PdC provides warm welcome to Rotary Club visitors from India

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An exchange of Rotary Club flags between the Prairie du Chien and Indian clubs took place during the exchange visit. Pictured (from left) are Savita and Ravindra Arya, Hemali and Nishith Pathak, Phil Holzer, Chandresh Makhija, Pawan Jain, Hemal Makhija and Rekha Jain. (Submitted photo)

By Correne Martin

A Rotarian Friendship Exchange brought about 10 visitors from India to Prairie du Chien and its Rotary Club District 6250 in late May/early June. Led by Senior Rotarian Chandresh Makhija, and facilitated by Prairie du Chien Rotarian Cheryl Mader, the group sat down to discuss their exchange opportunity as well as share a little about their culture and club.

Hailing from District 3060 in the state of Gujarat, India, the pleasant and eager tourists flew into Chicago on May 27. After some sightseeing, they were picked up and taken to Wisconsin Dells on May 28. There, they experienced the lore of riding the “Ducks” and enjoying the Wisconsin River. From there, they headed to La Crosse, where they toured the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, tasted some Indian cuisine, took a La Crosse Queen boat ride and stood in line for some Pearl Street Ice Cream.

En route to the Prairie du Chien area, on June 1, they took in the lock and dam near Genoa. Then, then visited the Villa Louis Historic Site and the Ft. Crawford Museum as well as Pike’s Peak. They ate mid-day as guests in the homes of Dean and Connie Achenbach and Jeff and Chris Panka.

“Prairie du Chien has been a revelation to us,” Makhija said, a well-spoken consulting civil engineer. “You are blessed with a lot of beautiful landscape and very careful with your ecology.”

After Prairie du Chien, the group of stylishly-dressed Rotarians headed back to La Crosse, then spent five days in Madison before splitting up and touring the U.S. for another week. Aside from their day-tripping, the Indian Rotarians coordinated occasions during which they could spread the word in the Wisconsin district 6250 about their Rotary projects.

One of the grandest missions of Indian Rotary Clubs in general, since 1985, has been to eradicate polio. The World Health Organization certified India as a polio-free country in 2014, marking more than three years since the last case of the disease there.

“There were celebrations all over India,” Makhija said. “Not only was the Indian government involved because of Rotary, but they were able to [eradicate] it sooner because of the fight shoulder-to-shoulder.”

Makhija’s wife, Hemal, shared that all the country’s vaccines for polio were made possible by the government. They were provided by government doctors in government clinics and there were incentives for mothers who brought in their children for vaccinations. That incentivization was because of Rotary.

The Indian district has six defined areas of work: health care, maternal health, child care, education, water and sanitation, and peace and conflict resolution.

Under the health care realm, their Rotary Clubs help hospitals obtain equipment, dental programs, human medicine banks, etc.

As part of the Rotary Club in India, a sector called the Inner Wheel Club is run solely by women, while there’s also a designated club for youth, called the Rotractors.

One of the Inner Wheel Club’s projects has to do with the problem of infant nutrition. They’ve coordinated a class of mothers who will lactate, collect the excess and put it in a bank for infants in need. Currently, one such bank has been highly successful, according to Savita Arya, one of the exchange visitors who has worked closely with the project. Six banks total are desired.

Also, there are some Indian states that are only 40-50 percent literate. So, in the interest of increased literacy, the clubs have provided schools with happy companionship benches, water coolers and hand wash stations and toilets. They’ve also donated computers and software and assisted students who cannot afford books, shoes, uniforms, sweaters, bags, stationary, meals, etc.

“Otherwise, [the parents] won’t send children to study,” Makhija said. “Whatever they need as another incentive, we provide.”

Certainly, during their time in the States, a common question of them was to determine the differences between America and India and their respective cultures.

Makhija said their prime minister’s focus is very clear: literacy and child education. In India, education is free in most places and even some colleges are subsidized either free or with low interest loans.

In addition, another contrast is simply in terms of population per square meter.

“The streets are comparatively empty here,” Makhija said, as the whole group smiled.

Regardless of who they’ve met or spent time with, the Rotarian Friendship Exhange has been a warm one for all of the visitors and their hosts. As Mader pointed out about her travels to India in February, when she stayed with Pawan and Rekha Jain, who, in turn, came here, the idea behind the exchange is that there’s a mutual trust. Even if the people have never met, Rotarians, no matter in which country they live, are like a big family.

Specifically, in India, they believe “Vasudeva Kutumbakam,” or “the universe is one. All are brothers and sisters.”

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