The "Friendship Exchange Team" sponsored from our Rotary District 7230 just returned from a visit to Bangalore, India, as guests of the Rotary Club of Bangalore. The Team comprised of Tom Reilly, Past President of Chinatown Rotary; Janet Walsh, of Bedford-Armonk Rotary; Eva Finkelstein, President of Scarsdale Rotary, and her son Kevin Finkelstein, a non-Rotarian 22-year old college student in Worcester, Massachussetts; and Viktor Solarik, of Mt. Kisco Rotary. The team was headed by Briarcliff Rotary President Krishnan Chittur, who arranged the trip and is also chair of the District's Friendship Exchange Committee. The Team was given a warm send-off reception by the Consul General of India, New York, Prabhu Dayal, at the Indian Consulate in Bangalore.
While in Bangalore, the New York Rotarians were hosted by local Rotarians, which gave a unique opportunity to share the home and family life of local residents. Team members assembled at the Bangalore Club's "House of Friendship" every morning for visits through the day, and were picked up by their respective hosts in the evening. Highlights of the trip included visits to tourist spots such as Lalbaugh gardens, HAL Aerospace Museum, the Bull Temple, ISKCON Temple, and the 400 year old Banyan tree in Bangalore, in addition to visits to the manufacturing facilities of Toyota, Deccan Herald (a leading local newspaper), and Kottas Coffee (coffee processing plant). The Bangalore Rotarians also took our Rotarians on a day trip to Mysore (a 3 hour drive), to visit the erstwhile Mysore Maharaja's palace, the Vrindavan gardens, and the Mysore Silk Factory.
Rotary International is the largest non-governmental organization in the world, with a network that spans 207 countries and over 35,000 clubs. No private organization has been so relentless in advancing international and cultural understanding throughout the world, and this Friendship Exchange Program is one such program. Our District agreed to exchange a team with the Rotary Club of Bangalore. Chartered in 1934, the Bangalore Club is one of the oldest in India, and has been involved in ambitious, remarkable projects fulfilling community needs. Indeed, the New York Rotarians spent a whole day visiting such projects which were founded, funded, and managed (in whole or in major part) by the Bangalore Club. These included the Rotary TTK Blood Bank, which has a special lab, the first-of-its-kind in India for Dual Kinetic Assays; the dialysis unit for the Rajarajeshwari Hospital and Medical College, one of the top hospitals in the area; and the Nagadevanahalli School, which provides education (including books and other educational supplies) and even mid-day meals and pleasing "Rotary International" uniforms to children from some of the poorest families in the area. Team members were so moved by the well-behaved, well-dressed and enthusiastic school children from the poorest Indian families that they promptly made personal pledges of donations to the school.
The Friendship Exchange provides a unique experience, enabling Rotarians share the way of living and perspectives of people residing half way across the globe, and seeing the local places of interest with local escorts and through the eyes of locals. Rotarians also built personal relationships with individuals and families in India. These relationships often last a lifetime; alumni of Rotary programs stay in touch and collaborate personally, professionally, and in community projects long after participating in such programs.
The return team from Bangalore is expected to visit New York in Summer 2013.