And on Friday, the Rotary Club gathered for their weekly meeting at the Danville Country Club, where Bob and Patti Roland and Chuck and Evie Keiser presented information about their trip.
Roland said that only four countries are still afflicted by Polio: Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nigeria.
“Most of it stems from sanitation and water issues,”he said. “In a lot of villages where the sanitation is so poor, they basically drink out of the sewer, so everything goes into the same area and it’s just re-transmitted over and over again.”
India has not had a reported case of Polio since Jan. 13, 2011, but the country must be case-free for three years in order to be considered Polio-free.
The Rotary Club itself has been present in India since 1995.
The group, by plane and bus, eventually arrived in Dhanbad, India. in February to begin their work.
Initially, they found that many people, including members of the Rotary Club, were not sure how to continue, as most of the Polio had been contained.
But, according to Roland, his group of four and others kept going, since vaccines could be given multiple times to the children due to the poor living conditions.
“It’s good progress, good stride, but we’ve still got a ways to go,”Roland said.
On the day thegroup set out to work, the Rotary Club and Indian government combined had 709,000 vaccination booths set up, with 1.17 million vaccination teams providing 2.5 million distributors, among other statistics.
Patti Roland said that when the group arrived, they realized that much preparation had been done ahead of time for their arrival, with advertisements about Feb. 19 appearing everywhere. At each station set up in the village Indian Women held the coolers that contained the vaccine.
“And then of course the people were there,”she said. “The women, mothers and fathers with their beautiful children waiting for us.”
Vaccinating the children meant placing two drops of the vaccine on the child’s tongue and then marking the pinkie finger on their left hand so volunteers would know they had already received treatment. Prizes, including candy, pencils and pens, were distributed to children afterwards.
“We were also very much appreciated,”Patti said.
On the second day, or mop-up day, the volunteers went door-to-door and stopped children on the street to make sure they had the black mark on their left hand.
“As we left, we left knowing that there was hope there,”she said, beginning to cry. “That what the Rotarians were doing was making a difference in the lives of these children.”
Evie Keiser, a third member of the group, said that she is humbled by what they’re doing in India.
“They are saving lives over there, and it was wonderful to see,”she said.
The group saw a project to plant trees where coal miners had left the land bare, and also visited a deaf school, the Jeevan Jyoti school, that was headmastered by a Rotarian.
Ending her speech, Patti quoted Mother Teresa:“We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”
Lastly, Chuck Keiser spoke discussed the surgery side of procedure, and said that Rotarians should know that they are the ones who provided money for the surgeries the group witnessed.
“We don’t just contribute a little money to something,”he said. “The whole (eye surgery) hospital facility, the staffing, everything is funded by Rotary International.It’s pretty impressive.”
“Just know that Rotary International matters,”he concluded.