St Andrews Rotarians tackle the scourge of polio

Alan and Sylvia.
Alan and Sylvia.

Rotarians from around the UK have returned from India where they took part in a national polio immunisation programme for children.

Local Rotarians were represented by Sylvia Donaldson and Alan Constable, with his wife Irene, from St Andrews Rotary Club.

They were welcomed to the country by fellow Rotarians who briefed them ahead of their journey to Karnal, 123 km north of Delhi.

Alan told the Citizen this week: ‘‘At the time of the 2001 census, Karnal had around 211,000 residents and, from what we saw, appeared to be a very mixed economy of substantial urban industry with extended surrounding agricultural areas.’’

First up for the group was a parade through the streets of Karnal to advertise the immunisation day.

Word quickly spread about the event thanks to some of the local boys who blew on whistles and called out to one another making sure everyone became aware.

After the official opening ceremony, small groups set out to the 300 or so immunisation booths across town located in halls, schools, places of worship and gardens.

After being immunised, children were given a small gifts such as a pen, a toothbrush or a balloon from donations the Rotarians had taken over with them.

Before heading back to Delhi, the group carried out some follow-up checks to identify children who had not yet been vaccinated.

Alan explained: ‘‘A lot of these checks were to ensure the children in wealthier families were also immunised, as many are not prepared to attend the public booths where most people had congregated.’’

The UK Rotarians were treated to excellent hospitality in Karnal but were most impressed by the lovely local children they met during their stay.

“Taking part in the polio national immunisation day provided us with a wealth of diverse experiences that we would never have had as an ordinary tourist,” added Alan.

“The people we met, the places we saw and the knowledge that we played a small part in the eradication of polio all added up to make the trip an amazing experience.

“The opportunity to get involved in the future is highly recommended to fellow Rotarians and their families.

‘‘The only skills required are a willingness to get involved and the ability to adopt a flexible approach to managing change.”