Late into the night of August 18, when Chennaites were fast asleep, enjoying the unseasonal downpour, two Rotarians were experiencing a sleepless night. “Through the night we kept going out of the room and looked at the sky… and all the time it was raining, and slowly we started having doubts if we can indeed go ahead with the event,” said PDG and District 3232 Trainer ISAK Nazar.
The event that the Rotarians were planning was a Guinness attempt organised for the following morning at the Sri Ramachandra University (SRU). “DG R Srinivasan was getting calls after calls that we cannot have the programme because the ground is filled with water, so let’s call it off,” he added.
But DG Srinivasan stood his ground saying “the chief guest (PRIP Gary Huang) has come all the way from Taiwan, as also Trustee Sushil Gupta, RID Basker and a host of serving Governors from all over India, we simply can’t cancel the event. Let’s go ahead. We’ll manage,” added Nazar.
Lo and behold, nature stepped in to help and paved the way for the smooth conduct of D 3232’s huge public image exercise by assembling 23,600 students to put focus on the crucial theme of oral health and hygiene as well as a demonstration on hand washing technique as envisaged in WinS.
All credit goes to the children, who, unfazed by the overnight rain, started briskly trooping in by 5.30 am to ensure the event was held successfully.
At around 4 am the rain stopped, but the daunting task was to clear the waterlogged ground. Committed Rotarians and the dedicated staff of the hospital worked their fingers to the bone and got the venue ready by 6 am.
All credit goes to the children, who, unfazed by the overnight rain, started briskly trooping in by 5.30 am. By 7 am, the venue was ready for the event. Hundreds of Rotarians and Rotaractors swung into action and made the assembly of thousands of students from 100-plus schools of Chennai.
The prevalence of oral disease is very high in India. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey says that 42 per cent of children between 2–11 years and 59 per cent of adolescents in the age group 12–19 years, have dental caries in their primary teeth and permanent teeth respectively. Understanding the severity of the situation, D 3232 partnered with the Indian Dental Association, the faculty of Dental Sciences at SRU to take up this ambitious project to create awareness among Chennai’s children. And the audience was treated to the wonderful spectacle of around 23,600 children brushing their teeth at the same time.
PRIP Gary Huang, accompanied by wife Corinna, TRF Trustee Sushil Gupta, RI Director C Basker, PRID P T Prabhakar, PDGs, incoming DGs from D 3232 as well as neighbouring districts, cheered on at this extraordinary Guinness attempt. Trustee Gupta had an added bonus; referring to his pet passion for group handwashing, he said: “I was especially happy to see the children waving their hands, as it also gave the message of the need to keep not only your teeth but also your hands clean!”
In addition to regularly brushing their teeth, the children took pledges both for planting tree saplings to increase the green cover in Chennai that was lost during the last cyclone Vardah, and to keep their hands clean as envisaged by Rotary’s ambitious project Wash in Schools (WinS). Dr Tamizh Chelvan, Chairman for this project, PP Dr Nandakumar, Mentor, Dr Kandaswamy, Dean, Department of Dental Sciences, SRU, along with the support of a battalion of Rotarians of the district, have worked hard over the last several months for this mega event.
But then for D 3232 such mammoth public relations events are not rare. There was the largest image of a human hand in 2013, largest human national flag — My Flag My India — organised by PDG Nazar in 2014, and now this oral hygiene event.
With inputs from PDG G Olivannan