The day before the NID is usually spent on awareness raising events and also visiting some of the host club’s service projects. We noticed this year that the number of "Polio Immunisation Tomorrow” signs out in the general countryside was very much less than in previous years and hence this year this type of awareness activity is even more important.
In Bhiwadi, we were initially divided into three groups and taken to three different schools in the area.
My group went to Bal Bharti Public School in Bhiwadi, which is a private fee paying school in one of the villages near Bhiwadi.
Many of the school’s pupils were assembled to welcome us
and a welcome sign which had been produced overnight.
incorporating the usual messages.
When we sat down to one side as guests of honour and I opened the folder in fromt of me, I found I was giving a short speech on Polio followed by a Question and Answer Session.
As we have now come to expect, there was more dancing
and also singing
I gave an impromptu speech about Polio and the importance of everyone in the audience ensuring that tomorrow they were vaccinated if they were under 5 and if they were older, that they brought their younger brothers and sisters to be vaccinated. The questions from the school pupils were extremely searching and showed an interesting understanding of the issues associated with Polio vaccination and care for those who have had Polio in the past.
and then the President of Bhiwadi Rotary Club “Ram Prakash” introduced Geoff to the school and explained why he was there.
Exactly the same activity took place at the schools visited by other members of the team. Above is the private fee paying RPS Public School which is a favourite amongst the middle classes in the area. When you get further down in this blog entry, compare this classroom
at RPS (a picture taken from their website) to that in the Balwadi school we visited in the afternoon.
Service Projects in Bhiwadi
We spent most of the afternoon visiting various service projects sponsored by the Bhiwadi Clubs. Perhaps amongst the most unusual Service Projects I have ever visited was Moksha Dham - a rotary sponsored and supported Hindu Crematorium.
From the entrance, one can see a large
statue of a Hindu deity
and immediately behind it the Rotary symbol atop a monument.
Inside the gatehouse is a fridge / freezer used to store bodies until the family have assembled for the cremation.
Adjacent to the site is a large word store and sawmill
whose product is used to fire the funeral pyres. There is space for six to take place at the same time.
but only the remains of one was alight when we were there.
The club also sponsor an Ambulance
which although somewhat basic when compared with those which I ride in, it does provide an essential service within the town. I suspect however that the conditions of the roads and the traffic jams would affect its response time.
Another of the projects was a school and training centre for the wives
and young children of the Gadia Lohar community. This is a nomadic community who are ironworkers by profession and move on from one place to another as jobs appear and disappear.
Called Balwadi (Bal = small children, Wadi = a kind of home), if this school did not exist, it is unlikely that anyone in the community would gain an education.
The wives attending the beauty element in the skills training centre immediately started
offering Henna decorations to anyone who was willing to sit down.
Pat of course was a willing subject and came away with a nicely intricate but not over the top hand decoration.
In another room, there were a number of women learning sewing skills
using hand powered machines.
The idea was that they would gain a skill which they could take with them if they move on with their family and thus always be able to get some employment. The club had set up a scheme whereby they could buy their own sewing machine at a 50% subsidised price if they wanted to. The club also had a plan to set up a small business making clothes for children attending the local schools staffed by ex-students still living in the community.
Geoff was very popular in the classroom and despite our interruption,
many of the children were more interested in completing their work than is us.
Although teaching resources appeared thin on the ground,
overall there seemed to be a quite concentration on learning and good class discipline was obvious.
Drains and Toilets
It was obvious in the areas around the school why India has to keep vigilant about Polio. Adjacent to the school was a community run toilet, part of the campaign to reduce the estimated 65% of the population who do not have access to (or do not wish to use) a proper toilet.
There were also bullocks being used for (amongst other things),
cooking fuel production.
However a little further away, there were open sewers
carrying exactly what you might fear they carry
and acting as a potential means of spreading a disease such as Polio
whose primary means of transmission is through faecal contamination.
There were a number of other service projects we visited, overall an astonishing number showing the determination of club members to be true Rotarians.
Our final official activity of the day was a visit to the Government Hospital to meet the Chief Medical Officer of Health - the man responsible for the organisation of tomorrow’s NID. Here we reviewed how tomorrow would work and discussing the slightly different (to that we have experienced elsewhere) method of approach they intended to adopt.
Here the vaccine is stored until the day and then distributed in cool boxes, many of which were ready for packing the following day.
An important part of the briefing was to ensure we all understood the need to keep the polio vaccine cold when we were administering it. All polio vials had a themo-sensitive marker on their side which changes colour if the vaccine starts to get warm.
We were now ready for the NID tomorrow after we had been to dinner that evening with members of the clubs.