pareek and his family

Rotary's polio plus initiative

Several weeks ago President Malinda shared with us her Rotary Moment. (I can only imagine what other LA5 members could share.) To me, a Rotary Moment is that extra-ordinary experience one has in Rotary ­– typically with a local or international project – that immediately changes us from being just a “Member of Rotary” to becoming a Rotarian.  

For me, I had been a member of Rotary far too long – several decades – before I had what I call “My Rotary Moment!”  

In November of my year as District Governor in Los Angeles – 1997-98 – I lead a team of 10 Rotarians from District 5280 on a polio corrective surgery project to two districts covering Bombay (Mumbai) and Pune, India. 

As result of the trip, nearly 750 children – who had been crippled by polio – had their lives changed forever

Tragically, for them, polio immunizations came too late!

doctors Yet for a relatively simple 20-30 minute surgical procedure on certain tendons in their legs - followed by 60 - 90 days recovery & rehab - these children could run and walk like other kids, and - ultimately - become productive adults. 

kids with polio procedure (Additionally, for those children for whom it was determined that surgery would not adequately do the job - most were fitted with braces.)

This project was funded in part by a $250,000 grant from TRF and our local Rotary clubs. 

On our first morning, I was working with several Indian Rotarians outside the entrance of an old wooden building which served as a makeshift medical center for the surgeries. 

I spotted a boy- about nine (9) years old - off in the distance crawling on his hands & knees across a dirt path. 

pareek crawling in the dirt

I could see he was on his way to the building's entrance. (Later I learned his name was Pareek.)

Before long, I was surprised to see that he and his parents were approaching me. 

pareek and his parents

Pareek - crawling on his hands and knees - reached me first. 

He bent his head down and kissed the top of my shoe!

For me, time virtually stopped!

All I could feel were chills going up and down my spine. 

Pareek then crawled back so his mother could come forward. She got down on her hands and knees and kissed the top of my shoe. 

Next, Pareek's father came over, got down and did the same. 

A local Rotarian next to me leaned over and whispered in my ear ... 

"This is their way of saying thank YOU for changing their son's and their lives ... forever ... and for giving him back his life!"

It was that moment I realized this is what Rotary is all about! 

This was My Rotary Moment!


Paul A. Netzel

President, Rotary Club of Los Angeles 



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