Discover India in just 17 days. For the 19 youngsters from 11 countries — Brazil, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Netherlands, Slovakia, Sweden, Taiwan, USA — nothing could have made them understand India better than the Youth Exchange Camp organised by RC Ahmedabad West, D 3051, in partnership with the neighbouring District 3052. The youth camp, which is part of Rotary’s short-term Youth Exchange Programme, gave them a peek into the cultural values, heritage and family system in the country, besides exotic tourist spots in Ahmedabad, Bhuj, Jaipur, Udaipur and Agra.
Forty-eight Rotarian families in Ahmedabad, Jaipur and Udaipur hosted the foreign students, offering them all basic necessities for a comfortable stay, said Bhanu Gupta, Youth Exchange Chair, D 3051.
Basking in the kinship with the host families, the visitors went around the campus of IIM for a top class academic exposure. “The old city of Ahmedabad, Sabarmati Ashram and Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar gave them a proud feeling of spirituality and Ahimsa that India is known for,” said Gupta. A visit to Arvind Mills and the exciting experience of the kite festival Utrayaan were other highlights of their stay at Ahmedabad. DG Dinesh Thacker and the Club President Rakesh Bhargava made arrangements for the team.
Unique sights, sounds
The youngsters were enchanted by the quaint charm of Indian royalty and colourful sights of Rajasthan after a meeting with the Prince of Udaipur Lakshyaraj Singh Mewar and witnessing a folk performance, Bagor ki Haveli.
“Discover India was just amazing. The host families accepted us into their lives from day one, like a family. I felt safe and welcome and that means a lot when you are so far away from home and experiencing a completely different culture,” said Trine Trustrup, a participant from Denmark.
The campers enjoyed the train journey from Udaipur to Jaipur, where they were accorded a warm reception by DGN Neeraj Sogani (D 3052) and Camp Coordinator in Rajasthan Neeraj Agarwal. A pit-stop tour comprising places such as the City Palace, Amber Fort, Hawa Mahal, Jantar Mantar, Gem and Jewellery Institute, and a hands-on experience in tie-and-dye printing at the IIS University expanded their vision of India’s heritage.
The much-awaited trip to Agra for Taj Mahal and the Red Fort offered them a glimpse of the Mughal splendour. The final ‘wow’ moment was the adventure sports like parasailing they had at the Rann of Kutch which was organised by RC Bhuj Wall City, D 3051.
“Indian culture is so vast and filled with tradition. The youth camp was a stepping stone, both to discovering the unique culture and making life-long contacts that will aid in my learning to see the world in an open-minded way,” said Rebecca Singer from the US. Expressing her gratitude to Rotary, Margot Stormmesand (18) from The Netherlands, said, “we were such a fun group and we accepted each other the way we are. We were like a huge family. Together we experienced an ‘Incredible India’.”