My 1st Meghalaya Trip – RYLA in RRTC, Umran

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The first Rotary Youth leadership Awards (RYLA) camp in Sikkim back in 2012 was my first trip to any place ever in my life. It changed my life forever. It helped me come out of my comfort zone. It introduced me to the world of mountaineering, adventure and a lot more. I overcame my fear of heights and helped me build confidence during public speaking. Amazing right? Do read about the experience and about the RYLA on the IHCAE campus of Chemchey in South Sikkim. Apart from RYLA, I have also included the places to visit in South Sikkim in that article.

International RYLA at Rural Resource Training Centre in Umran, Meghalaya

Two years later i.e. on 23rd April 2014, I set out to Meghalaya to attend another RYLA at the Rural Resource Training Centre (RRTC) in Umran of Ri Bhoi district, Meghalaya. What an experience it was! It was a place that I was travelling to for the first time and all by myself. It helped me explore the places that I had been hearing about since my childhood.

Rural Resource Training Centre (RRTC) at Umran, Meghalaya
Rural Resource Training Centre (RRTC) at Umran, Meghalaya- the RYLA Venue. Photo: RRTC Umran

Youth being guided by Rotary is really praiseworthy. Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) is one of the best gifts I have ever received. New friends, a new atmosphere, new and adventurous activities, leadership training, fun, and games are what it is all about.

RYLA 2014 (24th-26th April 2014)

Deboarding the sumo vehicle at Umran, I hiked for about a kilometre from the Guwahati-Shillong Road at Umran to the RRTC campus. The first two friends I met were a Khasi guy from Meghalaya and a Nepali friend from Kalimpong. This International RYLA was organised by the Rotary Club of Shillong. Participants from Bhutan, Bangladesh, Rwanda, Assam, Kalimpong, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura joined the event.

On the 24th of April, 2014, the 3 exciting days of RYLA began. The day started with a Yoga Session. It was fun to learn about Surya Namaskar and other aspects of Yoga. The tone with which our Yoga instructor directed us through the steps made the session, even more, fun and funny.

Each session on the 24th was full of unique activities. Group dynamics, Socialization Skills, Exercises, and Group Familiarization were some of the activities included in the first session.

The other activities include a session on ‘Discovering Myself’ and outdoor games in which we had the opportunity to implement our ideas to make the game easier, smooth and less time-consuming.

Fun activites in RYLA at RRTC Umran Meghalaya organised by RC Shillong
I am the one with the rope. The challenge was to pass it without removing the grip of our hands from each other.
Fun Activities in RYLA in RRTC Umran Meghalaya by RC Shillong
A creative game with football but not a football game.

The next day, i.e. 25th of April 2014 started with yoga. In the following session, we were asked to share a successful and an unsuccessful story about ourselves with our group members. This helped us realise what we had in common and how special each one of us is.

Creative Activities during International RYLA in RRTC Umran organised by RC Shillong
Exchanging ideas to create something unique. Photo: RYLA 2014 Team

Next was a hike to different units of the Rural Resource Training Centre (RRTC) such as the food processing unit, fishery, piggery etc. I was surprised to know that a few of the pickles that we buy in Guwahati (Assam) were in fact produced in RRTC, Umran (Meghalaya). The fact the RRTC in Umran has been providing training to school dropouts and villagers to make them self-dependent was commendable.

RRTC Umran Meghalaya Honey Farming
Honey Farming demonstration at RRTC to RYLA participants. Photo: RYLA 2014 Team
Honey Farming in RRTC Umran Meghalaya
Photo: RYLA 2014 Team

The best part of the day, however, was the cultural evening organised by the Rotary Club of Orchid City Shillong. It was the best as we had the opportunity to witness the cultural dances of the Garo and Khasi ethnic groups of Meghalaya. These performances enlightened us with a spirit of dance and music.

Traditional Garo Dance during RYLA in RRTC Umran
The Traditional Garo Dance Performance. Photo: RYLA 2014, RC Shillong.

The 26th of April was another power-packed day with some very good sessions. On this day, the presentations on ‘Life Skills for Youth Development’, ‘Career for 21st Century’, ‘Netiquette-etiquettes to be maintained on the internet(mails)’ and ‘Role of Youth in peace building’ did help me a lot in accepting myself as who I am. This was perhaps the first time I listened to my inner self and realised what I had been missing in my life.

International RYLA in Shillong, RI 3240
Alphonse from Rwanda was sharing his views during the RYLA. Photo: RYLA 2014 Team

The campfire at night after the valedictory function was the best night of my life. Unlike the RYLA 2012 in Sikkim, this time I danced wholeheartedly and started the Campfire session with a Bihu Song. I still remember how enthusiastically the Past Dist. Governor of 3240 Rtn. Endow danced Bihu with us.

The evening Campfire – the moment where I didn’t shy away from dancing. Photo: RYLA 2014 Team

Alas! Every good start has an ending. the day of departure was the 27th of April. A day that started slow and steady but had a fast and emotional ending. The day started with an optional Shillong sightseeing tour. We visited the tourist places in Shillong like Umiam Lake, Elephant Falls and Shillong Peak and ended with a grand banquet at Hotel Polo Towers in Shillong.

With friends from Manipur and Assam at Umiam Lake of Meghalaya Photo: RYLA 2014 Team
A relatively dry Elephant falls during our visit.
Photo: RYLA 2014 Team
Shillong city from Shillong Peak
View of Shillong from the Shillong Peak on the last day of our RYLA.
Photo: RYLA 2014 Team

To all the youths please do try to attend such special gifts of Rotary called – RYLA and RYE (Rotary Youth Exchange). RYLA has gifted me a new life, a life full of meaningful friendships, confidence, ethics and integrity. This RYLA in Meghalaya helped me to come out of my comfort zone too. I wasn’t shy anymore to dance.

I must thank the Rotary Club of Duliajan who sponsored me to attend the RYLA organised by the Rotary Club of Shillong.


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Awarded by Meghalaya Tourism, Joydeep Phukan is a travel writer & a certified mountaineer based in Assam of Northeast India. He is on his mission to travel offbeat India and share his stories and tips about culture, travel & adventure with you through The Gypsy Chiring Blog.

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