Indian Trip

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Polio, which has become the ‘forgotten disease’ of the west, remains now in just 4 countries: India, Pakistan, Afghanistan & Nigeria. With sanitation, malnutrition & disease being such an issue in these countries, it is no wonder that children need the live polio vaccine up to 17 times before the age of 5 to ensure they become immune.

After 25 years of hard work, Rotary International and its partners are on the brink of eradicating this tenacious disease, but to get rid of it forever a strong push is needed NOW. Rotary is well on its way to raising $200m to add to the $355m already pledged by the Bill Gates Foundation.
In 2012, we hope to eradicate it for good; however, if the treatment were to stop now the virus would spread throughout the world once again. The funding required for eradication is huge, however, to stop now would be unthinkable.

Whilst in India, the visit was kicked off with a press conference at the house of Delhi minister Sheila Dikshit. There, we were able to practice administering the vaccine which is just 2 drops of a chilled liquid into the mouth of each child under 5.

The following day was National Immunisation Day ... We visited a medical centre and immunised the queues of children being brought from local communities mainly by their elder siblings to be immunised. I personally administered about 300 vaccines in 3 locations. We walked and drove through areas that most of us would only see on the news and in films ... children wading through stagnant water and rubbish dumps. Slumdog Millionaire was a film I watched a few years ago, and found it hard to comprehend how families lived in these conditions, but thought ‘It’s only a film’. How wrong I was; what we experienced during our time in the slums was exactly like the film. One encouraging memory that I was able to take away with me was how happy everyone was. Everywhere we went, we were treated like royalty.

The next day was ‘mop-up Day’ where we went out to the families in the slums, knocking on doors and administering the vaccine to the children that didn’t make it to the immunisation booths the previous day. We walked through what looked like someone’s front door, only what presented itself to us was a maze of narrow passageways with hundreds of doors to tiny homes. This was a classic city slum, where a close and friendly community lived with no running water, no education and exposed sewage drains running down the middle of the passageways.

The experience from India has given me a completely different perspective on life. We are worlds apart from the east, and it is only those from the west that travel there and witness it for themselves that ever appreciate and understand their way of life. Westerners get the chance to travel and experience the differences, yet many from the east don’t. They have no concept of western life, therefore they don’t see how others live. They are happy, they are smiling ... which is more than can be said for many of us here with our hectic and stressful lives.

A guide on our trip said something that I will always remember ... “Some of us get educated. Then we go west happy, and come back sad”.

More info on the effects of polio can be found here.

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