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Yuma Rotarian fights polio in India, lends a hand in Sierra Leone
- Click here to see more photos from Sackrider's trip
A Yuma Rotarian experienced both emotional highs and lows during trips to India and Sierra Leone.
In India, Brad Sackrider celebrated the eradication of polio. In the African country of Sierra Leone, he witnessed the devastating effects of poverty and starvation.
Sackrider, a member of the Fort Yuma Rotary Club, spent several weeks in February and March lending a hand to fellow Rotarians in service projects abroad.
Winning against polio
In February he was part of a group of Rotarians who administered polio vaccinations on National Immunization Day in India. Upon arriving in New Delhi, the group met with UNICEF, World Health Organization and the India Department of Health representatives in preparation.
Then Sackrider went with a team of five to the city of Bareilly, which has a population of 2 million. Although it's 125 miles from New Delhi, it took the group 7½ hours to get there.
“The traffic is insane. There's every vehicle known to man, from horse-drawn carriages to bicycles and mopeds to delivery trucks and rickshaws and tuk-tuks. The road has two lanes clearly marked, but really it's three lanes,” Sackrider said.
In Bareilly, Sackrider's team led a parade to promote National Immunization Day.
“Every person in India knows that day. People turn out in the thousands. There was a sea of children as far as you can see,” he said.
Vaccination booths are posted throughout neighborhoods in every state and every city. It seems chaotic, but it's controlled chaos. “They have a method. Each child gets two drops and then their pinky is marked,” Sackrider said.
Since only children under the age of 5 are vaccinated, they check for baby teeth.
Although Sackrider and fellow team members administered vaccinations, their main purpose was to “bring light” to the occasion and to draw kids out.
“They want to see the white guy. Americans in their country are a big deal.”
The next day they went into neighborhoods to make sure every child had been vaccinated. With chalk, they marked every single door with the number of kids living in the home, their ages and what vaccines they took.
“Their aim is to get those who didn't get vaccinated. Some folk resist, especially in the Muslim community. There's mistrust. There are rumors that vaccinations are used to sterilize young boys,” Sackrider explained.
On his free day, he went to the city of Agra to visit the Taj Mahal. Then the group returned to New Delhi to tour the Rotary Blood Bank, the largest in India.
“It's pretty amazing what Rotary does in all those countries,” he noted.
He ended his time in India by attending the World Polio Summit, attended by the country's prime minister. It was announced that India had been taken off the polio endemic list since there had been no new cases for one year.
Before leaving the country, Sackrider fell “mortally sick.” “You touch so many people, so many things, kids are all over you, the food. You just don't know.”
From India, Sackrider headed to Sierra Leone for the second time. “I plan to go every year. I've developed relationships and learned to navigate the area.”
At customs, he encountered an “infuriating” incident when an agent demanded $200 in exchange for a 30-day visa. Sackrider stood his ground, refusing to participate in the corruption that he said is rampant in the country. Finally, the woman relented and gave him the visa.
While the pace in India was hectic, in Nigeria Sackrider had a chance to catch his breath. He arrived a week prior to the Willamette Medical Team coming from Portland, Ore., and helped with water projects.
The team set up a rural medical clinic in the bush. It was a very primitive clinic with dirt floor and mud walls. Villagers from far and wide went to the clinic. The team saw 750 patients, and doctors performed a couple of surgeries.
“I saw a lot of pain. The cases I saw were a lot sadder this time. A couple of children were just bones, they hadn't eaten in days. You know some child won't live to the next week and there's nothing you can do.”
Nevertheless, Sackrider still tried to help. When he spotted a mother with a starving child, he took a pack of crackers, put one in the child's hand and moved it to his mouth so he could nibble it. He left the packet with the child and returned to the clinic. Then he watched as the mother took the package and ate all the crackers herself.
“That was hard. There was a lot of emotion in this trip,” Sackrider said, noting that various team members broke down at different times
But they also experienced happy moments. The team set up camp in the middle of an African village.
“It was so super cool. We would wake up with the locals and return in the evening to locals. It was just so much fun.”
Upon their return in the evenings, schoolchildren would greet them with a song.
