“In Utah’s embrace, we dwell. Souls familiar with its mountainous spells. Yet fate has whisked them afar, it seems, to West Bengal’s land of vibrant dreams. Amidst the plains where Ganges does flow, they walk on foreign soil’s glow. Each heart, a wanderer, seeks to explore the wonders of a distant shore. In Kolkata’s bustling streets, they roam, captivated by the city’s ancient looms. A tapestry of cultures, rich and diverse, Whispering stories in every verse. The scent of spices fills the air, as they weave through lanes with utmost care. From Howrah Bridge to Victoria’s grace, they embrace this enchanting place. They taste the flavors of Bengali cuisine, with every bite, a culinary scene. Machher Jhol and Rasgulla’s sweet delight, awaken their senses, a symphony of delight. For them, this sojourn is a fleeing staying, a chapter in life’s extraordinary array. But in their hearts, a blend of worlds shall reside, a tapestry of memories forever tied.”
A beautiful poem that couldn’t have been better summarized about the GCL India program this May; composed by one of our in-country coordinators (Anugrah) with the help of Chat GBT. *chefs kiss*
This May, one of the Global Community Leadership (GCL) programs at Youthlinc, took a group of 18 participants to India. The program partnered with Insight Himalaya, Waves4Water India, and Utah State University (USU) with a focus on public health, health education, and service learning. The group spent time in the bustling and exciting city of New Delhi; meeting with United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), engaging with students and staff at the University College of Medical Science, distributing Water Filters to a group in a nearby village and learning the history of New Delhi and Agra’s empires by visiting many monuments; including the Taj Mahal. Fun fact: the Taj Mahal required over 20,000 workers to build it. And yes, we all cried when we arrived; especially knowing that we could go inside the Taj Mahal and stare in awe as the sun set.
The team then flew from New Delhi to Bagdogra and rode in jeeps up to 7,500 feet through the hills to a village called Chisang. The drive was an incredible experience with switchback dirt roads, monkeys, tea farms, and much cooler weather than Delhi. In Chisang, we stayed at a beautiful Homestay (called The Wildwoods Homestay) and the team networked with the women’s Self Help Group to discuss health topics, met with the local Medicine Man, visited the doctor at the Ayurvedic Clinic, and interacted with students at the St George Primary School and the Govt School, teaching English and health/hygiene. We hiked the hills of Chisang to visit families and distribute water filters with Waves4Water India. Before our departure, the team learned a dance to perform at the Govt School, taught by the one and only, Ganesh (a staff member and dance instructor with Insight Himalaya). Prior to our farewell performance, there were students from four local tribes that danced in their beautiful tribal regalia. They were mutually very excited about seeing one another dance that during our performance, they cheered so loud we thought we were on World of Dance or something.
After our farewell, the team got on a train in Siliguri headed to Kolkata. If anyone has been on a train in Asia you may know it’s an important method of transportation for locals to get to work, school, or visit family. Despite the chaos of the 11 hour train ride, there were so many inspiring interactions along the way. Watching workers jump on and off the train to offer puffed rice or hot tea. Watching children giggle as they get a top bunk on the train. Listening to families interact in their language. Once the team arrived from our overnight train ride, we hit the ground running in Kolkata. We visited the Mother Teresa Center, including Khaligat (Mother Teresa’s Home for the Dying Destitute), Potter’s Place, and the Howrah Flower Market. Fun fact: this flower market is Asia’s largest flower market.
The GCL team learned so much during their time in India and made lasting friendships along the way. Students networked with community members in Chisang to help share knowledge and come up with solutions together, while also learning about one another’s culture; including mutual struggles or joy in our own communities.
The program was led by Dr. Steve Hawks, faculty member at Utah State University with a focus on Public Health and Dr. Jessica Roueche, adjunct instructor at Utah State University focusing on global health and service learning and the recently hired GCL Director at Youthlinc. The primary in-country coordinators were Binod Rai (located in Nepal) and Panu Lucksom (located in India).
Written by Dr. Jessica Roueche