Connecting the World through Rotary Friendship Exchange

By Rita Kalra, member of the Rotary Club of Chandigarh Mid Town, India

The Rotary Friendship Exchange program gives Rotary members and their families the opportunity to host and visit Rotarians around the world. In addition to experiencing other cultures and making lasting friendships, an exchange provides a strong foundation for carrying out international activities and service projects.

For us to Connect the World this year, we must be innovative and ready to traverse the uncharted paths to serve our communities. Through our recent friendship exchange, we did just that. While Friendship Exchanges are typically between two international districts, our district saw an opportunity for a slightly different approach to the program by fostering cultural understanding and unity on a national level. A Rotary Friendship Exchange team from my district visited a nearby district in Ahemadabad, India in hopes of learning about a different culture and forging new friendships.

We were greeted by all the host families with a traditional homemade pot luck dinner. It was a warm, welcoming evening in the true Rotary spirit of fellowship. It was a great way for all visiting Rotarians to get to know our hosts. The doubt of the unknown vanished when smiles turned into laughter as we set the foundation for a lasting friendship. This is the magic of Rotary.

The following day started with an early morning heritage walk to places as old as 2,000 years and as young as 600 years. The stories about the architects of Gujrat left us in awe. The Rani Ki Vav stepwell’s technology that stored water for months during a draught while maintaining ground water (much like rain water harvesting of present times) was amazing.

The next day we visited the Calico Museum which displays the history of textiles in India and then we visited the vintage car museum with one of the biggest car collections in the world. The day ended with a traditional dance show over dinner, hosted by the local clubs. It was a wonderful cultural experience that lasted until midnight with amazing food, décor, and overall colourful ambience.

On the third day, we visited Sarkhej Roza, a 1000-year-old mosque rich in history and culture. A local Rotarian was president of the foundation that runs the mosque and identified a need for a water filter and cooler for the hundreds of visitors, students of history, tourists, researchers that come to visit the heritage site each day. On special occasions, they have thousands of people each day. Our team, along with the Rotary Club of Ahemdabad Metro, decided to donate a water cooler filter to Sarkhej Roza. Each member of our Rotary Friendship Exchange team contributed $50 USD to buy a cooler and water filter, which was installed at this world heritage site to provide safe drinking water.

We spent the final day visiting local projects. We visited a medical camp organised at a village adopted by the Rotary Club of Ahemdabad Metro. The medical camp provided consultations, free medicines for treatment, diagnostic tests and health education on hygiene, sanitation, nutrition, vaccination, etc. The aim of the medical camp was to make health services accessible and increase awareness about the importance of health and wellness. The Rotary Club of Ahemdabad Metro works with the village on several other projects under different areas of focus.

We also visited a water and sanitation project the club was implementing at a local school in the same village. The club had provided the school a water tank, a handwashing area, additional classrooms, a library, and a drinking water cooler with a filter. Also, separate toilets for boys and girls were constructed.

During the exchange, our District Rotary Friendship Exchange Chair, Dr. Sanjay Kalra led a training seminar for dentists in Ahemdabad. The training for dental professionals was focused on implants, prosthesis management, occlusion, and few presentations on full mouth rehabilitation. The training goals were to share knowledge in the latest dental technology and capacity building with hands-on vocational training to help local dentists manage complicated cases.

On our final day, with a heavy heart, we thanked our friends for all the memorable moments and tremendous hospitality and bid goodbye, promising to meet soon. The tears rolling down from the corner of our eyes were a witness to the love and blessings we gathered during our sweet time in Ahemadabad.

We wish that our goals and dreams in Rotary are fulfilled not only this year, but in years to come. The lasting friendship and fellowship that is formed by partnering on community projects strengthens and connects communities worldwide. Our club and district welcomes Rotary Friendship Exchange teams to visit us to experience and celebrate Rotary in North India. Find more information on online.

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