Smartphone forges cross-cultural connection

Schoolchildren take a photo with Kevin Hersh's smartphone during a Group Study Exchange in 2012.
Photo by Kevin Hersh

When media strategist Kevin Hersh led a Group Study Exchange trip from District 7470 (New Jersey, USA) to India in late 2012, he relied on his smartphone’s camera to document the journey through Uttar Pradesh, a northern state that borders Nepal. Hersh, a member of the Rotary Club of The Caldwells, snapped photos of the Taj Majal and the Ganges River, banana vendors and stray dogs, as the group traveled more than 1,000 miles and met with 48 Rotary clubs across India’s most populous region.

Among the projects they visited was a residential facility for tribal girls. Supported by members of the Rotary Club of Gonda and a local nonprofit since July 2012, the Mata Sita residence offers lodging, meals, health care, education, and training in domestic skills, such as sewing and henna application, for 15 young women from remote tribal communities.

The girls were camera-shy at first: “They all stood with their heads down until I turned the phone around so the girls could see themselves on the screen and push the button,” Hersh recalls. “They giggled as they took their first self-portraits.”

Adapted from a story in the March 2014 issue of The Rotarian