“We recently hosted a Group Study Exchange from India,” said Mayor Bill Hereford, member of the Pell City Rotary Club. “Each year, the Rotarians of north Alabama host a GSE team from another country, and send a team from Alabama to that country.”
Hereford said Alabama Rotarians have hosted GSE teams for 16 years, and the Pell City Rotary Club has participated the past four years.
“It is a wonderful program,” he said. “The GSE team members visit Rotary clubs all over north Alabama, and those Rotary clubs show them Alabama. In exchange, the GSE team members talk about their country.”
Hereford said GSE team members stay in Rotarians’ homes while visiting the various clubs.
“It really is a people-to-people program,” he said.
On Tuesday, Hereford presented a key to the city to Rotarian Dr. Vyankatesh Sidramappa Metan, the GSE team leader. The key will go to the Rotary Club of Solapur East, District 3132, in India. All the GSE members are from Maharashatra State, India.
Metan is the only member of the GSE team who is a Rotarian. He is director of International Service Avenue of RID (Rotary International District) 3132. He is an orthopedic surgeon and has numerous Rotarian achievements.
“We are having a great time here,” Metan said.
While in the Pell City area, the GSE team toured Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, St. Vincent’s St. Clair Hospital, Barber Motorsports Museum, and other sites of interest.
Metan, an avid avian enthusiast, said he saw a bald eagle while touring the area.
“It was the highlight of my trip,” he said.
The other GSE team members include Dr. Prachi Sunil Waychal, a dentist; Dr. Mahesh Nagnath Sonar, a medical practitioner consultant in pediatrics; Sandip Anandrao Sutar, a chartered accountant; and Dr. Anil Panditrao Sakhare, a gynecologist.
Each team member expressed thanks for the warm welcome and hospitality local residents showed them.
“I have personally hosted one or more GSE team members each year the Pell City Rotary Club has participated in the program,” Hereford said.
He said he hosted team members from France, Brazil, the Czech Republic, and now India.
“I greatly enjoyed hosting them,” he said. “They are very open about their lives and culture, and we do the same. In a very brief time you make a friend for life, and we do stay in touch.”
Hereford said it is his understanding that this year’s GSE is the last year for the program.
“We are hoping they will re-implement the program soon,” he said. “The GSE fosters goodwill and understanding, and promotes good relations. Understanding other cultures and gaining insight into their lives is a wonderful thing. We ought to do more programs like this. You can never have too many of these people-to-people programs.”