By Amy Lee Rotary Club of Greenwood
Have you ever been afraid to go somewhere because of the unknown? I was very fearful to go to Karachi, Pakistan for a Polio National Immunization Day in November 2015. Basically the irrational fears included exotic foods, hostile people angry at Americans, and being kidnapped or shot at. My fear began weeks before this trip and become somewhat debilitating for me at times. The day finally arrived and the journey began, but the three flights and over 27 hours of travel time did not help with most of the fears. We arrived in Karachi, Pakistan around 1 a.m. and we were greeted by a very nice man that escorted us to the front of the immigration line, to the baggage claim and then outside to meet our friend that would be our host for the next 10 days; the friend had arranged protocol and we were treated as celebrities. My fear began to subside as I had made it to Karachi without incident, but the sight of security guards and military police carrying AK-47s was quite unnerving.
The time came to participate in polio immunizations. We were driven an hour or so outside of the city to a health clinic. The term health clinic was a stretch for me upon seeing this facility. This is my first time to a third world country and I was expecting a medical facility; what I found was one small room with a chair for the parent to sit in, while holding their child for the immunizations. In the picture (below) there were three Americans (myself, Tim Lee and Rotarian Brad Sackrider from Arizona) standing with our backs against a wall and the parent holding the baby sitting directly in front of us, while the health worker gave immunizations. There was no door on this room, he had no gloves on, he used no hand sanitizer prior to giving the immunizations and he let three Americans take pictures and discuss what was going on. There is apparently not a governing body such as HIPPA in Karachi, Pakistan.
Then it was my turn to give polio drops to the next children that arrived. I was so excited; I could not believe that I was finally going to be participating in helping to save a few innocent children from this dreadful disease. There were two mothers and three children, the three Americans and the Health worker so needless to say we did not all fit in the small little room. They sat on a bench outside of the small room and yes it was in the outdoors. I gave drops to the three children and then gave them some bubbles that I had brought along to pass out to any children that I encountered. This was just the beginning of what I would soon consider to be the best trip of my life and not the scariest.
*Editor’s Note: Amy Lee will submit one more story next week on her Pakistan adventure.