Nick and Jenny welcome you to the blog of the 45 Rotary-inspired volunteers who spent a few days in India helping Rotary International achieve its aim: END POLIO NOW.
The poster reminded parents that November 14 was National Immunisation Day.
This blog is intended to be a forum for the volunteers to share photos, memories and opinions about their experiences, and to give others an idea about the work we did and the fun we had.
You can have your say...
This web blog belongs to all those who were part of the National Immunisation Day in India in November, 2010. We hope it will be of interest and of help to many more like-minded people, with whom we gladly share it.
However, the copyright for the photographs remains the property of individuals. In most cases, we will be happy for the text and photographs to be used to furher this vitally-important work, but please check by clicking here that the copyright owner gives consent for its use.
Above all, we collaborate on this blog as we did on those memorable days... in the hope that others will be inspired to volunteer themselves and (perhaps better) keep raising money.
After all, as everyone says, we are so close to achieving Rotary's dream, it would be tragic not the finish the job we began 25 years ago.
Please note that the dates of the posts reflect the day on which they were written, rather than the date of the events. The posts should be read from the bottom up to see them in (approximately) chronological order.
Please click on the labels, or use the search facility to find what interests you.
Those of us who have been in Rotary since the year after the Polio Plus Campaign was launched in 1985 are accustomed to exchanging club banners. Here Jim Matthews presents the Rotary Club of Oadby banner to Farook Siddiqui, president of the Rotary Club of Delhi Saket.
After only a month as a member of the Rotary Club of Largs, near Glasgow, Catherine Ferrier has already got into the swing of exchanging club banners. But both she and Jim must admit that they did not give their banners at a meeting of the Saket Club. Instead, they did so while being treated to a delicious meal at Karim's, the award-winning restaurant in the heart of Old Delhi, by Farook.
It is, as the guide books might say, 'unprepossessing' but the quality of the traditional food can scarcely be adequately described. And nor can the hospitality of Farook and Ayesha, accompanied by their delightful daughter Madia whose fourth birthday it was a few days later.
The Siddiqui family were pleased to see with Catherine and Sally the photos from Karim's.
They know they have an open invitation to visit in the UK.
Four very lucky members of the Delhi Group met the head of all the vaccination programmes in India... and were invited to a party to celebrate the exchange of rings of happy betrothed couple Neha (granddaughter of the Rotary Club of Delhi Sainik Farms president 2000-2001Dr P C Bansil) and Rishi, who will take his bride to Birmingham, England after their wedding a few days after the party we attended.
Catherine Ferrier and Debbie Hodge (a minister in the United Reformed Church and a leading light, nationally, in interfaith relations) went ahead to the home of Farook Siddiqui, the wonderfully-welcoming president of the Rotary Club of Delhi Saket and his lovely wife Ayesha to borrow party frocks (from Ayesha, not Farook)!
It was the night of the collapse of a building in Delhi with the loss of 66 lives. Traffic became even more chaotic and Jim and Sally Matthews got caught in the most extreme (and that's saying something!) traffic jam they saw in India and arrived 90 minutes late.
Sally Mathews, Ayesha Siddiqui, Catherine Ferrier and The Rev DGN Debbie Hodge with Farook and Ayesha's four-year-old daughter Madia
Indian celebrations are always a blaze of colour, and a high-decibel opportunity for dancing... with men dancihng together in a style that makes 'Strictly...' look decidedly non-competitive. This video is a big file and is LOUD so while you wait for it to load, take the time to disconnect your speakers or turn the volume right down!
Despite being 90 years old, Dr Bansil took to the floor and thoroughly enjoyed himself. He is a remarkable and very generous patriarch. It was our pleasure to meet him.
Unlike English weddings, where British reserve can mean it takes a while to get feet moving, here the Bollywood beat soon had everyone dancing...
For the British (and one American) volunteers in northern India in November 2010, the focus was Rotary's End Polio Now campaign. For hard-working Indian Rotarians, the campaign is one of many ongoing projects.
This was the scene of squalor that greeted us as we arrived at a charity being supported by the Rotary Club of Delhi Saket. The club has been providing blankets for young men at this Muslim orphanage which has its own darul-uloom (higher-level madrassa). There we met a seven-year-old who is already a hafiz -- someone able to accurately recite all 6,236 verses (80,000 words) of the Qu'ran.
