The weekly meeting of the Vermillion Rotary Club took place on Tuesday, April 11, at the Neuharth Center on the campus of USD. President Mercy Hobbs opened the meeting and Rev. Robert Grossmann gave the invocation. Two seniors from Vermillion High School were introduced and gave a brief presentation of their involvement in school and their plans for the future. They were Christina Wellsfry and Molly Woodard. Other guests were Chad Brent and Susan Jones. It was announced that Bike Helmet Day would be held May 12 at Austin School.
Sarah Richardson, who reported on her participation in a Rotary Group Exchange trip to India, presented the program for the day. Other members on the trip were Robert Yent, Zane Haniel and Elsa Grant. All were Rotary members from this part of the country. They left on their trip Jan. 14.
Sarah used a Power-point presentation to illustrate her trip. She began by pointing out that India is approximately 1.3 million square miles in size with a population of 1.1 billion people. That works out to 324 people per square mile.
In contrast, South Dakota has about three people per square mile. About half of the people are illiterate and 300-400 million live below the poverty line. India is a land of contrasts with extreme wealth and extreme poverty, but India does have a growing middle class.
They spent most of their time in Bangalore City in the southern part of the country. Bangalore City has a population of 7 million people and is known for its information technology industry and is referred to as India's "Silicon Valley." Bangalore is the government center for southern India and is the center of a growing middle class.
There are 70 Rotary clubs in India with 33 of them in Bangalore with 2,500 Rotarians in the district. The group stayed with several families representing many religions and economic classes. The team visited several Rotary Club meetings, attended a district conference and viewed many different Rotary projects.
They also visited museums and temples and other public buildings and learned a lot about the culture. The main religions are Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh and Jain. The predominant religion is Hindu. Sarah said they met and stayed with many Muslims who were all very gracious and hospitable. There are 16 main languages and over a thousand dialects. Most people spoke English very well.
The country is amazingly beautiful and the civilization goes back 5,000 years. There are many very modern buildings and others that are hundreds and even a thousand years old.
Sarah felt it was a life-changing experience. She found out what it is like to be a minority and also observed what extreme poverty is like. To her the world is smaller now. She also presented the Vermillion Rotary Club with several banners from Rotary Clubs in India. She concluded her presentation by taking questions from the audience.