By S.R. Yogananda, past governor of District 3190 and 2011-14 regional Rotary Foundation coordinator
I had just come back from an assignment overseas in 1987 when I rejoined the Rotary Club of Bangalore East after an absence. I enjoyed the fellowship before meetings when I could connect with all my friends in one time and place. At one such meeting, one of our club leaders talked about Rotary’s top priority to eradicate polio and mentioned an upcoming immunization drive that Sunday.
But that Sunday, I had a wedding to attend of a friend of the family, who I knew would notice if I arrived late. At 06:30 that morning, I received a call from our polio committee chair, reminding me of the event. He was so convincing that I should volunteer that I said yes, even though I was not happy I would be missing the wedding.
When I arrived at the health center I found fellow Rotarians and friends wearing End Polio Now clothing waiting to get started. Some were accompanying health workers and cadets to various outreach centers where they were handing out packets of information. A vehicle with a loud speaker was announcing our immunization efforts, which were further communicated by large banners hanging overhead.
Vaccination materials were thrust into my hands and I was soon driving toward an outreach center with my wife and two health workers. Paved roads and villas gave way to mud roads and smaller houses. I climbed on to the roof of a house and started tying a banner to an electric pole.
A busy looking man came down from the opposite building and said “Welcome, sir. So, you are a Rotarian. I am the president of the resident’s association here. What a great thing Rotary is doing, trying to eradicate polio.”
He brought a ladder to help me, and by the time I tied the banner and came down, there were cups of coffee waiting for us. Within half an hour, the place was decked out with polio eradication banners and signs. People began to stream in.
We started to help administer drops of oral polio vaccine. After a young child came in and was vaccinated, the mother thanked us.
Then she told me her husband wanted to speak to me. So I went out and found him sitting in the crowd. He said to me, “Rotary is indeed great. Polio is terrible.”
Then I noticed the crutch he had and the difficulty he had in balancing himself.
I reached out to steady him, and as I saw the moisture in his eyes, my experience with Rotary was transported to an entirely new level. I had a greater understanding of what it means to be a Rotarian and what it is we are doing in this world.
I eventually made it to the wedding later in the day. However, I realized my presence there wasn’t nearly as important as where I was earlier; at a health center doing my part keeping children safe from polio.
Learn more about Rotary’s effort to eradicate polio