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June 2024
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Member Achievements

Four Toastmasters share their fears, challenges, dreams and successes.

Semora Johns Smith, ACB, CL

M Street Verbalizers club • Washington, D.C.

Semora Johns Smith

Moving Beyond Fear

After turning 40, I realized I’d lived my whole life in fear. I was afraid because I grew up without a father. I was scared to ask important questions about who I was, and I feared I would never be good enough because I’d been called an illegitimate child. I found my strength from people who stepped into my life and showed me love. I got good grades, was a great singer and dancer, won several pageant crowns, became a cheerleader for the National Basketball Association, and was the first person in my family to receive a college degree. It made me feel accomplished, but deep within I was hiding the way I really felt about myself. I saw a lot of pain and dysfunction growing up, and it lingered throughout my life, even during triumphant times. Even though I had the love of a strong mother and grandmother, I longed to know what it meant to be loved by a man. The pain of growing up without a caring male figure was at the core of every decision I made, so I accepted being in abusive relationships. I used to think the best way to end this pattern was to end my life. Then I realized that my silence was feeding the fear, pain and abuse.

I joined Toastmasters during the most difficult time in my life and it gave me a voice to tell my story, without fear or shame. Now I’m using that voice to save lives and be the best example I can be for my daughters, D’Jenne and Demi. I’m wearing the best crown ever as “Queen Mom.” Recently, I advanced to the semifinals of the 2016 International Speech Contest, held in Washington D.C. It was a moment I will cherish. I got there by relinquishing my fears and telling my story. Thank you Toastmasters!

Thato Masire, CC

Gaborone Toastmasters • Gaborone, Botswana

Thato (left) receives the Golden Raspberry award from Maputo Toastmasters’ Vice President Education Rajiv Vassanji, CC.

Challenge Completed in Mozambique

Last year, I was challenged by my club’s president, Tiro Molebatsi, CC, to participate in Toastmasters when traveling abroad for extended stretches. But during my first two international visits I was unable to make any progress due to logistical and scheduling obstacles. However, recently, while visiting Mozambique, I participated in the Maputo Toastmasters club. And during my first meeting, I jumped into the deep end and boldly took on the role of Toastmaster of the Day. At the second meeting I gave a speech about starting my Advanced Communicators Bronze journey in a country other than my own.

During the Maputo Toastmasters meetings, I experienced the hospitality, warmth and support of Mozambicans. One of the highlights of my experience there was getting the Golden Raspberry award, which is given at the end of each Maputo Toastmasters meeting to the speaker with the most “ums.” I found this to be a unique, friendly and jocular way of alerting me to pay special attention to my “ums” and other speech hesitations.

I appreciate Tiro’s challenge, as it enabled me to have a Toastmasters experience in a land different than mine. The energy, enthusiasm, support and resourcefulness of members is why I look forward to Toastmasters meetings, no matter where they take place—at home or abroad. I welcome more challenges that will facilitate growth and provide me with an even richer Toastmasters experience.

Valsakumar Menon, DTM

Dubai Toastmasters club • Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Valsakumar Menon

I Achieved My Secret Dream

In 2002, I was 35 years old and doing well professionally as a senior manager with a reputed organization in Dubai. But I faced a big challenge: I could not muster the courage to speak to a group of people. When it came to one-on-one conversations or speaking to a group of friends, I had no issue. But put me in front of three people I didn’t know and I would become tongue-tied, forgetting everything I had prepared.

But I was in awe of people who could do that. So I nurtured this secret dream to be a speaker and trainer—a dream I thought would never come true.

In those days, a gentleman would occasionally come to our organization and deliver coaching and education sessions. One day I mustered the courage to ask him, “Sir, how can I improve my speaking skills?” In response he simply said, “Join Toastmasters.” That’s when the magic of Toastmasters began in my life.

I have been a member of the Dubai Toastmasters club for the last 14 years, and my life has completely changed. Going from someone who couldn’t utter two words in front of an audience to someone who speaks for a living, I have realized my dream of being a speaker, trainer and entrepreneur.

My journey was not easy at first. But the encouragement, support and motivation I drew from club members helped me come to terms with my fear.

I could never thank Ralph C. Smedley enough for creating Toastmasters. I do my bit to promote Toastmasters within the community so that more people can benefit from its magic. We also bring the program to children through our Gavel clubs and Youth Leadership programs.

Toastmasters has given me so much. I am better-equipped to cope with life’s ups and downs. In short, the program has helped to bring out a better version of me and I am eternally grateful.

Subhashini Sumanasekara, ACB, ALB

Sri Lankan School Muscat Toastmasters • Muscat, Oman

Subhashini (center) stands with four of her high-ranking students in Oman.

For the Betterment of All

I am the head of the Information Communication Technology (ICT) department at Sri Lankan School Muscat, in Oman, and I teach ICT for Edexcel International GCSE exam classes. The Edexcel International GCSEs are academic qualification courses studied in over 55 countries, with 100,000 learners all over the world.

For the first time in our school’s history, four of our students became top achievers, by ranking in the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth places in the world for Edexcel ICT. One student also achieved the highest marks in Oman in the ICT section of the exams in May 2016.

For this immense success, I used many of the strategies I practice in Toastmasters. After noticing that many students lose marks due to poor communication skills, I brought in a team of Toastmasters to help teach my students. One of our goals was to enhance the students’ writing abilities so they could achieve high marks for the exam essay questions. We also conducted Table Topics related to ICT subject matters to help the students develop critical thinking skills. I incorporated round-robin sessions to develop their quick response, creativity and listening skills. My students’ achievements indicate that our methods work.

I have also accomplished many personal goals within the Sri Lankan School Muscat Toastmasters club, of which I’ve been a member for the past two years. I’ve won many speech contests and, as club president, I’ve helped my club earn Distinguished status for the first time last year.

Fellow Toastmasters, the lessons and skills we learn in Toastmasters aren’t restricted only to club meetings. Instead, let us use these skills in our day-to-day lives and apply them for the betterment of all.

Do you have a Toastmasters success story you’d like to share about yourself or another member? Send it in 300 words or less and submit a high-resolution photo.


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