Recently the Rotary Club of Golden president Greg Ehman and his wife Kristie returned from a journey to help people in Pakistan, that turned out to be an amazing experience.
The couple returned from Pakistan on Feb. 20 after a 12-day friendship exchange.
“Rotary really highlights the importance of building understanding and friendship across countries,” Greg said.
He went on and explained that Rotarians go with their spouses to another country where they are home stayed with local families, who in turn will one day come to the home country of their guests.
Having never been to Pakistan the pair did not know exactly what life was going to be like on their trip.
“I tried to go there without too much in the way of expectations but people told me, especially because it was Pakistan, that I should be scared,” Kristie said.
“I found it warm and the people were giving. People gave us their home basically and toured us around.”
“I think the western press, for lack of a better term, does a good job of presenting the bad sides of places like Pakistan. We were never scared going over there. I think that any fear or apprehension that we might have had vanished the first day we went out,” Greg said.
He explained that one day they went to a local zoo with a couple from Cranbrook, and they were one of the biggest attractions.
“We had all of these people smiling and wanting to talk to us. They were all very excited to get to know where we came from and why we were there,” he said.
“It was a nice experience to have people who wanted to talk to you and be with you,” Kristie added.
One of the main parts of the trip was to help dispense polio vaccines in the country.
“Knocking back polio in Pakistan is huge. We had the absolute privilege of being able to participate in schools and villages in the country to administer drops to children under five,” Greg said.
“Polio is so far from us here (in Canada). It hasn’t existed in our country for decades. There, it is on the front lines.”
Greg said it was very interesting to get out to some of the smaller villages in areas further away from the cities.
“They use the term gypsy villages because the families are highly transitional and move through. That was one of the most amazing experiences because we met a lady who was close to 75 years old who opened a school on her porch,” he said.
According to Greg, over the years more children came to her and eventually, with the help of the Rotary, a school was built for her, where children could come to receive an education.
Greg also said that having the chance to talk to the people about their lives was important for him.
“It was amazing. We had many very open conversations there. I was ignorant and you don’t really know the facts, beyond what you see on the news or read on the internet and assume it to be true. You don’t understand the struggles they have,” he said.
Greg explained that projects in the country have been aimed at helping families stay together. One example he gave was of a factory which was filled with rugs that are made in the worker’s homes.
The looms are put in their houses so parents can look after their children and make a living.
“This whole circular process was amazing.”
The couple said they would happily go back to Pakistan for a visit and take at least their two older children with them.
“It is nothing like what some people said it was,” Kristie said.
“Their sense of family is high and sometimes in western society we miss that. The homes we stayed in would frequently have multi- generations in there. They do not put grandma and grandpa in an old age home. They stay in the house and help out. It was a wonderful time of bonding,” he said.
“The process of listening to the stories was astounding.”