Rotary International District 1040
NATIONAL IMMUNISATION DAY – 7TH FEBRUARY
INDIA'S MAJOR CAMPAIGN AND ROTARY'S PARTNERSHIP
I felt like the pied piper gathering people as I progressed on my journey to India. Fifteen of us left Manchester on February 2nd to fly to Paris at 6 20am . In Paris, another 10 joined us from different parts of the UK as we boarded the Air France flight to Delhi. Within another 8 hours of arriving in Delhi our group numbered 34 – all volunteers from Rotary or friends of Rotary wanting to gain first hand experience of the Polio Pulse programme and wanting to help make a difference themselves.
Where had these people come from? Some had heard presentations about polio in India and were keen to experience it for themselves; three had travelled with us last year and were keen to have a second go; some had met us in other capacities and were impressed with Rotary's work; others were curious to visit India and thought that by joining a group like this would be able to do things that on their own would not be possible. In fact we were a jolly good cross section of people – ranging from 29 – 76.
DELHI – CHANCE TO GET TO KNOW EACH OTHER
Our first two days were spent in the Capital city Delhi; we had chance to catch up with the 6 hr time difference and with the services of coach and guide visited some of the iconic sights of both New and Old Delhi. We also had chance to get to know each other as a team (especially on our arrival at the Hotel when we kept the bar staff up until almost 3am (9pm our time) laughing and joking as we talked about our challenge ahead.
WE CHOSE THE SLOW JOURNEY TO LUCKNOW
Lucknow- our destination is 1 hour by plane, 10 hours by train away. We chose the slower journey – mainly because it was an overnight journey, which helped reduce the overall cost, but also because it gave everyone a chance to experience a very significant part of Indian culture – the railway system which is the longest in the world!
We scrambled luggage and all into our carriage and were able to bed down straight away – clean bedding was provided – and after the initial hilarity everyone was sleeping on their 'shelves' thankful for the peace and quiet in the carriage.
BUSY DAY ONE – ROTARY IN ACTION
A coach was awaiting us in Lucknow and fortunately we were able to check into our rooms after a hearty breakfast in the Hotel. Our first duty was 11am that morning when we were taken to visit a Rotary Club Project which serves mentally handicapped young women. There were 24 of them being looked after in a community. The Rotarians saw that the girls were given the opportunity of engaging with the outside world by being taken out, and also by being provided with vocational training; there were sewing machines and various handicraft work like card making, jewellery making and knitting going on – work was sold and generated income. It was a eye opener for us all to see how mental illness in that society was pushed aside and many families abandoned handicapped children because they were not able to manage them alone.
In the afternoon we went out of Lucknow to a village school catering for 75 children – in one classroom with only 2 teachers. It was a very poor area and the facilities in the school were very meagre. There were no toilets and certainly very rudimentary furniture and no pictures on the wall. This school was being adopted by one of the Lucknow clubs who wanted to ensure that the school's continuing existence could be guaranteed by getting it registered with the government; this would ensure supply of books and staff as well as lunches for the children. They needed another classroom and a toilet block as well as a gate and a compound wall.
THE IVORY CITY
On Saturday – our second day in Lucknow we had the pleasure of seeing a little of the beautiful historic monuments and learning something of the history – including the siege of the British Residency in 18 ? when 1200 men women and children died from dysentery, canon fire, or starvation. Lucknow is known as the Ivory City – with lots of cream buildings – but also the green city because of its many parks. It is a city of 15 million people with much poverty but much wealth too. We had had a bird's eye view, but on Sunday we would roll up our sleeves and get along side the local health workers to take part on the Polio immunisation day.
WE CREATED TRAFFIC CHAOS – BUT FOR A GOOD REASON
Our team had been divided into groups of 4 to work on the booths organised by Rotarians from the 5 Rotary Clubs in Lucknow. After gathering for the launch of the day at one of the local hospitals were all dispersed to work. John and I had the job of' 'floating' around all the booths to make sure everyone was getting on OK. Each booth was staffed by at least 3 local staff- our job was to attract the local children to the booth and to help with the vaccinations if needed – give out the gifts (a great pulling point) and mark the little fingers (purple pinkies) accordingly. It was hot and dusty but everyone rallied to the task – some even standing on busy roads shouting 'polio drops here' much to the amusement of locals.
Encouraging the rickshaw drivers to stop and offload their passengers was another successful ploy. Everyone made themselves useful in different ways – and the great news was that the attendance level at the booths was up by 20% from the previous month! We saw the hard work of the local Rotarians, we appreciated the effort made in publicity, we distributed our pens, balloons, hair clips and other novelties, and began to see what a huge task it all was – every month!
That evening we were able to feed back our experiences to the Chief Medical Officer of health; we were thanked for our efforts and valued for the difference we had made – in a small way to raise the profile of the campaign. We learned just how important it was to keep up the effort as there had been an increase in type 3 polio virus cases last year.
It was evident to us all that both the Indian Government and the State Health Authority are 100% committed to finishing the task whatever it takes. Our small input did make a difference but we were all humbled by the determination of our Indian hosts. The fact that we made 17 newspapers the following day I think speaks well of our presence. I know that every member of the team enjoyed and valued the experience and will return home as ambassadors for Rotary's number one project. We all in one voice would say END POLIO NOW
Mrs Christine Philip District 1040 Polio Officer
Dr John Philip Immediate Past DG District 1040