Posted by Dan Joraanstad and Bob Hermann on Jan 15, 2024
We recently participated at Rotary International’s Mega Polio Eradication Mission in India. Arriving late in the night into New Delhi, we joined with Rotarians from California, Colorado, Australia, and Norway, and became a team of about 18. On our first day, we saw a few of New Delhi's gems. We marveled at the Lotus Temple, a Baháʼí House of Worship and an architectural wonder surrounded by reflecting pools. A visit to Lodhi Gardens with historic buildings dating back to the 15th Century highlighted the grandeur of India’s past. The National Museum also showcased the cultural accomplishment of hundreds of years of Indian art and diverse cultural offerings.
The next two days were all about Rotary's important work in the schools of suburban Agra, about a four-hour drive from New Delhi. Immediately upon arrival at the first school, the assembled young honor guard of uniformed students swept us up into a joyful parade. We were given a tour showcasing significant improvements to the school compound made possible by Rotarian funding via a Global grant – new flooring, computers, classrooms, and whiteboards transforming the classrooms. All of the improvements were driven by hard work of the local Rotarians. Our Rotary colleagues, officials, and students were all filled with pride at the changes. Gifts were presented to the students; songs were sung; speeches were made; and many, many videos and photographs were taken of our delegates with the students and leaders.
The day before the vaccination drive, we again paraded through the streets of suburban Agra in tuk-tuks accompanied by blaring music and Rotary volunteers distributing flyers. The purpose of all the sound and fury was to raise intense awareness of the polio vaccinations to be provided the next day.
Later that evening, Rahul Wadhwa from the Rotary Club of Taj Mahal, Rotary District 3110 and a key organizer of this Mission treated us to a festive banquet at his family home. We enjoyed delectable Indian cuisine, drinks, and entertainment.
Our promotional efforts worked: scores of young children with a few parents accompanying showed up for the vaccinations. There were several teams of volunteers. Ours included us and two charming ladies from Norway: Gund and her sister Liv. Vans and cars plastered with banners proclaiming our involvement in the Mega Polio Vaccination Campaign drove the various teams to different villages within Agra. 

It was a blessing to have community leaders doing advance work to set up our vaccination station in a small open-air building. The leaders also helped to control the massive crowd of children from ages one to five. Kids eagerly lined up to receive their two drops of the polio vaccine, and their excitement was palpable. As a delightful reward, they were handed brightly colored balls. The infectious energy felt like we might be overwhelmed by the exuberant kids who desired their vaccination and their colorful balls.

Can we say to you that administering the two drops of the polio vaccine was an emotional storm of joy? Knowing the two drops that we were giving to these excited children will protect them for life from polio was transcendent and gave us much hope.
The next morning brought another school tour highlighting Rotary-funded enhancements. In the afternoon, teachers and students celebrated our work in India by presenting us with colorful turbans and providing a program of music and dance that culminated with a massive shower of gorgeous rose petals. It was an unforgettable experience.
After the intense focus of the vaccination program, the next day we were treated to a tour of the iconic Taj Mahal in Agra. Built in the 17th Century, it truly deserves a place in the Seven Wonders of the Modern World with so much beauty at every scale from the overall sweep of magnificent architecture to the unbelievable amount of detailed artisanry. It seemed like a great pairing with the euphoria of our polio campaign. This part of our lives, the sixth and seventh decades, is focused on Travel and Volunteering. What a pleasure to combine the two as we took this trip to India!
The work of Rotary in polio eradication began in earnest in the 1980s. The Gates Foundation and the World Health Organization are partners and have provided billions in funding. Still, our work is not done until the planet is free of the virus. Today, we are so close with only 12 known cases of polio in the world.