By Jessica Weirmier
Volunteers help make the 2023 KSA Expat Reunion a success.
Question: How many volunteers does it take to engage and entertain 450 retired Aramco employees and their families for two weeks?
Answer: Nearly 100.
“Behind every five reunion participants, there was a volunteer dedicating much of his or her time to making their experience a once-in-a-lifetime.”
— Ali Baluchi, Reunion Steering Committee chairman of the fifth 2023 KSA Expat Reunion
“These monumental gatherings are due in no small part to the efforts of many groups and people,” Baluchi adds. “I must thank the many volunteers who have helped in organizing and supporting the reunions since the very beginning.”
Ali Baluchi poses outside the KSA Brat reunion for dependents of employees who lived and worked in the Kingdom.
Sue Conway, Reunion volunteer coordinator, managed, trained, and assigned volunteers to roles that ranged from restocking refreshments, taking photos, and helping with administrative work, to simply sitting and reminiscing with participants about beautiful memories of past days.
“This event could not take place without the support of each volunteer,” says Conway. “Every little help is important and every interaction with the attendees makes a difference in the volunteer’s and attendee’s experience.”
Retirees visit Aramco's wildlife sanctuary in Shaybah.
The bulk of the volunteer effort comes from the Aramco community at large; from people who see a need to help and commit their free time, including homemakers, company and JHAH employees, retired employees, as well as teenage dependents.
A tour of Al-Ula.
The dedication of the volunteers — and Aramco as a whole — was recognized time and again by the retirees.
“We are extremely grateful to the committee that worked so hard,” says retired pharmacist Guy Boulanger, who lived in Dhahran for 21 years and now resides in Montreal, Canada. “Thank you to Mr. Baluchi and Aramco for the support to the project that allows us to come back.”
Retirees at the Ashgar Museum.
Of note, adds Boulanger, are the vast social changes that have followed the implementation of Vision 2030 in Saudi Arabia since he left.
Laurie Getz’ father, Larry Barnes, can be considered an expat who helped pioneer development in Saudi, having arrived in 1947 to work for Aramco. Getz herself is an Aramco dependent who lived in Dhahran until she was 12 years old, leaving when her father retired in 1977.
“I’m appreciative of the opportunity to come back and find commonalities that remind me of my childhood.”
— Laurie Getz
Getz adds that an extra pleasure has been connecting with other dependents and retirees who feel like extended family.
Retirees and annuitants visit the west coast city of Yanbu'.
Rekindling Fond Memories
Retired associate general counsel Mel Knotts had the honor of giving thanks on March 2 during a joint Saudi-expat retiree luncheon, hosted by Aramco president and CEO Amin Nasser. Knotts says each reunion participant was eager to participate in the events and trips that had been arranged.
“Each of us has fond memories of our time with Aramco,” he says. “With today’s celebration, we have returned to that special time we spent here in the Kingdom by rekindling so very many of those fond memories.”
At the same time, reunion participants made many new memories during a busy events schedule. Activities included trips to al Ula, Riyadh, and Abha, as well as tours of Aramco facilities, and visits to local cultural and shopping hotspots. Additionally, for two weeks, the Dhahran community was even more alive than usual, with a music festival, theater group performances, a women’s group gathering, and a two-day shopping bazaar.
A line dancing session for retirees.
Amin Nasser and Mel Knotts catch up at the March 2 Saudi-expat retiree luncheon.
Beach walk along the al-Khobar corniche.
— The Arabian Sun: March 15, 2023