amaze me with her passion and grit. Like her, in life and in Rotary, I hope to work and serve my community until my last day here.