Newsletter 110: January 2019

• Eli Fumoto
• Sue Pietersen
• Trevor Smallwood OBE
• Club Business, President's Weekend and upcoming meetings

Welcome to our first newsletter of 2019

This newsletter will cover the last three meetings - January 9th, 16th and 23rd. Due to the newsletter work-force being halved (Steve is on hols until April) the newsletter will be coming out every two weeks until his return.


On Jan 9th we were treated to very interesting and unique "job talk" from one of our new(ish) members Eli.

Eli was born in Japan in 1960 and moved to Switzerland in 1990. She always worked in a cross-cultural environment collaborating with divers professionals in various sectors such as banking, journalism and drug development. Her previous position was global R&D senior project manager in a multinational pharmaceutical company based in Geneva.  The experience ignited in her a passion for creativity and team synergy. She wanted to learn how to best facilitate these most beautiful human abilities, and that led her study coaching at Oxford Brookes University in the U.K. An encounter with Nancy Klein's Thinking Environment® made another momentum in her life. The Thinking Environment® facilitates us to regain our true nature - good and creative. 

As part of her talk Eli encouraged us to turn to the person next to us and listen whilst the other talked for two minutes. We were encouraged to REALLY listen - without interuption, judgement or opinion. Most were suprised at how difficult that was to do... and how very rarely this is done in our everyday interactions.

Eli also showed us some Japanese writing, which bought home how beautiful and complicated-yet-simple the language is.

As her website says: "You may not be aware of how much more you can do if your limiting beliefs about yourself and the world are replaced with more true and liberating new insights. It is not the question of working harder but knowing better who you really are and set up the right condition for you to thrive through your authenticity." 

A truely inspiring and thought provoking talk. Thank you Eli!

You can view her website here The link to her article published in ‘Coaching at Work’ if this is also relevant.

Rotarian Sue Pietersen spoke at our Jan 16th meeting:

‘This is what dreams are made of... in-fact just like winning the lottery!’

Rotarian Sue Pietersen told us about her family’s journey with deafness which started in 1988 when Willem decided a contract in Gaborone, in Botswana, was exactly what he wanted to do. This move would mean Sue wouldn’t have to work anymore and could spend quality time with their children. This move would also prove financially beneficial to enable them to achieve their dream.

They moved to Gaborone when their youngest son Hughan was 10 days old.

In 1989 they became aware that son, Hughan, couldn’t hear them. He was aged just 9 months old. It took 5 agonising months and several trips to Johannesburg in South Africa from Gaborone to get him diagnosed as profoundly deaf. He was 14 months old at that time.

Discovering more information proved extremely difficult as at that time there were no home computers, no internet for searching, no mobile phones or any form of easy access to information about deafness. Also living in Botswana there were no Ear Nose and Throat specialists, no Audiologists and no deaf community from where to get support, help or advice.

Sue and Willem decided they wanted a second opinion about the diagnosis and the second specialist told them that Hughan wouldn’t benefit from hearing aids as he had such a profound hearing loss and he should start a signing program straight away. Fortunately, they went back to the original specialist who informed that Hughan should be fitted with hearing aids and that there would be a reliance on them as parents to teach him his communication skills.

As a result Hughan was fitted with the most powerful hearing aids, to which he wasn’t responding to sound, but this had never put off Sue’s determination to teach him to learn to speak.

When Hughan was 16 months old, Sue and Willem decided to travel to England searching out ways to deal with Hughan’s profound hearing loss. They wanted to find out if South Africa was behind in its approach to dealing with deafness or could moving to England enable more support and a solution to the problem.

They made appointments with a consultant in Harley Street, London, an Ears,Nose and Throat Specialist and an Audiologist. Sue had flown over to UK before Willem, to spend quality time with her family in Cornwall before the Christmas holidays, so to make the medical appointments travelled by train from Cornwall to Paddington Station to meet up Willem, who had just flown into London Heathrow from Botswana. The medical appointments proved very useful as South Africa and England proved to have very similar approaches to deafness at that time, both advocating teaching children with hearing loss to use sign language.

Returning on the train back to Cornwall that late afternoon it was packed with Christmas shoppers. They luckily found a lady who was sitting at a table with 4 seats who was happy for them to sit with her. After some conversation they learnt she had just flown in from Australia and was on her way to Devon to spend Christmas with her parents. As the conversation progressed, they were amazed to find that she knew the Audiologist they had spent time with earlier in the day and she was able to inform them about cochlear implant and how that was being pioneered in Australia. She told them that in the USA people were also working on a device, but at this stage the Australian equipment was ahead in development. The couple felt it was wonderful to hear but felt out of their reach as they were living in Africa and this development was being done in other continents, Australia and America.

After returning to South Africa the Pietersen’s came across a family living in Botswana whose daughter was profoundly deaf and this family had been following a speech only program at the Carel du Toit Centre in Cape Town. With their recommendation they visited the Centre.

Teaching Hughan to sign was going to be very challenging where they were living and would involve teaching family and friends sign language in order to communicate with him. They also realised that sign language varied from place to place, so that may restrict his travel in the future.

Sue and Willem travelled to Cape Town when Hughan was 18 months old to find out more. They discovered a cochlear implant program had been initiated using the Australian device and a child had already been implanted. They realised that cochlear implant for Hughan wasn’t so far out of reach after all.

