Murray Cotton introduced today’s speaker, Aruna Koushik from the Rotary Club of Windsor
“I’ve been waiting for this opportunity.  I'm really curious what Aruna is going to say today. We worked together at the Ontario Human Rights Commission, so it's my pleasure this morning to introduce her as speaker. Aruna has a history with our club already - we helped her out with one of her trips with money for mosquito nets, because she told us that if you have mosquito nets the people will come and they can get the polio drops. So our international committee did that. And I'm quite proud that we did that and that Aruna has come back to speak to  us. Aruna has been in Rotary since 2002 and she was President of her club in 2007 and she is District Governor Elect at this time. So next year Aruna will be District Governor. Oh, that'll keep you busy, you'll have to stop working! The biggest thing I'd like to tell you about Aruna is that she and her husband Shiva have done 8 and I repeat that number 8 Polio immunization trips, and that to me is pretty darn impressive.”
Good morning everyone.
Previously I used to say we are close to eradicating polio in Nigeria. No, we did it on 25th of August. It's a red-letter day for Nigeria and the whole African continent. It has been an incredible journey when we went to Nigeria. It was in the midst of Boko Haram and its terrorist activity. I want all of you to do me a small favor because I'm going to tell you, hopefully get you to experience something that Nigerians in the northern part and the border territories experience. Can you close the eyes for a minute please? Imagine yourself woken up in the dead of night. People come in to your home and tell you have to get out! And you grab the most important precious things for you, which normally are your children. Then you are lead out at night, and you walk for miles and miles and miles, in the dead of night. You hide during the day and after three or four days, you come to the outskirts of a large city - you find some dilapidated bungalows and buildings and you stay there. In the daytime, your men folk go out looking for sustenance, while the women and children gather to be safe. Throughout the day the only sustenance is to pick grass, they cut the tips of the grass at the at the bottom roots of the grass and they smash it and they feed that to the children. Open your eyes. These are the displaced camps of the terrorist Boko Haram in Abuja.
And we saw a number of families, the global situation as of October end was Nigeria was due to be declared Polio free in six months. The African continent today has achieved that.
Afghanistan is today at 37 cases. Pakistan is 65.
And when you look at these Boko Haram camps, you look at the poverty, you look at the way the houses are. Like Murray talked about going to Pakistan, we took mosquito Nets. Here we took basic food - in Polio Plus the Plus indicates the other things that people need in these countries. So we took Millet, powdered milk, detergent, to help these people sustain themselves, the Nigerian government itself found them and gave them water and some sanitary needs. But most of the time they survive on Rotarians locally providing sustenance for them.  You don't want to hear their stories. You don't want to hear their experiences because there's nothing you could do. You feel helpless, but we gave the girls sanitary kits so that they could learn how to help themselves. The middle picture that you see here is the housing, which is just basic patterns in some areas.
John the person on the right who's John Allen who came with me had never been on an NID trip. This was his first. He loved every minute of it. He was able to give out cookies. He was able to give out powdered milk and it is an experience to talk to these individuals. I don't know any of the Nigerian languages, but they were able to communicate. They look at your face, look at your smile, come and touch you, hold your hand. We are foreigners, right? We look different and gives them a sense of happiness that we are there with them. As we provided the food they looked at us and affected us. And their way of thanking us was to make a particular type of singing noise, and you joined them because they were telling you, we're really happy you are here.
The Challenge faced by Nigeria is incredible – a protracted insurgency by Boko Haram in the Northeast part of the country.  The whole country faces security concerns which limits access to vaccination.  Our contact had to always be careful who approached us because of the threat of kidnapping.  During the elections there was a great deal of distractions, even for the Polio workers from Nigeria.  And of course the were anti-vaccination rumours, which you all know about.
When we arrived, we had a day of relaxation, then we were in full Polio mode.  We checked our supplies, the condition of vaccines, and that the clinic was ready for the field.  The UNICEF workers that were with us are local – they are invested in their communities.  One strange thing was the number of twins we encountered.   As you give Polio drops you meet people.  We learned that we all want safety, we all want our children to be safe.  The young mother in the photo watched John until she felt comfortable with him giving the Polio drops to her child.  We worked with the NGO’s to check and re-check of supplies and stay safe.  Because Jennifer Jones was with us, we had a video team filming what we were doing.  The response we got from the local Polio workers was thanks for coming – they felt more energized because we came to their country.
You’ve heard of the purple pinkie, but in Nigeria, there was the Purple Toe.  That was they way we ensured compliance.  Many women want their children vaccinated, but haven’t got permission from their husbands, who were not comfortable with vaccination.  The purple toe was a sign of success that was not clearly evident to the husband. Apparently the Purple Toe is common around the world – women will find a way to make sure their children are protected.
Back in the camps, we provided white boards to replace the rough wooden boards that the schools were using.  The names on the board are the names of the Rotarians involved in this effort. 
We had the pleasure of meeting Rotary Past-President Johnathan Majeyabe, who invited us to tea at his home.
Thank-you for having me speak this morning.
Murray – any future trips planned?
Aruna – not now because of Covid, but there are some ideas – maybe a trip to Afghanistan or Pakistan in 2022.  We want to do a peace banner at the India-Pakistan border.
Ayo – I’m grateful Bill Egnatoff invited me to attend.  Why did I not think of this before?  I love seeing my friends. I’m so happy to hear Aruna’s talk. I’m PP of the Rotary Club of Lagos, the club Bill’s father founded.  In Nigeria we are really a borderless country, with some of our neighbours being landlocked.  There is such a difference between the South and the North – I haven’t travelled to the North in many years.  We couldn’t have achieved Polio eradication without Rotary.  Nigeria is not yet fully secure – we are getting there, but we have a ways to go.  I also should mention our club will soon celebrate our 60th anniversary, and we would like to do a cooperative project with your club, and I would like to include Aruna as well.
Aruna – thanks Ayo, we hope to go back to the North again.  I like going to places that people tell me I can’t go to.
John Farrow – at the Toronto Convention the most interesting presentation was on monitoring once Polio is eradicated.
Aruna – there’s so much more.  India is a huge country with many challenges, including maintenance.  There are still NID’s in India.  Children are born every minute and need vaccination.  COVID also allowed us to use the network of Polio eradication to fight the pandemic.  We will always be needed.  Come with me, Rotarians will take care of you, don’t be just a cheque writing club.  It’s a fabulous experience.
Sean – thanks for coming, not really a question, but if members want to have an experience on the bucket list, do the parachute fundraiser held by Aruna’s club.
Aruna – thanks, we raised $100,000 last year, it’s a lot of fun.
John Farrow thanked Aruna for coming.
Ayo really did speaker thanks in a way – a person from a beneficiary country.  I’m always inspired by Rotarians who do NID’s – we wouldn’t be where we are without people like you.