Rotarian's Les Mewis his partner Jackie, Rotarian Brian Martin and partner Michelle have traveled to India on A Friendship Exchange. Over the past two weeks Les has shared some of the highlights of the trip.
Jan 16,2010 Dear family and friends. I am writing this letter in email as I currently have no email connection, but want to do it in advance as we have a busy schedule today. Whatever you have heard about India, none of it is true and all of it is true. In the Hindu religion, I am told, that there is no black, no white, only shades of white and grey. I am tossing a cup of water in the ocean to attempt to describe India. Even a photo will only add a small pail! Nothing I will tell you will be complete. We have discovered a people so kind and warm and generous we are absolutely at a loss to determine what we would have to do to return this gift we have received. Perhaps that is the way this is intended to be, but for us to learn to receive such hospitality, and each couple on our journey with us tells us a similar story. To say it will change our lives and attitudes will go without saying. We have amazing photo's available on The Rotary Club of Secunderabad Sunrise: Go to the programs tab Friendship exchange. January 18, 2010 Dear Family and friends, Our friendship exchange to India today has opened another window into the workings of Rotary. Rotary in India seems to be hands on in a lot more literal way than we at our club experience. Last night in discussions with our host who is current president of the Hyderabad North Club, I discovered that his major effort for today January 18, 2010 is to get 200 Rotary shelterboxes which are sitting in storage at the Hyderabad airport, released free of customs duty. He has already been able to have demurrage charges waived, and will hope to have the customs release today. These shelterboxes have been sitting for a few days now waiting to deploy to the flood stricken area of the State of Andhra Pradesh, the state we are in. The flood area is only 120 kms away from Hyderabad. Here is living proof of the power of Rotary. Because of the connection of individual Rotarians right in the area of need, these unnecessary cost will not be paid. Kartic (Our host) and his club have made two trips to this area by truck, which is a 24 hour round trip due to the condition of the roads. They delivered aid in the form of food, cooking pots and water. Their district council made a personal appeal to all members of the Clubs in the state and raised Rps 200,000 in a 24 hour period. One local manufacturer closed his factory (another non-Rotarian donated rice) and Rotarians and volunteers assembled the containers at that factory the next day and packages were ready to go the next. Kartic, whose business is producing films for advertizing has put together a photo journal of the experience on that trip to the flood area. His link is The club website is and you can access this video there. I can see in this effort the seed of what will be a tremendous world-wide aid project. Often food aid arrives to troubled areas in forms those in need are not accustomed to or are not able to cook. These packages are immediately useable. They supply enough food for a family of four for ten days. Our 'holiday' Rotary friendship exchange has suddenly become a most powerful tool to open our eyes to the working of Rotary in this country. Where there is Rotary there is hope! Yours in Rotary, LM January 20, 2010 Dear family and friends, Yesterday was an unplanned day of rest for our team but a very welcome rest. Basically for ten days we have been running on the adrenalin rush of being in India. There has been for a few weeks a protest by certain University students who are championing the cause of division of the state of Andhra Pradesh, the state of which Hyderabad is the capitol. When India was divided into states at the time of their independence, divisions were made roughly along the lines of areas of linguistic traditions. It was done to get widespread agreement from as many as possible as this required a democratic vote. It appealed to the masses. There are however about 1600 languages spoken here! The constitution also allowed for changes in the future that would allow the formation of more divisions. This is one group that now wants this to happen. It would however mean the division of the city of Hyderabad in a sense, and require the creation of another capitol, the duplication of state government services, and a great deal of upheaval. One University student had been on a hunger strike to bring attention and committed suicide. When this occurred two days ago a 'strike' of sorts occurs where people simply shut down their shops and civil services are suspended to avoid trouble with the protesters. Operation of public transport ceased and so the masses cannot get to work if they wanted to. Currently most businesses with large amounts of glass in front have to cover windows with netting as the protesters are throwing bricks and rocks at night to cause attention to the matter. Due to this potential for trouble at any public area our hosts decided to rest for the day, and all out team did the same thing! Rest, visit, take short walks and of course enjoy the incredible hospitality. The area we are currently living in is only a few years old, is totally pre-designed and modern. It is a gated condo community the same as any North American city might have. There are straight streets, single family detached homes and several multi story apartment style condos. Each area has a well planned out community centre, green space, a pool, squash court, a small convenience store, tennis court, weight room, yoga area and suites available to rent for your guests if you need the extra space. In this environment we feel entirely at easy as there is no great mass of people, and we are comfortable just being outdoors! Cyberabad (created around the hi-tech business community) could be any Canadian community. India is not just old by any means. Bye for now, LM January 23, 2010 Hi All, Cyberabad is a brand new development, entirely cosmopolitan on the edge of the old city of Hyderabad. All the Hi Tech companies are here. I have been laid up for a couple of days, not feeling well. I think today I will get back to health. No worries. One Rotarian has begun a 120 km walk for awareness of Rotary's polio plus program. Several members of the team walked the first km with him. His walk was reported on television but I did not see it. After that the group was treated to a tour of Microsoft. I did not go but they all said it is an incredible place. Several Rotarians work there so that is the only way they were able to tour. This morning (Sunday here) the group split, as three couples have started their trip home. It will be hard to leave these people. This will be a short message but I will follow up when I have more time. I hope everyone is okay at home. LM