Mary Lee, Jemma Lee, Grace Grouden and Brenda Grouden attended Sangam World Centre’s 50th anniversary celebrations at the end of October. It was Mary, Grace and Brenda’s first time to visit Sangam. For Jemma, it was her third visit, having worked there in 2008-2009 and attended the Young Women’s World Forum there in 2011.
Thanks to Mary Lee for writing the following post about their recent trip:
Our trip to Sangam was certainly a trip of a lifetime; nothing could surpass it. To visit a World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts’ World Centre was to be an exciting adventure all on its own but, when we got there, it went way beyond our expectations, as we were taken out of Sangam and brought to explore real life India.
Each of our days in Sangam was filled, not only with the Guiding programme but with trips to local areas where we got to witness first-hand what life is like in India - the culture, the poverty, as well as the wealth, visiting temples, receiving blessings, eating Indian food with their many and varied spices, travelling on a rickshaw and being part of the traffic system, with its seemingly non-existent rules or order.
We were in awe of how the families live - some in shanty towns, which looked like camps, and others in two or three storey houses where many generations of a family could live.
The roads in India are very dusty and the air is very hot and humid. Traders worked in stalls or make shift sheds, selling their wares - anything from tyres to cooked food, clothes and souvenirs. Most shops were decorated brightly with flower garlands.
We witnessed the slow pace of the Indian people, the beautiful clothes they wore and their friendliness towards us. We visited huge vegetable markets, with a huge array of fresh vegetables and fruit, an area called Bangle Alley, which exclusively sold bangles, bright and beautiful and so many to choose from. Visiting the Sari Shop had to be seen to be believed: it was amazing with so many beautiful and varied colours to choose from.
Back in Sangam, when we all dressed up in our saris and punjabi suits, it was a wondrous sight to see!
We visited some community projects in the local area and saw the amazing work that is being done there. We visited a Muslim girls’ orphanage. This was the highlight of our experiences. We played games and sang songs with the girls, all aged between 5 years and 17 years. We did art and crafts and generally had lots of fun, with many photos being taken. We learned a great deal about their lives and realised that these girls are the lucky ones as they will be educated and trained in many and varied life skills.
Inside Sangam we experienced many ceremonies, each one unique in its own way, including opening ceremony, birthday celebration, International Night and closing ceremony. We received many Indian blessings. We were encouraged to challenge ourselves and to get out of our comfort zones in many different ways.
One of the ways was by doing the Sangam Challenge. We were very proud to successfully complete the required number of challenges and to receive our special badge of achievement. Jemma and Brenda surpassed themselves by climbing the Sangam Water Tower (while Mary and Grace took photos from far below)!
We learned skills such as Warli art, Indian embroidery, garland-making, yoga, Bollywood dancing and much more. We experienced a typical Maharastrian dinner, while using our right hand only to eat with and tasted the local sweets.
Sangam means ‘coming together’ and that is exactly what we did - meeting Guiders from different countries and working together using the Patrol system.
The staff and volunteers in Sangam are amazing people with extraordinary organisational skills. It was wonderful to meet Catherine O’Connor, IGG member turned Sangam staff, and to have her join us to represent Ireland on our International Night.
Sangam should be very proud of themselves, capable of looking after the needs of so many guests while managing to keep a very full programme running smoothly. We packed so much into our week in Sangam, that it did not seem possible.
Thanks to everyone in Sangam and in IGG for supporting and encouraging us to take this trip.
Truly this was the most amazing and unforgettable experience of our lives.