The skull-capped youngster is just visible inside the archway into the classroom.
Accompanied by President of the Rotary Club of Delhi Saket, Farook Siddiqui and his club secretary Arvind, who was our driver, Catherine Ferrier and Jim and Sally Matthews took it in turns to hand over the blankets to the young men. Only by educating its young people can any emerging country transform itself from a chrysalis to a beautiful butterfly. Hopefully, these young men will have a part to play in India's progress.
This open sewer runs through the Chhatarpur area of Delhi. The polio virus is carried in infected faeces and is transmitted orally. Children under the age of five are vulnerable. Ninety-nine times in a hundred, the virus will not cause severe illness. But less than one per cent of infected children will suffer from acute flaccid paralysis. Older people in the West may remember having contemporaries with the condition (and I for one have served a super Rotary president with it). But all of us who went to India in November 2010 will have seen many young people whose lives have been ruined by this disease.
Karen Sutton and her young friends on the 'mop-up' day in Chhatarpur seem very healthy... but the surroundings are not. The little lanes are narrow and crowded. Just along from where this photo was taken, human faeces were in the open drain. Who knows whether they were infected with polio. Or anything else! An unfortunate slip of the foot and you were, to put it bluntly, right in it! Surprisingly (perhaps because the autumnal temperature was only about 17 degrees) the sewers did not smell as badly as some of us had feared. Karen, though, might testify differently. Being rather shorter than Jill Cooper and Jim Matthews, between whom she was walking, Karen did feel a bit queasy, only partly, perhaps, because she doesn't like confined spaces.
In small spaces, made even tighter by scores excited children following our every move, clamouring to be photographed time and time again, the task of precisely administering two drops of vaccine was much harder than in practice at Sheila Diskhit's garden party!
The round of applause after each successful dose was not for ourselves, but a very effective way of drawing attention to our presence and purpose. That was the only reward that was needed and that was given... we had been told not to take pens, pencils, balloons etc for people who had not taken their children to the booths the previous day.
Between treating each child, we used NHS-issue alcohol-based sanitation gel. We had taken it out of self-interest; we had not wanted to bring back from India any souvenirs we had not haggled for! But soon we realised that we could not avoid touching the mouths of the children to whom we administered the life-protecting pink drops. Who knows, our use of that gel may have saved lives!
Karen is a professional photographer and has images which better show the overcrowded lanes through which we walked. The morning we were there might or might not have been a typical one in Chhatarpur, but petrol generators on 'street corners' were powering the pump which was drawing water from an unseen well. Pre-teen children carrying 45-litre plastic containers full of water stepped expertly past us (and over the drains). Mothers squatted on their haunches to wash clothes with soapy suds slithering into the sewer.
Clothes were not the only things being washed. This mother was washing her baby in oil. We weren't sure whether the oil was ghee (the clarified butter which features often in Hindu ritual) or whether this was just a wash-day routine. The watching children were bemused... but only in our presence and interest.
It might seem strange, but behind the doors of the one-room homes, families keep everything gleaming clean. Virtually every Hindu home will have a shrine containing murtis (models) of one or more gods and goddesses. These homes in Chhatarpur were no exception. All had spotless stainless steel pots. Many had TV sets. All dignity.
Job done... Jill Cooper, Karen Sutton and Jim and Sally Matthews back at base with their two guides, neither whom had much English. The lady in the sari was the senior partner; she clearly knew her 'patch' very well. The younger lady, in the shalwar kameez, noted which homes we had visited. With no 'street' numbers on display, homes were identified by following the power cables back to the clear Perspex junction box in the lane.
We were a bit concerned (as other groups have reported) that sometimes our guides could not explain why some children, with no sign of the pen-blackened finger-nail that indicated they had already been 'done' were not presented for vaccination.
But overall, we felt glad to have played our part in this magnificent campaign. The previous day, some of us felt, we had not had as much 'hands-on' activity as we had hoped for. But 'Mop-up Monday' will live in our memories as day of real Rotary service on the front line.
Being a tall blonde beauty, Jill Cooper gets noticed wherever she goes. This press photographer was so keen that he stopped taking photos of the Chief Minister of Delhi and gave his camera to a friend to take the one photo that he really, really wanted.