They started to follow the Carel du Toit program which necessitated travelling four times a year for two weeks at a time to learn to teach Hughan his communication skills. Sue was so encouraged she kept a diary of what they were doing at home, so that Hughan’s teacher, Vanessa, could track his progress between the return visits to the Centre and during each visit Vanessa would write down the lessons for the next step to be working on at home as a record for them to follow.

When Hughan was aged three and a half years old he couldn’t hear most speech sounds using his powerful hearing aids, so the choice had to be made between a signing program or the possibility of a cochlear implant. Having been told about the cochlear implant on the train journey to Cornwall they decided that this was Hughan’s best option. In fact, he was the 10th child and 34th person, to receive the implant in Cape Town, whilst it was still being pioneered.

In order to achieve the best result the family had to move to Cape Town so Hughan could enter an intensive program, teaching him to use the equipment. The cochlear implant is a prosthesis, where sound is picked up by a microphone and is then transferred by an external and internal magnet, bypassing the eardrum and middle ear, then through an array of electrodes, positioned in the cochlear, where impulses stimulate the hearing nerves directly and the brain interprets them as sound. Unlike a hearing aid that amplifies sound.

After being in Cape Town for 2 years, Hughan successfully learnt to use the equipment, so the family decided to move back to Harare in Zimbabwe.

In 1997 the family made the big decision to move to England discovering that Hughan also had glaucoma.

Sue had never forgotten the lady she had met on the train some years before and  started searching for ways to get in contact with her to thank her for pointing them in the right direction. An article was put in the magazine ‘Drum’ with their story and a request to anyone who knew the lady they had met to make contact.

Some years later, in 2011, while clearing papers kept in plastic bags during all their travels, Sue came across the train tickets from 1989. Showing Willem, he had noticed a little pink piece of paper with an Australian address and a lady’s name ‘Dr Elaine Saunders’ and wondered if this was the lady they had met. Sue searched on the Internet and googled her name and couldn’t believe the results. It showed all about her and her achievements and awards she had received for the work she had done with hearing. Sue found an email address to contact her and she confirmed she had indeed been the lady on the train. The family were truly thankful for her telling them about the cochlear implant and how it been life changing for Hughan.

In 2013, whilst reflecting and looking through all her diary notes,Sue realised she had the methodology that was used to teach Hughan his lip reading and communication skills. With so much information she started a Facebook page called This page now has over 45,000 followers.

A young girl, Emma, from New Zealand, was one of the first people to put a comment on one of Sue’s posts. Sue thanked her for her comment, to which she replied and they kept chatting becoming Facebook Friends.  Sue told her son, Hughan about Emma, soon they started chatting, then communicating using WhatsApp and FaceTime.

In 2015 Emma decided she would like to come to the UK and meet Hughan and the Pietersen family. The couple got on well and that Christmas, Hughan travelled to New Zealand on an open ticket for 2 years with a work visa.

Emma and Hughan got engaged in August 2017 with plans to marry in January 2019. A wedding invitation was sent to Dr Elaine Saunders in Australia, to which she replied that she would love to attend.

On the 5th January 2019 Hughan and Emma got married in New Zealand and it was a real honour and privilege that Elaine had attended the wedding meeting up again with the Pietersen’s after nearly 30 years from that first meeting on the train from London to Cornwall. How life would have been so different without the encounter of meeting Dr Elaine Saunders!  Elaine writes in her autobiography, in which the Pietersen story features, ‘you never know when your one brick in the wall is an important brick.’

Elaine is also a Rotarian of the Melbourne Rotary Club and this could be another important connection for our Club with projects in the future.


Trevor Smallwood, OBE, spoke at our Jan 23rd meeting:

Trevor is a former executive chairman of First Group, who in 13 years transformed the Weston-super-Mare bus company, Badgerline, to a £2bn turnover company.  Since “retiring” he says he’s taken things a bit slower. Yet he is listed on Company Check as a director of 14 active companies and is a trustee of numerous charities.

Club Business

President’s Weekend - Hope Cove 17-19th May

Gill and Roger are really hoping you will be able to join them for the President’s Weekend in Hope Cove, South Devon over the weekend of Friday 17th to Sunday 19th May, with the option of staying for the whole week until Friday 24th May.

Click here for details of the programme for the weekend and here for a booking form to return. The aim is to have a relaxed weekend in the beautiful South Hams coastal countryside.

You will be free to take part in as many group activities as you choose, to just chill out, or visit local attractions. Please let Roger know if you wish to take part so that he can make the booking arrangements.

Future Meetings

Wed 30th – Fifth Wednesday Everyman Theatre

Wed 6th Feb – Ed Troughton Community Engagement Officer, Bristol Waste’s School Recycling Films and Educational Package

Wed 13th Feb – Business Meeting

Wed 20th Feb – Geoff Mayell job talk


Join the club...

Membership is currently open if you would like to join our friendly pro-active group!
If you'd like to come along to a Wednesday morning meeting please email us at

Battle Art - a note from Douglas Carlson

The next Art Battle is coming up on Friday, 8th February at Trinity Centre. Come along or share with people who might be interested, its a really fun night.
Also, we are currently courting sponsors. If you or your company want to get your names of the T-Shirts and promoted through Art Battle, let me know.
A group show featuring some of my paintings is hanging at The Malago in Bedminster on North Street till early March if you want to go see some minamalist yogi art.