Gift for Change: A Visit to the Sangam World Center

By Linda Roberts, Co-Leader, Girl Scout Troop #243

WAGGGS session participantsThis past winter break, I was lucky to travel to India with 4 other members of Girl Scout Troop #243.  We are a Senior and Ambassador troop with Girl Scouts – NC Coastal Pines based in Chapel Hill.

The first half of our trip was spent at beautiful Sangam, the WAGGGS World Center in Pune, India. We were joined by 16 other Girl Guides from the UK, Ireland, and Australia for Gifts for Change, a session devoted primarily to community service.

Our first service project was to help with a dental camp that was jointly sponsored by Sangam and Green Tara, an agency that serves teen girls in 15 slum areas around Pune by teaching them life skills and trades. We ran healthy sessions like how to brush your teeth and good nutrition while two dentists provided checkups for the 100+ girls who attended. We also toured some of the homes of the girls we met at Green Tara, which was an amazing experience.

We also joined Nehru Bal Sangh for a half day march through Pune with 900 young adult Indians in support of “Save the Girl Child,” a movement to improve gender value and opportunities of girls.

Riding an ElephantPartnering with a local community center, our group also helped to host an annual Christmas party. We made endless amount of paper snowflakes and hats, played duck-duck-goose and parachute games with local children until we were dizzy, and did quite the aerobic rendition of the 12 Days of Christmas song!

We took an auto-rickshaw ride to a main shopping district to buy material so we could have a custom sari or punjabi suit made. Once made, we all donned our new outfits for an Indian afternoon complete with mehindi (henna body art), badminton, rangoli (Indian sand art), and other games. The afternoon was capped off with a Maharashtran dinner feast!

Since we visited over New Years, we all attended a rockin’ New Year’s party at Sanscruti, a local cultural park where we feasted, danced all night, watched puppet shows, native dancers, and saw fireworks at midnight.

After tearful goodbyes, it was time for the 21 of us to part ways. Our quintet flew to Dehli and we transitioned to being tourists. All in all, it was a magical trip where we not only got to share our talents, but we learned so much as well. I encourage everyone with a traveler’s sprit to visit this wonderful World Center.

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