Friday, December 14, 2007

Carl Learns More About Rotary's Efforts in Bangladesh And India

Last night we had a talk and dinner at the fancy Bengal Club left over from the British Raj. We heard about Rotary's efforts to reduce poverty. One technique is to concentrate on educating women and they then educate their children and are empowered to have more control on their reproductive status. At the dinner I had a very extensive discussion with an Indian radiologist who has a PET scanner and accompanying cyclotron at his facility. There is such a contrast between this technology and what we saw later in the village. A picture is included of a member of a California Rotary club who is also here, who had her hands painted as is done for weddings in the area. They say that the design will eventually wear off.

Today we had a very bumpy two hour bus ride to a village outside Kalkata in which the South Berwick ME Rotary club has a sanitation project where they are installing toilets ($5,000) adjacent to the homes. As in Dhaka, the traffic is incredible with our bus driver having close calls by the minute. Also, most of the ride I thought I would need my barf bag but as the day wore on my internal composure improved. On arrival we saw another beautiful rural setting with meager home and very pleasant people. A Rotary club from Italy in a joint program with a local club is providing water pumps and garden tractors to help mechanize the farmers in the village. I noted the emphasis on women in the program. In this village there was a still with the men getting drunk, not working and beating their wives and children. The women revolted and destroyed the still and things are much better. Alcohol now requires a long walk.

One of our leaders, Ann Lee Hussey, has started a joint program to improve sanitation in the village by building toilets in the homes ($5,000) in an effort to break the cycle of infection. We toured the facilities and met with many of the villagers and children in a small school. Candy and gifts were distributed to much appreciation. The bus ride back was faster as the traffic was less but the ride was still thrilling. We had lunch at a Chinese restaurant and then met at the Rotary building to hear a report on their polio plus activities. Polio is on the rise again in India and they are not sure as to why but hope to have it stamped out in a few years. It is mainly in the northern Muslim regions where there has been some resistance to immunizations due to fears of a loss of fertility. However progress is being made with the mullahs. By the way Saudi Arabia will not allow anyone to got to Mecca unless they have been vaccinated for polio to show their support.

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