LABSC December 2014 Newsletter

Season’s Greetings

LABSC Board of Directors extends their season’s greetings on this blessed Christmas time. Hope you are all enjoying and creating some warm and lasting memories with family and friends. As you ring in 2015 may our heartfelt wishes for a safe and prosperous New Year resonate across the oceans and into the hearts of the people of our two great cities, Los Angles and Beirut.

Newly-elected LABSC President

LABSC will ring in 2015 with our newly elected board of directors with president Tony Morillo at the helm. It is with great pride and joy that I pass the baton to Mr. Tony Morillo, who has served as my Vice President with his unwavering support and silent strength. Tony and Najwa Morillo, this magnanimous couple, have been extending their philanthropy and community service with numerous NGOs and for many years. Their generosity in all aspects of service reflect an incredibly gifted and caring people whose sole purpose is to bring unity and spread goodwill among our community. I look forward to Mr. Morillo’s vision for LABSC and anticipate tremendous growth as our organization reaches new heights under his capable leadership.

As I complete my tenure as president, may I express my deep gratitude to an amazing group of people, the LABSC Board of Directors. You, our board, have served diligently and sacrificially on so many levels and assisted me in accomplishing the goals set before us. Thank you for allowing me the privilege of serving you and our community in piloting new programs, strengthening our presence among the Sister Cities of LA, continuing our cultural exchanges/projects and honoring our community leaders with two successfully themed award ceremonies. Our mission for LABSC continues to focus on building bridges of communication, tolerance and lasting connections for the people of LA and Beirut.

Our December Newsletter highlights our LABSC’s 2014 Annual Gala, our pilot-project for the student/exchange Engineering Internship, our president’s concert with the Lebanese Philharmonic Orchestra and her lecture-presentation with the US Embassy program in Lebanon.

May I take my final bow as LABSC president having enjoyed a harmonious journey of building friendships, strengthening ties and creating a legacy of people-to-people with peace-filled bonds.

– Dr. Joanna Medawar Nachef, Out-going President


On Friday, November 7, Los Angeles Beirut Sister Cities held its Annual Gala at the exquisite Taglyan Complex in Hollywood. This year, our organization was graced with a special appearance and address by our beloved Mayor of Los Angeles, the Honorbale Eric Garceltti. Back in 2005, as LA City Council President, Mr. Garcetti initiated the first steps toward the twining of Los Angeles and Beirut. Almost a decade later, our organization continues to flourish with the support of our city officials and community leaders. Councilmember/Sister Cities of LA Chairman, Tom LaBonge, former Councilman Dennis Zine, the honorable Superior Court Jugde James Kaddo, Beirut City Councilman Nadim Costa, LA Sister Cities President Tom Gilmore, religious leaders, NGO presidents and board members, our Lebanese/American community as well as our LA City staff and Angelinos made our gala most special with their presence and support.

This year’s recipients of our Distinguished Service Award were Los Angeles Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell and Middle East Airlines General Manager of the Americas Adib Kassis. The award is presented to community leaders for their exemplary dedication to and support of the mission of Los Angeles Beirut Sister Cities. Both honorees have been most instrumental in the development of our organization from its early stages to the present time.

Our gala chair, Mrs. Amira Matar, worked most diligently with our board and gala committee to produce a classy, true-to-the-Gatsby-era event, with a live Big Band and an elegant night in all white. This fundraiser provides LABSC with funds to support our most recent pilot project of the Engineering Internship/Student-Exchange Program for university students from Lebanon. Our gala proceeds will help fund scholarships for another group of students from Lebanon for 2015. Thank you all for attending and sharing in our investment in the future generation.

2014 Student/Exchange Engineering Internship in LA

The first Student Exchange Program took place in Los Angeles, from September 8-23, 2014. Four engineering students from three Lebanese Universities came to Los Angeles for a two-week engineering internship with the City of Los Angeles and attended sessions on Civic Engagement and Citizen Diplomacy. Following a selection and interview process to evaluate the qualified candidates, the LABSC board selected four senior/graduate students from the American University of Beirut, the Lebanese American University, and Balamand University. The selected students were: Maha Mrad and Abeer Haddad (AUB), Rached Rached (University of Balamand), and Joe Karam (LAU).

Their internship included the following City Facilities, Companies, sites and seminars at: The Port of Los Angeles, Machado Lake-Echo Park Lake Construction Site, The Hyperion Treatment Facility, Plan Check Counter for Public Works, Geotechnical Engineering firm, LADWP, USC ASCE Presentation, Morillo Construction, a visit with LA Commissioner Kevin James, a visit with LA Sister Cities Chairman Councilmember Tom LaBonge, CSUN, Loyola Marymount University, and LA City Hall. While the cultural excursions included Disneyland, Universal Studios, Hollywood Bowl, Greek Theatre, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Beirut Nights Cruise, and other historic landmarks in LA. At The Human Relations Commission of the City of Los Angeles with New Ground, and LMU Interactive Dialogue the students also participated in conversations about what it means to be civically engaged and exchange ideas with the goal of learning capacity building techniques for a more stable and peaceful society.

