Namaste from Sangam World Centre in Pune, India!
Heidi grew up in the River Valleys council where she participated in Girl Scouts. She has been a regular volunteer, including serving as a board member. She was given the opportunity to work at Sangam, a Girl Scout world center located in Pune, India. She will be sharing her experiences with us over the next few months.
Remember the feeling of waiting up for Santa Claus as a little kid? I know I got excited weeks in advance, and by Christmas Eve the anticipation made me bounce off the walls in my best red plaid church dress. Now imagine the supposedly grown-up world centre staff and guests waiting for an elephant to join in Sangam’s 45th Birthday Celebration!
For a week before, we heard Diane (one of the Community Programme Tare) telling us how many more sleeps until the elephant remained. On Sangam’s Birthday Eve, we wound up buzzing with tired excitement on the front steps waiting for her to walk in the gate and up our driveway. Since she made a long journey across Pune with her handlers, we had the pleasure of hosting her overnight in our campground. We feed her bananas that we snuck from the kitchen and saw her take a bucket bath in the morning. All this happened even before the birthday party began!
World Sangam Day (October 16) fell during an Essence of India session, when guests from Sri Lanka, USA, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, Sweden and Japan visited for 10 days to experience Indian culture and help us celebrate. Sangam also hosts Community Action events and seminars with different themes like Advocacy and HIV/AIDS. Anyone connected to Girl Scouts and Guides can visit Sangam as an individual or with a group for these sessions. The staff prepares activities, field trips, and service projects for participants to enjoy. During the birthday week, our guests took on challenges to discover the neighborhoods of Pune, threw a birthday party for local children, tried wearing saris and Punjabi suits for a traditional Indian feast and cooled off with a movie in the swimming pool.
On the 45th Birthday itself, we offered elephant rides, tabla drumming, laughter yoga, a puppet show, tarot card readings, and a cake cutting ceremony. Also, I coordinated a Bazaar and discussion forum with our Community Partners, local organizations working for education, girls and women, and the environment. What a beautiful day! It ended with me and Ellen (a volunteer from Sweden) singing Sangam’s farewell song to the elephant Laxmi, whose name we learned in a guessing contest.
As November comes, it means chilly water in the pool, day camp for local kids with our Tare and lots of people coming and going! It also is a kick-off time for World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) “United to End Violence Against Women and Girls”campaign. At Sangam, we’ve started a wall of comments, thoughts, newspaper collages and artwork as an expression of our support for this theme.