Rotary Club of Sioux Lookout hosts visitors from India
Jesse Bonello - Staff Writer
Sioux Lookout welcomed eight visitors from India from July 3 to 5 who were in town through a Rotary Friendship Exchange (RFE) between District 5550 (covering an area from Northwestern Ontario, through Manitoba, to near the western border of Saskatchewan) and District 3040 in India.
The visitors from India included four Rotarian couples: Sukhdev and Kirandeep Ghuman, Tejesh and Archana Mehta, Suneel and Ragini Bhargava, and Satish and Mamta Bhasin.
Rotary Club of Sioux Lookout member Sylvie MacDonald travelled to India, along with ten other Rotarians from District 5550, through an RFE for two weeks in January. MacDonald was able to help host the travellers from India, and she helped them discover and explore Sioux Lookout.
“They went on a float plane ride that toured Sioux Lookout and then we landed at Anderson’s camp where they prepared breakfast for us there. We came back into town and did a tour of the hospital, gave them a history of the northern communities that come here, and we explained the hub of the north. We also had a pontoon boat ride to show all the houses along Sioux Lookout, and we went to Maxwell Island. Darrell and Anne Morgan provided a dinner for everybody, which was amazing. Today (July 4) we had a little bit more of a quiet day where we did a craft, learned about the legend of Sioux Lookout, and did a tour of Sioux Mountain Public School. Then we went over to where the International Rotary Canoe Trip visitors were training, and Kirk (Drew) took three of them out on a canoe. It wasn’t hectic and it was beautiful. They saw the train go by, the airplanes land, and the canoers,” MacDonald shared.
“They spent some time in Winnipeg, Sioux Lookout was next, now next is Kenora, and they will go to Brandon, Manitoba after that,” she added.
When asked if they enjoyed their time in Sioux Lookout, the visitors shared that they adored the scenery and nature that Sioux Lookout has to offer. Their float plane ride that toured Sioux Lookout was a common highlight from their time in town.
“We’ve been loving it. We’re loving every moment of our time spent in Canada. It’s beautiful… I loved the float plane ride, the visit to Maxwell Island, and going in a canoe,” said Ragini Bhargava.
“It was great. It’s such a nice place, with lots of water bodies and trees. It’s totally green, and we’re enjoying the fresh air. It’s a totally different experience… There’s nothing like this place. It’s something unique,” said Suneel Bhargava.
“Sioux Lookout is beautiful. It’s a paradise on earth, and the people are wonderful… My favourite part was probably the float plane ride. It was amazing,” said Tejesh Mehta.
“We absolutely love Sioux Lookout, and I can’t thank everyone enough for their hospitality and the way they treated us. We’re going to really miss everyone,” said Sukhdev Ghuman.
The group of visitors had the opportunity to share about their lives back home in India during a presentation in the Upper Legion Hall on July 4.
The evening featured greetings and well wishes from Rotary Club of Sioux Lookout President Tara Drew and Sioux Lookout Mayor Doug Lawrance.
“We’re pleased that you have decided to cross our friendly international border to come and visit us in Sioux Lookout. On behalf of the Municipality of Sioux Lookout, please accept our warm greetings and our hopes that you are enjoying your stay in Sioux Lookout,” said Mayor Lawrance.
Prior to the presentation, Rotary Club of Sioux Lookout member Lew Morgan was presented with an Indian turban known as a Pagdi from Tejesh Mehta, which symbolized love and respect.
“It’s known as Pagdi… We remove our Pagdi only in front of God, someone big or elderly. If a son was wearing a Pagdi and his father or grandfather comes he would remove his Pagdi to show respect. If we give our Pagdi to somebody, that means I love and respect you so much,” said Tejesh Mehta.
Lew Morgan, and his wife Geraldine Morgan, were a host family for Tejesh and Archana Mehta while they were in Sioux Lookout. They were thrilled to know that Tejesh and Archana had such a great time in Sioux Lookout.
“We have enjoyed this family immensely, Tejesh and Archana. We’ve been very honoured. We’ve learned a lot of their cultural ways and we’ve tried to show them the best of our town, and I think they’ve really appreciated it and had a good time with us,” said Lew Morgan, who has been a Sioux Lookout Rotarian since 1970.
Following the presentation the group received individual Rotary Club of Sioux Lookout banners to take home as well as certificates from Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa.
Rotary Club of Sioux Lookout President Tara Drew shared that she became the club president just days before the presentation, but she was amazed by how community members came together to help provide great experiences for the visitors from India.
“I only took over a couple days ago, so, to have this as the beginning of my presidency, makes me speechless… We have our own beauty, we have amazing people, and the support from the community is always phenomenal,” said Drew.
The visit was months in the making, and MacDonald shared how proud she was of Sioux Lookout, especially after seeing the visitors cherish their time in town.
“For me, I’m really proud that they enjoyed it so much because I really wanted them to see how unique and beautiful this area is… I was thinking about this visit for four months, and I couldn’t be more excited to have them here and do this. It’s making me so proud of Sioux Lookout and how excited they are about being here,” said MacDonald.
The group of visitors will be departing back to India on July 11. During the presentation they shared that Sioux Lookout community members always have a place to stay when they travel to India.
“We never say goodbye. We say we’ll meet again,” Tejesh Mehta concluded.