It was both a privilege and an honour for Diana and Danelle Wilson to first tour and then take part in a National Immunisation Day during a recent trip in India.
A Sebastopol resident and part-time nanny, Diana also volunteers her time at Sonoma West Medical Centre.
Danelle, a 2007 Analy graduate, is currently a pediatrician serving her residency at University of California medical facility in Fresno.
In late March and early April, mother and daughter took a 12-day trip that started with visits to some of the well-known sights of India and ended with work towards ridding the world of the last vestiges of polio, the crippling disease that once paralysed millions.
In San Francisco, the pair met up with 34 other travellers representing countries including Canada, the Bahamas, United States, Netherlands, Australia, and Wales, many associated with Rotary International of New Jersey (Districts 7470, 7500, 7640).
Travelling through Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur, the group visited the Taj Mahal, the Amber Fort, Sikondra Fort, Fatehpur Sikri, Red Fort, Qutab Minar, and the Ghandi Memorial.
Most destinations were reached by bus, but some remote locations required the use of jeeps.
Whatever vehicle was being used, the travelers soon learned that humans share the streets with cows, ox, pigs, boars, hedgehogs, antelopes, monkeys, goats, chickens, dogs, peacocks, camels and elephants.
Experiencing more than just the typical tourist attractions, the group was also exposed to unique experiences through visits at local Rotary clubs, participation in a festival that included members of the Indian royal family, and stops at a factory producing prosthetic feet in Jaipur, the polio ward at St. Stephens Hospital in Delhi, a fine arts college for girls, and several local grammar schools.
When opportunity allowed, the group handed out school supplies and stickers donated by Snoopy’s Home Ice.
During the last three days of the trip in temperatures reaching 107 degrees, the tourists became health ambassadors administering oral polio vaccine to children in the slums of Delhi.
One day families delivered their children to the volunteers while the next day was spent going door-to-door, trekking up flights of unlit, narrow uneven stairways and down narrow passageways.
Most of the areas had no electricity and water is delivered by truck several times a week.
As recently as 1988, polio was infecting an estimated 350,000 people worldwide.
Since then, through the concentrated efforts of Rotarians in partnership with the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, Centres for Disease Control and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, four regions of the world are certified polio free and only three polio-endemic countries remain (Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan).
Although the last known case of polio in India was in 2011, vaccination levels must be maintained in order to assure that the disease does not return.
Worldwide, Rotary International’s contribution at present stands at $1.5 billion toward the polio eradication effort.
In India alone, Rotary contributed $198 million. In addition to Rotary’s own contribution, the organisation has helped raise more than $8.5 billion (US) from governments around the world for the cause.
Grateful for the opportunity to serve others, Diana and Danelle feel they were able to make things a little bit better for others, even in a small way. They’re thankful for their families and friends who supported them in this journey.