Student enjoys India trip

Ken Johnston

Imagine living in Canada and having only ever visited the U.S., and then taking a trip to one of the poorest regions of India.
That is what Rainy River High School student Hunter Neilson did back in August.
Neilson was one of only 25 teens selected from across Canada to participate in the Potash Corp.’s Food Security Youth trip this summer.
The group met in Toronto before flying to Brussels, then to New Delhi and eventually on to Udaipur, India.
“We went daily to a small rural community with less than 1,000 people in it, where we worked on various facets of food security,” Neilson recalled.
They dug a trench about 50 feet long and laid bricks.
“We had to build a wall at a local school to keep animals away,” he noted.
“Then we planted crops inside the wall for the school kids to eat.”
Part of their mission also included teaching local people about things they could grow so they received better nutrition.
The climate there is very hot.
“We only had shovels and pick-axes to dig [with],” Neilson said.
“Every 15 minutes, we had to drink at least 250 ml of water as we sweat it out quickly.”
Neilson, who has grown up on a farm, wished he has some of the equipment farmers have access to here in Rainy River District.
“It was hard work but we accomplished a lot,” he noted.
Neilson also learned about how Third World countries struggle to get clean and safe drinking water.
“I learned about an organism called a protozoa that does not die when the water is boiled,” he remarked.
“If drank, it can cause severe health problems in people.”
Neilson said that people in Udaipur live very impoverished lives. They eat the same thing—a type of flat bread—three times a day, cooking it on an indoor wood oven with no chimney.
“We introduced them to soybeans, corn, and fruit trees they can grow there,” he explained.
The 16-day trip involved very little tourist-related activities.
“We did try learning Hindi, the local language,” Neilson said.
Other than that, they spent every day working on providing the villagers with better food security and knowledge.
Neilson said the trip definitely was an eye-opening experience.
“It made me appreciate what we have here and what other parts of the world need,” he remarked.
“You can go look at things [sightsee] on a trip or become a part of a situation and make a difference.”
When asked if he were offered a school trip to Europe to sightsee or another one like his trip to India, he definitely would do this again.
As part of his experience, Neilson had to pick an issue and write an action plan.
He chose food security and plans to hold a school assembly at RRHS in the near future to raise awareness about this issue that affects the entire world.
“Together, we can help as world citizens provide better food and nutritional security,” Neilson stressed.