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July 2024
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Finding Friendship in Toastmasters

Stories of connection through clubs, Districts, and beyond.

By Laura Mishkind


While communication and leadership skills are vital to the Toastmasters program, so are building relationships and making connections. Meet a few members who became friends in Toastmasters and helped one another along the way in their clubs and beyond.



Jolanta Young, Mitchell Young, and Keith Hardy, DTM

“Toastmasters is not just a place to network or grow as a leader but a place to make friends,” says Jolanta Young, pictured right with her husband Mitchell Young (left), and Keith Hardy, DTM. Young’s husband introduced her to Toastmasters before they were married, and Hardy has been a mentor, coach, and friend since Young joined the organization. She is proud to call many Toastmasters her friends and says she is thankful for the opportunity to connect through Toastmasters, happy hours, and networking events.



Brandi Wesley and Kelsey Dean

While attending an online Toastmasters Leadership Institute (TLI) session in 2021, Kelsey Dean spotted a familiar face. She sent a message to confirm that it was, in fact, her old friend Brandi Wesley. The two first met at a networking event in the early 2000s and lost touch after a while—well before social media made it easy to stay connected. Since reconnecting, they have strengthened their friendship and served as Area Directors together. “Being new to the role was a bit scary, but the experience was much easier with a familiar face and someone with whom we could talk candidly about frustrations and successes,” says Wesley, pictured left.



M. Zahid Hossain, DTM, and Mohammad Golam Dastagir Jony, DTM

Mohammad Golam Dastagir Jony, DTM (pictured right), and Mohammad Zahid Hossain, DTM, first met in 2016, but it wasn’t until they shared accommodations during a District Leader Training in 2018 that their friendship really began. “We discussed how we can contribute to growing the Bangladesh community of Toastmasters,” Hossain says. “I believe that urge of growing the community and working together has given both of us a lifelong friend.”



The Purple Hats

Six women began their Toastmasters friendships when they served in leadership roles together in South Africa. As their connections strengthened, they created a book club called the Purple Hats to stay in touch as some moved around the country and beyond. “This incredibly special handful of friends, whose friendship started in, but now transcends, Toastmasters, has equipped us to get through anything,” says Kirstin Bosworth. “We want each other to be happy and to succeed. So we give unconditional love, endless respect and understanding, tons of patience, and steadfast support.” In October 2020, five of the Purple Hats were finally able to gather in person: (pictured clockwise) Janine O’Shea; Elaine O’Gorman, DTM; Kirstin Bosworth; Nikki Quinn, DTM; and Juel Barnett. In this photo they included Lynda Eatwell (insert), who was in Perth, Australia.



Sai Ware and Varun Malavalli

In 2018, Varun Malavalli (pictured right) was looking to join a new Toastmasters club. He connected with Sai Ware and became a member of RESONANCE Toastmasters of Bangalore, Karnataka, India. The two found they have common interests in books, cricket, and politics. As their leadership skills advanced, Ware was tapped to become Club President and Malavalli was asked to support him and take on the Vice President Education role. “I am truly grateful to Sai and the other wonderful members of our club,” Malavalli says. “We really struck a solid friendship beyond our leadership terms.” Through mutual mentoring and guidance, the two completed a successful term and Malavalli was prepared to become President in the next cycle.



Tricia Nagel and Leora Flax

Tricia Nagel (pictured right) joined the Woman 2 Woman Toastmasters club in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 2018 to improve her speaking skills and confidence for her job. She met Leora Flax, who had joined a few years earlier for similar reasons. The two discovered they had a lot in common: Both young professionals were hoping to advance their careers and were interested in taking on club leadership roles. They grew closer and supported one another through many life events. Now, Nagel is getting married in August 2022, and Flax is standing by her side as maid of honor!



Debbie Kest, DTM, and Chuck Field, DTM

In 2011, Chuck Field, DTM, was going through a difficult divorce and felt the need to meet new people. He joined his company’s corporate club, American Express Master Communicators in Plantation, Florida, and met Debbie Kest, DTM. She took Field under her wing and began mentoring him to advance his leadership and speaking skills. Ten years later, the two are still friends even as Field has moved to another city. The above picture is from the 2012 District 47 Conference in Sarasota, Florida.



Gabrielle Jerome and Maya Kawashima

In 2010, Gabrielle Jerome (pictured left) and Maya Kawashima sat next to each other at an ANZ Talk of the Town Toastmasters meeting in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, and became fast friends. Over the last 12 years, the two have helped one another through challenging times and celebrated big wins together. Kawashima says, “I will forever be grateful that Toastmasters has brought our lives together.”



Ernold Van Bueren and Kenelm James

As charter members of Manchester Communicators in Manchester, England, Ernold Van Bueren (pictured left) and Kenelm James traveled around northwest England to support other clubs in their Division in speech contests, officer trainings, and Toastmasters events, which led to their bond over a shared love of Dutch radio and pop music. While on one of these trips, Van Bueren told James about the media tech company he created to support and educate entrepreneurs in technology—LERN Global. James was interested and came on board as a business partner. Today, the friends still work together on LERN Global, broadcasting two channels worldwide via Roku and founding a decentralized metaverse called Xelland. They’re even developing their own cryptocurrency! Van Bueren and James credit Manchester Communicators for their strong friendship and business partnership.



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