Final Thoughts

The trip to Sri Lanka was magic! The Orphanage is well run, the children well looked after, and a privilege to be associated with; our Club has a great deal to be proud of. The Rotary Club of Capital City is a friendly and welcoming Club, a great partner in supporting the Orphanage. I really hope we can do more to help them.
India was a very exciting adventure, but a disappointment of course. We went there to help with the Polio NID, but because of things outside of our control we failed. On the positive side we met some very dedicated Rotarians and Rotaractors. We did get the message across for the Clinic and the importance of continuing with the polio immunisation. We saw some really deprived areas and it was good to hear how things had improved over the last few years. The work being done by the Rotary Club of Karnal Midtown in the transient workers camp with the building of schools, etc. is brilliant. I was particularly impressed by the dedication, enthusiasm, and helpfulness of the Rotaract Club.
Was it worth it?
For Sri Lanka most definitely yes, and I would very much like to visit the Orphanage again and for the Club to help with its further development.
For India and the NID, although we did not succeed in our mission the NID itself was a brilliant achievement for Rotary and well worth all the effort put in. There is to be a NID next year and it would be really great to complete the work we were unable to do this year.

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Tuesday 23rd February

The planned cycle ride round Delhi was cancelled, because of our late arrival back from Karnal. Ric Cannon and I did manage however to get in a tour of New Delhi, a TukTuk ride, and a great meal at the Veda Restaurant

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Monday 22nd February

Well that was a bit of an adventure!
The disturbances between Karnal and Delhi escalated overnight so it was decided we should make an early exit from the Hotel and head back. Probably a lucky move as problems got far worse in Karnal later. As we were heading along the highway to Delhi the driver became aware of problems ahead and we pulled down a somewhat bumpy lane and after about a mile came to an ashram.
After some negation we were welcomed in to the Rishi Chaitanya Ashram and made extremely welcome. They gave us a guided tour of the Ashram, gave us food (quite difficult eating cross legged on the floor), and offered us shelter for night; absolutely brilliant. Once informed that the road was open we decided to make a dash for Delhi arriving about midnight.

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Sunday 21st February

As mentioned yesterday the giving of the polio prevention drops (The NID) has been postponed in this region of India and we are unable to do were work. We have however managed to help out at the Health Clinic. The Clinic had a Free Health Check Day, anyone could come in, get a check-up (blood pressure, physical inspection, etc.), talk to a doctor, and receive any necessary prescriptions. Originally this was tied in with the giving of the polio immunisation drops, but this had to be dropped. We were told that an important part of the immunisation programme is that it is all done at the same time. We helped out the Clinic by encouraging youngsters to attend with the offer of a small present. We had all taken out to India little presents to give to the children once they had been immunised. I had taken out 150 small bouncy balls and stood at the entrance to the clinic handing them out to any child coming in to the Clinic for a check-up. This proved to be very successful (almost too successful, any groups of more than 4 are prohibited during the state of emergency), with many children coming in with their parents for the toys and the check-up. The balls were also sought after by the local Rotaractors, Rotarians, travel agents, and dogs! During the day we also visited three poor areas of the city to pass the word about the Free Health Checks, please look at the photos. Our Group Leader, Janinne, had visited one of the areas 6 years ago and was amazed by the improvement in conditions since then. The Rotary Club of Kanal is funding two schools in one of the areas. It was a workers transient camp not far from the Hotel we are staying in. The families living there are helping to build the numerous Hotels and businesses that are being developed in the area.
So not the day we expected or wanted, but a useful and informative day.
This evening we had a Fellowship Meeting with the local Rotary Club and the Rotaractors. The Rotaract Club have really looked after during our stay, it is the local Club’s District Conference this weekend. There were the usual speeches, exchange of gifts, singing, and dancing; an excellent evening.

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Saturday 20th February

Well today we were supposed to visit three schools and most importantly join a parade to let the people know that tomorrow is the NID. The visit to two of the schools was brilliant, we were hosted by the local Rotaract Club and they took us first to a local school were a number of the students were completing ‘End Polio Now ‘posters. We were given a briefing on the school, and a tour while the students completed their task. The students came up with some great ideas, please see photos.
The second school was for mentally different children, a truly remarkable centre handling some very difficult issues in a very positive and creative way.
At this point we were informed that the parade had been cancelled by the local government. For some reason, beyond my understanding we then visited an animal research centre and shown a lot of cows – brown ones, white ones, black ones, some with humps, babies,….. I have no idea what this had to do with polio, but the ice cream was good!
As you may have heard on the news there have been some disturbances in India, particularly in the State we are now in. The Government has therefore closed all the borders to this State and ordered a curfew. This was the reason for the cancellation of the parade. We have now heard that the local government has made the decision on safety grounds to cancel the NID planned for tomorrow. This of course is a great disappointment to the team, but more importantly a major threat for the children who will not now be immunised. Our current plan is attend a Health Clinic tomorrow to see if we can help out, I have then suggested that we drive to Delhi early on Monday morning to help with the ‘mop up’ sessions there, that is of course if we are able to cross the border.

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Friday 19th February

Yesterday I travelled from Sri Lanka to Delhi to join the India Polio National Immunisation Day (NID) programme. I met up with Tony Quinn, Ric Canham, Mike & Jackie Batchelor, and Tony Poole from our District (1200); all of us are on the Karnal NID. Karnal is a poor industrial city 85 miles north of Delhi. The day started with a briefing by Mike Yates and members of the local Rotary Club. We were made aware that there had been only one case of Polio reported this year and that was from Pakistan. After this NID there will be a change in the type make-up of the immunisation drops and in one to two years India will move to using the Salt vaccine injections.
Following the briefing the party boarded the coach and travelled to Karnal, a 4 hour trip. There are 19 Rotarians in the party including 6 from our District. Interestingly for me there are 5 Rotarians from the Rotary Club of Battersea Park, my Dad’s old Club. My Dad was President of the Club in the late 50’s and the family were involved in many Rotary activities, Christmas Day dinners for the elderly, Youth Exchange, etc. At 13 I went on an Exchange visit to France, an eye opening adventure, but that’s another story. The journey took us past parts of Old Delhi and as you will see from the photos some interesting contrasts, new luxury houses in amongst what can only be called shanty towns, etc. Tomorrow we start the build up to the NID with parades, visits to schools, etc.

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The Orphanage

Today I feel proud and honoured to be a member of the Rotary Club of Minehead and The Quantocks. With David, Sheena, and the members of the Exchange Group I visited the Orphanage that we have supported over the years. Our donations have helped to create a fantastic facility that the staff and youngsters really appreciate. It is difficult for us to appreciate the difference our contributions have made from photos and I am really pleased I have been able to see for myself.
The Nursery Toilette Block we have helped fund is now officially opened, and I think one or two ladies of the Exchange Group managed to christen it.
The Computer Block we helped to fund previously is still in operation, with lessons being given to the students and local village ladies at weekends. The majority of the equipment is functioning well, but is now getting very old and 20% of the desk top computers are in need of repair. Much of it was second hand when passed on so is well passed its use by date! It will not be long before the computers they have will not be compatible with latest operating systems and applications. Together with the Rotary Club of Capital City we need to think how they can keep the facility up to date, maintained, and self-supported in the future.
David’s mango tree is still there, but much to his disappointment it still has not produced any fruit!!
David, together with Fr Crispin and the Rotary Club of Capital City, has worked endlessly to provide this great facility. Well done and thankyou David.
As you will see from the photos and later the videos we were made very welcome, the children sang and danced for us, the staff prepared tea and cakes, just a brilliant day.

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