February 4, 2009 1:03:14 am
The last couple of days have seen Rotarian volunteers from six countries hit the citys slums for the last push against polio
It’s a part of the city thats never on a tourist map and understandably so. But the last couple of days has seen groups of international visitors in areas like Bapu Dham,Janta Colony,Mauli Jagran. Whats more they have been knocking on doors and in answer,the children of these slum settlements have been showing the foreigners their littlest finger! And when I see a pen mark on it,I am a relieved man, 36-year-old Luis E Ortega from the United States of America speaks up first. Ortega and 44 other Rotarian volunteers like him from six countries – Australia,Canada,Cayman Islands,Jamaica,West Indies and USA – have been camping in the city for the last couple of days to participate actively in the fight against polio. These international volunteers have specially come for the National Immunization Day programme. They have gone from house to house to identify children left out in immunization in various colonies around the city,yesterday and today, informed a Rotarian from the local Chandigarh chapter as we got talking to the global contingent thats visibly both in shock and awe of their surroundings.
Its my first trip to India and one from such close quarters, remarked Roy King,a doctor and volunteer from Knoxville,Tennessee,USA who spent the better part of the day administering polio drops at the civil dispensary in Manimajra. Accompanying King was his family – wife Elisa and teenaged daughters Sarah and Nicole. I have worked in South Africa before and I have seen destitute conditions but I wanted to expose this side of life to my daughters, spoke Roy as Elisa pitched in,also this new generation isnt aware of polio and its damage across the world. This visit is an eye opener.
The team of volunteers was lead by local Rotarians and health workers as they went around various colonies for administering polio drops. It was heartening to see that despite the conditions,health workers have been able to penetrate the population and make a difference. Also everyone we came across seemed to be aware of the polio campaign, informed 63-year-old David D Bullington,fondly referred to as Danny. Hailing from the town of Macon in the state of Georgia,USA,Danny has seen polio more closely. I am much older than I look, he quipped before adding on a serious note,back in the old days,I had two of my friends who had polio and it was horrible. So when I heard of a chance to come to Chandigarh and be a part of such a project I just had to say yes.
Among those who knew they had to be here and make a difference on ground was 53-year-old Tim Adam who comes in from Cayman Islands tucked away in the Caribbean. On my first trip we have seen contrasts in the city but whats remained constant is the friendliness and the joi de vivre, remarked Adam who has been impressed with the efficiency of the polio campaign. Its a collective effort that can go a long way in getting rid of this disease and if that means coming back and doing this again,I will, Adam summed up the spirit of the visiting group.
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