Meet the Board

Sule Bolgi

Sule Bolgi

President

l’m a native of Turkey, married to a fine Milanese man, a mother of two with dual Turkish-ltalian citizenship.

Growing up in Germany and speaking foreign languages wired me for cross cultural awareness early on and my professional ambition allowed me to be part of a large variety of work environments, but the personal satisfaction of serving on several Benvenuto boards over the years, twice as newcomers director and for three wonderful years as the editor of the Benvenuto Magazine, could only be topped by accepting the final challenge of becoming the President of our distinguished Club.

Despite these Covid signed times, my terrific team and l are inviting you to be part of our endeavor to make your life in Milan joyful and memorable.

Together let’s make your time in Milan a journey of connecting to others, a journey of growth!

Alessandra Felicetta

Alessandra Felicetta

Vice President

I am  fully  Italian, and was born and raised in Milan. I am married to Gianni with two adult children, Alberto who is 50 and Emanuela who is 41.

I started studying and speaking French at 10, and English at 15, and 4 years later obtained the qualification of the English Chamber of Commerce, which enabled me to work first for an Italian Textile Co. as Executive Assistant and then … for more than 30 years at the Italian Office of Lions Clubs International, side by side to Loredana Mandelli, our NtN Chairperson.

In the meantime, I studied also German, but since then I have never used it. I forgot everything (that’s why I suppose it’s useless to mention it!)

When the above Italian Office closed, Loredana invited me to join the Benvenuto Club. My aim was to go on breathing the international atmosphere I had experienced, and before getting this goal, BCM gave me the extraordinary opportunity to meet wonderful ladies from all over the world and to make many dear friends.

In 2006, I was appointed Zone Assignment Manager when the Board decided to organize the distribution of the more than 400 members in various zones, and adopted the same zoning of the Municipality of Milan. Later I became the Coordinator of Zone 7 Buonarroti-S.Siro, and I still am.

Vittoria Grandi Lo Torto

Vittoria Grandi Lo Torto

Secretary

My name is Vittoria Grandi. I was born and grew up in Milan. I graduated from the Bocconi University in Foreign Languages and Literatures. I taught French for some years and then I practised my English joining the Benvenuto Club. It was my mother who found out about this Club through one of her friends who had lived in South America. I’ve been a member for almost 40 years, often covering different positions on the Board, such as Special Activities, Membership, Secretary and so on. I also offered my help as a zone hostess for the neighbour to neighbor Coffees of my zone. During the years I organized trips all around the world for an English speaking little group composed of Italians, Australians, Germans, English, etc. , relating our experiences and impressions in articles printed in our magazines. I’ve always loved to be part of this multicultural group, I’ve still many affectionate friends met in Milan so many years ago, and we never lost contact. I’m lucky to have had the opportunity to meet so many dear friends, who enriched my life so much with their different culture, friendship, support and, why not, a lot of fun. I decided then to give my help offering my knowledge and experience, covering the position of Secretary for the new Board 2021/2022.

Effie Chao

Effie Chao

Treasurer

I’m American, born in New Mexico and raised in California.  I’ve spent some time in the East Coast as well for school and work.  We moved from Paris to Milan in 2019, which was my first time living in Italy despite being married to Edoardo – a Triestino – for more than 14 years. 

I’ve worked in architecture and as a securities lawyer, but after having children I left work and eventually returned to one of my earlier passions – ceramic art, although due to some injuries and the pandemic I haven’t been able to get myself set up yet in Milan.  Many of you are also aware of my keen interest in any food-related topics (Benvenuto cooking class anyone?).  Nevertheless, above all, I love meeting and connecting with people from different parts of the world.  And it’s for this reason that I joined the Benvenuto Club: to form friendships with like-minded members of the international community in Milan.

I look forward to assuming the responsibilities of the Treasurer and working with the rest of the Board to promote Benvenuto’s activities. I’m pleased to have this chance do something for Benvenuto in return for the opportunities Benvenuto has afforded me to meet interesting people (that would be you!), to discover Italy’s treasures and to make it that much easier to call Milan my home.  Here’s to making it one if the best Benvenuto years ever, whatever obstacles may lie in our way!

Maureen Pardo Roques

Maureen Pardo Roques

Public Relations Events Director

I was born in Alexandria (Egypt), with an Italian father and a speedy French/Spanish Mom you all got to know at the Club.
Fluent in several languages, Citizen of the world, dynamic and with positive attitude I adore traveling, reading, talking and meeting new friends.
I love our Club, I love the Benvenuto, I love you Ladies!
I joined the Benvenuto Club more than 10 years ago in a very difficult period of my life. Meanwhile many of you became good friends to me , many of you almost know everything about my feelings, my passion for dogs, my ideas, all the pros and cons..
However there is a little thing that you might don’t know about me I must admit I am not technological at all! Maybe some of you realized it before!
It has been a serious problem for me joining Board meetings via Zoom during lockdown, believe me.
Teri, Sule and all Board friends have been very patient and comprehensive to me. What a shame of me, sorry ladies! I learnt and now I know how it works…better late than ever!
PR means events, social and cultural gatherings, entertainment, fashion show, talks and meetings and Fun! I have ideas and different plans for you, work in progress! I promise I’ll do my best to give you Fun. Hope we can make it successful this year.
Willemijn Zandt