During the evaluation luncheon, our board member, Camille Alick,summarized their experience with the following words: “The students all shared with us how they received valuable information from the program. The students were an amazing group of young adults who were curious, eager to learn and grateful for this wonderful opportunity. They also enthusiastically enjoyed all their exciting and interesting cultural excursions. “

At our Farewell Dinner, the four students were presented to our community leaders and partner NGOs at PHOENICIA RESTAURANT. They individually and eloquently shared their impressions and newly acquired knowledge with a power-point presentation. It was most inspiring to hear them share what they learned during the program and how they plan to implement these new ideas, experiences and skills into their current organizations, studies and work when they return home to Lebanon.

A huge debt of gratitude is owed to all our city engineers who invested their time and resources is facilitating this internship:

Pascal Challita, Grading Division Chief, City of LA, Department of Building and Safety
Walid Azar, Vice President, Project Management Construction Services Group
Robel Afewerki, Civil Engineer, Port of Los Angeles
Raymond Haddad, Principal Engineer, Creative Geotechnical, Inc
& Assistant Professor, Department of Civil Engineering and Construction Management, California State University Northridge
Adel Hagekhalil, Assistant Director, Bureau of Sanitation – City of Los Angeles
Tony Morillo, President of Morillo Construction
Serge Haddad, Waterworks Engineer, City of Los Angeles, Department of Water and Power
Ayman Jabbouri, Civil engineering Associate II, City of Los Angeles, Bureau of Sanitation

Beirut City Council Visit

During Dr. Nachef’s recent visit to Lebanon over Thanksgiving, she presented the four engineering students to Beirut City Council President Dr. Bilal Hamad and Councilmember Nadim Costa. The students were able to share their experiences in LA with photos and personal testimonials. Dr. Hamad encouraged the students to design a presentation that will he will support with his attendance at each of their university campuses. The students also expressed their desire to implement some of what they learnt with city council projects.

Lebanese Philharmonic Orchestra Concert in Beirut

Dr. Joanna Medawar Nachef’s Concert in Lebanon

Our President was invited by the Lebanese National Higher Conservatory of Music and the Artistic Director of the Lebanese Philharmonic Orchestra, Maestro Harout Fazlian, to guest conduct the orchestra on November 28, 2014. The concert took place at St. Joseph’s Church in Achrafieh, featuring Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 8”, Mozart’s “Vesperae Solennes” with NDU and Antonine Univeristy Choruses and the world premiere of the orchestral work entitled “Hope” by the young 22 year-old Lebanese composer, George Tomb. Dr. Nachef chose to include this new composition in her first concert with LPO to encourage the up-and-coming generation of musicians to pursue their dreams of performing and composing. The audience was most inspired by the music of the giant Beethoven and the genius Mozart, and they were also most enchanted by the young composer’s talent.

The News and Social Media in Lebanon and the Arab World came alive with this premiere and highlighted this young composer over the past month on a regular basis. This demonstrated how worthy talent should be encouraged and how a positive response will follow. Here again, another bridge of hope is built for the generation to come.

“Pursue Your Dreams” – US Embassy’s Program

“Pursue your Dreams” -Dr. Nachef’s presentation at the US Embassy’s program

The US Embassy arranged for our President. Joanna Medawar Nachef, during her recent visit to Lebanon to speak to young female students in the English Access Microsholarship Program. This is a program sponsored by the Embassy to educate under-privileged students to learn English as well as leadership and life skills. The students also attended the concert and enjoyed taking pictures with the conductor on stage. Below is the news release with pictures on the Embassy’s Facebook page:

Pusue your dreams and break barriers! And attend a free Philharmonic Orchestra concert…

Students from the English Access Microscholarship Program met with Joanna Nachef, the first recognized female conductor from the Middle East. Joanna, a native Lebanese, shared her story with the young women of Access program and encouraged them to pursue their dreams, believe in themselves and consider their gender as a source of strength. Joanna’s patriotism to her native country Lebanon was clear with her heartfelt renditions of famous Lebanese songs, and her love for her adopted country the United States was just as obvious for it was the place where her talent was discovered and nurtured.

Joanna will be conducting a concert at the St. Joseph’s Church in Achrafieh this evening @ 8:30pm. Admission is free! Please come out and experience the great music created when Lebanese and Americans combine their talents.

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