Vanakkam from southern India

Thomas Smith in the Bay of Bengal with Pondicherry, India, in the background.

Thomas Smith in the Bay of Bengal with Pondicherry, India, in the background.

By Thomas Smith, president-elect of the Rotary Club of Palm Springs, California

People everywhere. Horns blowing. Never-ending rushhour. Color. Activity. Passion. These were a few of my first impressions of India.

I feel very fortunate to have been selected recently to take part in a vocational training team from California, USA, to southern India, supporting education and literacy initiatives. Our district is committed to helping India achieve its goal of becoming 100 percent literate by 2018.

In India, it is common to see the greeting (“Namaste”) where the two hands (palms) are pressed together and held near the heart with the head gently bowed as one says, “Namaste” or the Tamil “Vanakkam.”

The trip was 22 days of high intensity, great enlightenment, and happiness. We visited Rotary projects, temples, schools, and universities. We stayed both in small guest houses and Rotarian’s homes. I gave five speeches on leadership at Indian universities and to a Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) event.

Our aim was to establish the groundwork for a sustainable vocational training center that would help the unskilled and unemployed in rural communities in Tamil Nadu. Through the exchange, we and our counterparts had an opportunity to exchange information about business practices, to develop professional and leadership skills, and to have a measurable impact on the communities we visited.

India is an incredible country of great passion, many contrasts and customs, and hospitable people. I experienced India’s culture and institutions, observed how their vocations are practiced, developed personal and professional relationships, and exchanged ideas.

During the trip, I saw firsthand how as Rotary members we take action; reach out to neighbors; build, support, and organize; save lives; and help people in need worldwide.

Download Facts About Vocational Training Teams to learn more about the types of VTTs and how to plan a successful one

Source: Rotary Voices

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