Willemijn Zandt

PR Fundraising

My name is Willemijn Zandt and I am from a small village in the far North of The Netherlands. I have an Italian partner from Rimini and we have 2 girls (7 and 11years old). I have lived in the USA, Belgium and London before we moved here in September 2019. Although I have found all of these moves difficult in their own way, the friendships that came from them are precious and made the moving around totally worthwhile. I am excited to join the board, because the club has made such a positive difference in my life but also so as to be part of something local here in Milan and to further make this city my home. I look forward to the rest of this Milanese adventure!
Siobhan O’Connor

Siobhan O’Connor

Membership Director

I am Irish and spent the first 21 years of life in Dublin.  My background is in teaching. I trained to be a Montessori teacher, hence Italy was always in the cards!  I am now an avid ceramicist. I have lived in Sydney and Adelaide in Australia; New York City and Connecticut in the US; and more recently in London.  My husband is Australian and we have 3 children together.  We both fell in love with Milan when we lived here for three years, 2011-14.  The Benvenuto Club was very important to me during this time and I never forgot the feelings of welcome and being included, and the friendships.  Now we are back to stay and I am honoured to serve on the board as Membership Director.  I hope to get to know you all at our wonderful events and at membership renewal time.
Estefania Salado

Estefania Salado

Newcomers

My name is Estefania Salado, and I am from Madrid, Spain. When we were living in Madrid, my husband came up to me one day (it was about 8 years ago) and told me that we were moving to Boston, US. Then, three years later, after the beautiful and amazing experience in the US, he returned from work one day and announced to me that we would be relocating to Milan, Italy. We are now living here for four years. We’ve been in Milan since then, and we are very comfortable and happy in this city. Being part of the Club help me to create new friends. I’m telling you this because I know how difficult it is for a woman to travel to a new country. This Club is designed to assist anyone who is starting a new life in Milan. With my new role as a Newcomers Coordinator, I will aim to assist new members helping them in making new and good friends. I am a proud mother of three children, psychologist and a Spanish teacher who works in the American school of Milan.
Maria Virginia

Maria Virginia

Newcomers

My name is Maria Virginia. Me and my husband are Venezuelan-Italian living in Milan since March 2019 and we have two daughters and a granddaughter living in the UK. I am a business consultant who have had the experience of working and living not only in Venezuela, but also in London. I’ve joined Benvenuto in order to continue to be part of an international community and in the search for assistance during our establishment in our new lives here in Milan. Benvenuto has given me an excellent support and the opportunity to make lots of new friends. For that, I am very thankful to the Club and, together with Estefi, would love to offer many “warm welcomes” to current and future new members!

Rachele Rutili

Rachele Rutili

Special Activities

My name is Rachele Rutili, I’m Italian with a short experience of living abroad. First, in Argentina when I was 17 years old and later in Hungary, just a couple of years ago. These two international experiences made me aware of the incredible richness of the world in terms of adopting different points of view, cultures, habits and backgrounds. Coming back to Italy, I decided to join the Benvenuto club, to continue to be part of the international community. I have a University degree in Economics and I used to work for a Publishing Company. Now, I’m running my newborn small company (that has a great future!). I have spent the main part of my life in Rome where I met Roberto, my husband, and where my two boys were born. Milan is quite a new city for me too which I would love to discover with you. It gives me pleasure to live in Milan as Benvenuto Special Activity Director; to organise art tours, museum visits, active mornings, entertaining evenings, one-day getaway and many other joyful activities. I’m looking forward to enjoying the Milanese life with you discovering its hidden treasures.

Anvita Naval Thareja

Anvita Naval Thareja

Editor Benvenuto Magazine

I am from New Delhi India, in 2009 I shifted to Milan, and I joined Benvenuto Club in January 2020.
Magazines have always fascinated me as I was born in a family of writers and grew up with stacks of ideas and lots
of magazines. The moment I came to know about Benvenuto
magazine I decided to be a part of it and joined as assistant
editor.
Since May 2020 I am working with the magazine team as assistant editor, this gave immense pleasure not only to me but to my father as well who himself is an editor of a Hindi magazine published by Indian ministry of external
affairs.
During this past one year as assistant editor which is exactly 10 monthly issues of the magazine, I have tried
my best to grasp the intricacies and technicalities involved in the process. I give credit to both Heba and
Adrienne who helped me learn.
I am confident that together with the team it will not be difficult to maintain the standard of the Benvenuto
magazine because Benvenuto Club is a powerhouse of vibrant women who are always an inspiration and with
the support of such energetic women all good things are possible.

Parvin Afsari

Parvin Afsari

Community Services

I was born and brought up in India by Persian Zorashtrian parents but  I was adopted by Italy for the past 42 years.  In Milan, I have worked with Siemens Telecommunications, now retired I get involved with many interesting activities and Associations that this city offers. i have been doing one of these for the last 23 years as Voluntary job at the Institute of Tumori, which also convinced me to accept the position of Director of Community services.