In Youth Exchange Programs

Rotaryanne Jaya Prasad writes about IPP Rtn. Ramesh Narayan

IPP Rtn. Ramesh Narayan’s idea came to fruit after a year-long effort last month. During his term, Ramesh had suggested sending an under privileged student from BY alumni abroad under the Rotary International Student Exchange
Programme. Towards this, he had constituted a Committee spearheaded by Rotarians Peter Born and Homi Katgara.

The chain of people that came together to make this happen is a testimony to what Rotarians can and do achieve, every day. Right from his selection process to BY alumnus Vedant Kadam’s eventual farewell, the process had as many twists and turns as a whodunnit.

The criteria for selection had been tough: the candidates had to be no more than 19 years of age, their parents had to be willing to send them overseas, their scholastic record had to be exemplary and, of course, the candidate had to show a positive attitude and the maturity to undertake such a trip.

It’s no surprise that Vedant’s application stood out from all others. He is a topper from the 2014/15 BY batch and is
now pursuing Electrical Engineering in Atharva College in Mumbai. His elder sister, also from NM Joshi Municipal
School is studying to become a Chartered Accountant.

I assisted him in preparing for his interview with the Committee Members. Rtn. Peter Born and Rtn. Homi Katgara would be meeting five BY alumni from each of the BY schools. After a review, Vedant was the candidate agreed upon by them and selected by the Committee. Next step: an interview with Rotary District 3141 Officials Kamlesh and his colleagues.

Before meeting them, Vedant was required to prepare enough to showcase a sound understanding of India and be well-versed with answers to nearly a hundred questions. Additionally, he familiarised himself with the booklet on Rotary International, details on the Youth Program, Rotary Movement, and of course Rotary Club of Bombay.

In his meeting with Kharade, Vedant answered all questions confidently. It would not be out of place to mention here that Vedant continues to do very well in his studies and in recognition of this, RCB extended his scholarship last
year as well as this year, to defray the expense of his college fee.

With candidate in hand, Kamlesh and the District looked at the countries with which our District is in regular touch for such Exchange Programmes.

As this is an Exchange Programme, it entails a reciprocity from an RCB member to host a student from the Rotary Club in the country where Vedant would be going. Rtn. Peter Born and his wife Erica readily offered to host the Exchange Student at their home. Many, many thanks, Erica and Peter. But for your offer of hospitality, Vedant’s trip would not have fructified.

Prepping Vedant
At first, it looked like he might go to Germany. Erika invited Vedant over to guide him on table manners, social and
cultural etiquette etc. Additionally, she introduced him to continental fare. She made him clear the table and wash his own dishes, which would be expected of him in homes overseas. Further, he was briefed on how to run washing
machines, dryers and other electrical gadgets used these days.

Passport Saga
As Vedant did not have a passport, he needed help with the same. Rtn. Framroze Mehta and his office helped with all the paper work. Rtn Ashok Jatia and Rtn. Peter Born kindly joined me and my husband Rtn SV Prasad to meet a senior bank official to provide an affidavit to expedite issue of passport under Tatkaal scheme. We were unsuccessful but thanks to PP Ramesh, Ashok and I met a senior police official who readily furnished us with the same. The next hurdle came in providing proof of address: Vedant’s home is undergoing redevelopment and his family is staying in a rented place. So, Prasad and I accompanied him to State Bank of India to provide proof of address as required by the Passport Office. Thankfully, he and his father had held bank accounts in that same branch for quite a few years. The bank manager helped, albeit reluctantly.

After many visits to the passport office and much back and forth, the prized document came through: the passport was in hand. But for the help of Rotary Club of Bombay and its members, and so many of us being actively involved, one realised that it is so tough for ordinary people to get a passport. This is a sobering thought.

Enter Brazil
At this point, Germany was ruled out due to scheduling problems and Brazil stepped in. After the Rotary District and
the Club in Brazil confirmed, dates were firmed up, Vedant took permission from his college for the trip. Dates had to be convenient on both sides of the ocean.

With the sponsorship and Rotary letter in hand by September 10, the pace really picked up. It was decided that Vedant would leave by September 18 and be back by October 12, in time for his exams. His ticketing and visa were done within a week.

Vedant’s final briefings
Peter – who was going away for his annual vacation the next day – helped Vedant make an online visa application and accompanied him to the Brazil Consulate. Rtn Peter spoke with consulate officials who were supportive in sending an underprivileged child overseas. Thanks to Rtn. Gul Kripalani putting in a word and advising the Consulate Officer to be met, the visa got issued quickly.

Simultaneously, Rtn. Homi Katgara and his office had been looking at flight options. Brazil is quite far and herefore
cost turned out to be an important consideration. President Vijay Jatia and the Board needed details in order to
consider approving the same.

In the midst of packing and getting ready to leave, Vedant was being continuously briefed by Rtn. Homi Katgara at his office, Ashok Jatia at his office and constantly over the phone, by me.

The visa came through on the September 17 and Vedant left on the night of September 18.

Hats off to RCB and its Members Rtn President Vijay Jatia readily extended a helping hand at every stage, including providing the necessary introductory letters. To augment the funds given to Vedant by RCB, Rtn Ashok Jatia gave him some US Dollars as pocket money to spend in Brazil and Homi gave him some UAE Dirhams for food and refreshments during his transit stopover at Dubai airport on his way to Brazil and back. Last but not the least, a big thanks to my husband SV for being supportive all the way.

District and its team
Kamlesh and his team in our Rotary District have continuously extended help and support. This has been noteworthy as this has been a long drawn out exercise stretching almost a year now.

On the eve of Vedant’s departure, Kamlesh directed him to come over to District Office and Kamlesh and his colleagues gave Vedant Rotary pins, badges, jacket, and India Flag etc for Vedant to carry to Brazil to keep the country and Rotary India flag flying high.

In Brazil
At the time this was written, Vedant was in Brazil and excitedly sending pictures (including with fellow Exchange Students from other countries via Whatsapp of the functions he was attending and the local trips he was making. “My host mother is tooooo good” was one of his messages.

This once in a lifetime trip will surely make Vedant a more mature, rounded person.

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