His shower was a bucket of water with a cup. There had no electricity, and everything was washed by hand. The team members had to watch out for mango flies, which lay eggs in wet clothes. The only way to get rid of the maggots is to use a coal-heated iron or wait 48 hours until the eggs dry out.
“I guess I forgot because I was the lucky person to get two mango maggots. The maggots burrow into the skin and feast on the flesh and they grow and grow. It looks like a giant zit with an air hole.”
To kill it, he covered the hole to suffocate the maggots and used tweezers to squeeze and pull them out. “It's very painful. I could feel when they were eating away.”
After an exhausting but fulfilling trip, Sackrider returned home to his wife, local dentist Tanya Sackrider, and two kids, a 4-year-old son and a 3-year-old daughter.
“I can't wait to take them with me one of these days. It's such a learning opportunity.”
He noted that Rotary's mission is to develop peace and good relations with other countries by working with locals and expecting nothing in return.
“It's also the right thing to do. The world is getting smaller and smaller, our neighbors are getting closer and closer. We need to reach out and offer assistance.
“And I want to set good example for my children.”
He will return to African, hopefully to Nigeria, to work on National Immunization Day again. Nigeria is one of three countries left on Earth with polio, along with Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“So where do I want to go next? Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. But my wife says no to Afghanistan.
“But with Rotary, you're safe.”
In Africa, a local pointed to the Rotarian symbol and noted that “a thousand people will die before harm comes your way.”
For the next trip, Sackrider hopes someone from Yuma will join him. Interested individuals should contact him at email@example.com.
Mara Knaub can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6856. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSMaraKnaub or on Twitter at @YSMaraKnaub.
1. A group of school kids in Bareilly, India, smiles for the camera. Yuman Brad Sackrider went with a team of Rotarians to India to administer polio vaccines.
3.One of many horse-drawn carts on the main streets of downtown Bareilly, India. Yuma Rotarian Brad Sackrider was in India to administer polio vaccines.
4.Some of the prosthetics made by the Rotary Club of Bareilly, India. Yuman Brad Sackrider said this is a free service to the public and every step of the process, including sizing, manufacturing, fitting, repairs and even rehabilitation, is done at the lab in the Rotary building.
6.The view down a typical side street in Bareilly, India.
7.Mother and child walking to the market in Bareilly, India.
10.Yuma Rotarian Brad Sackrider (center), a community health worker (left) and an UNICEF employee take a break at a vaccination booth. Sackrider also attended the Polio Summit 2012 where the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that India was being taken off the endemic list of polio infected countries.
11. A mother and her child await their turn at the vaccination booth.
12. Down a small alley in search of kids too vaccinate, Yuma Rotarian Brad Sackrider was able to find some unmarked kids and give some polio vaccine drops.
13. Yuma Rotarian Brad Sackrider poses with a mother and child.
14. Yuma Rotarian Brad Sackrider's team walks back to base after a morning of seeking and finding unvaccinated children.
Sierra Leone 2012
1.Yuma Rotarian Brad Sackrider snapped a photo of a water tap funded by the Fort Yuma Rotary Club in Sierra Leone, Africa.
5.Dinner time for a little girl in the village of Matagelema in Sierra Leone, Africa. Yuma Rotarian Brad Sackrider volunteered at a medical clinic manned by the Willamette Medical Team of Portland, Ore.
6.A very sick and malnourished child being seen by Natalia, a Chilean nurse on the Willamette Medical Team of Portland, Ore. Yuma Rotarian Brad Sackrider volunteered at a medical clinic manned by the team.
8.Yuma Rotarian Brad Sackrider uses an outdoor shower in the village of Gbangbama in Sierra Leone. The shower consisted of a bucket of water and a bowl.
9.Yuma Rotarian Brad Sackrider poses with John Berry, whom Sackrider calls the “best in country contact for getting things done” in Sierra Leone.
10. Yuma Rotarian Brad Sackrider captures with his camera a little boy standing outside his home in Sierra Leone.
11. The Willamette Medical Team's pharmacy crew included John Berry, Yuman Brad Sackrider and a volunteered identified simply as “Lois.”