Big Club In A Small Town

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Recently there was a swine flu outbreak in Mandvi. Dr Alpa Gandhi and Dr Deepali, two young Rotarians from the Rotary Club of Mandvi approached the Club President Hasan Bhai Rayma to allow them to conduct a swine flu vaccination drive for the whole town. “We weren’t sure if they would agree, because this was a huge task,” says Deepali. “But the idea was welcomed by all and everybody came forward to help us,” adds Alpa. That was the time they decided to “stay in Rotary, because senior Rotarians decided to give us a chance and treated us with respect and importance.” Close to 5,000 people were given the oral dosage.

This was done at Dharamsinh Nenshi Rotary Community Centre at Swami Vivekananda Nagar at this sea-side town in Kutch. At first it looks like a park, children playing on the see-saw and swings, while their mothers patiently stand in line to get them vaccinated.

Thirty years ago this community centre “was just a small room, without electricity. Later it operated from Bhatia Hospital,” says Rayma. The 2001 earthquake brought it down to rubble. “Then we acquired the land from the local society at Vivekananda Nagar. The Gujarat Earthquake Rebuild Trust allocated Rs 15 lakh towards the construction and the remaining contribution came from Rotarians and fund raising programmes.” he adds.

“We decided to build a community centre that would help the people in various ways,” says Rtn Vinay Toprani. Venue for the weekly Rotary meeting, this centre also houses the C J Mehta Vaccination Centre. Lakshmiben Hansaraj Latwala Rotary Udhyan, a garden and play area has been set up outside the centre. “Apart from being a recreation and vaccination centre it is now used as a marriage hall by many poor families,” he adds.

Haresh Bhai Trivedi is distracting the attention of a child as he injects the vaccine. “Jhumki bahadur bachchi hai, royi nahi,” he compliments the child and hands her a candy. Trivedi has been vaccinating children at the Government Hospital for 15 years and he does not want to retire. “I get satisfaction from this work; no child should ever suffer from polio,” says the 64 year old man.

Jhumki’s mother says, “Bahar bohot mehenga hai; yahan sirf 10 rupya hai (outside it is very expensive, here it’s only Rs 10).” What started as a polio immunisation centre today has almost all the vaccinations available at Rs 10. “Close to 200 children are vaccinated here every month,” adds Ganatra. Shanthi, a Government polio worker is happy. She is one among the 150 polio workers to have been felicitated by the club for her work.

Post the earthquake the local municipality handed over 1,000 sq ft land at the entrance of the town to Rotary Mandvi which the club transformed into a recreation park. The Rotary Udyan overlooks “the London Bridge of Mandvi,” smiles a visitor referring to the Rukmavati River Bridge that connects Mandvi to Mundra. “And when there is a high tide the scenic view is marvellous from here,” she adds.

“This is a small town and keeping Rotary alive is very important. People have to see and feel to believe. So whether it is the vaccination centre or a garden or a toilet, we maintain them properly,” says Rtn Jyanti Bhai Shah, a charter member.

Rtn Dharshana Deerajlal Shah says, “Rotary in Mandvi is a family; we work together and respect each other. That is how things grow and flourish.” PDG Harshad Udeshi has been constantly encouraging the club to increase the number of young Rotarians and woman Rotarians “to strike a balance. We want it to become a big club in a small town. We don’t want the ‘chhota’ club tag.”

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