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Rotary’s reach in India: former Observer reporter checks in from abroad

Chris Marchand

Chris Marchand served as editor of the Dryden Observer from August 2009 to April 2018.
Some beneficiaries of a rural housing development area, fundraised by the Bangalore Rotary Highgrounds club, greet Rotary Group Exchange members earlier this month
Rotary Group Study Exchange team leader, Scott Yule, a Rotarian from Regina, introduces himself to some beneficiaries at a rural colony just outside of Bangalore, India.

By Lindsey Enns

Last month, four others and I traveled to Bangalore, India through Rotary International’s Group Study Exchange program giving us a rare opportunity to witness the positive changes being made by Rotarians in a different part of the world.

Rotary’s reach in India is going strong. From volunteering their time and raising funds to help support hospice centres, build affordable housing, run special training centres, hospitals and schools, Rotary members serve an important role in a city whose population is evidently overwhelming its resources.

One of the more memorable projects we visited was located roughly three hours outside of Bangalore and was organized by the Rotary Bangalore Highgrounds club. Together, club members donated enough money to provide 60 beneficiaries with concrete homes in a poverty stricken rural area, providing women and children a safe place to call home. Something notable about Indian culture is that they are thankful for everything they have. They seem to appreciate and celebrate life in a way that some of us have never experienced. It was truly an emotional experience seeing the lives that these Rotarians are reaching out and changing, even outside of their own city.

Bangalore is in the capital of the Indian state of Karnataka and is India’s third most populous city with over eight million people. A vast difference when compared to the number of Drydenites or the population of my hometown, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The best way to describe India is that it’s an assault on all of your senses. The people, the colours, the spices and smells. Bangalore is a city where people live outside of their homes. There isn’t a time during the day or night that you wouldn’t see the streets of the city alive and bustling with people, street vendors open for business and busy traffic.

A member of the Rotary Bangalore Lakeside club and one of our hosts for a week, Sunil Kand, explained the wide contrasts of people living in India to us best. He compared all of the people that call India home to the colours that make up a rainbow. Everyone is their own colour of the rainbow he explained, and that is what makes India such a diverse mixture of cultures and religions that despite their differences create something beautiful.

Besides giving five people from Rotary District 5550 a break from the cold and snow this winter, the GSE experience provided us with so much more.

Besides getting to experience a new culture and visit Rotary clubs around the world, the GSE program also helps non-Rotarians broaden one’s knowledge in their own particular field of study or career choice.

A highlight of our trip was visiting The Times of India, one of the world’s largest selling English-language daily newspapers, and discussing the future of journalism with some of the editorial department and reporting staff. It was a very memorable meeting that never would’ve been made possible without the help of Rotary members.

This is the last year that Rotary International will be offering the GSE program and Rotary Club of Dryden president, Sandra Boyko, was glad to have someone from Dryden representing the club.

“There is a process that is quite in-depth as many people apply for this opportunity,” she said.

Over the span of four weeks, our GSE team, with members from Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina and Dryden, stayed with host families from the Rotary Bangalore Lakeside, Highgrounds, South West and Indiranagar clubs in Rotary District 3190.

All of our hosts went above and beyond to ensure we felt comfortable and welcome in their homes and by the end of each week we always left feeling like part of the family. Rotary attracts generous, caring and motivated people that helped make our entire experience in India a very positive one. From donating countless hours of their time arranging our schedules, taking us on day trips and walking us through some of their projects, our time spent in India is something that none of us will ever forget.

To read more about Lindsey’s experience in India you can visit her blog here.

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