Meet Manoj Joshi a Bradford local, not a famous celebrity, but is probably deserving of such an accolade. Joshi is a Ugandan of Indian-Gujarati origin who came to Britain in 1972 as a refugee. First to Derbyshire, before moving to Bradford in 1981.

Manoj’s work ethic is admirable, saying that as a refugee we just got on with it and worked to not be a burden to the community.

Trained a pharmacist he started as a medical representative before finishing as a senior NHS development manager with AstraZeneca, the pharmaceutical company which is working with the University of Oxford on a potential coronavirus vaccine.  Manoj is not the only family member who works in the health profession as he beams mentioning in his family there are 7 doctors, 2 pharmacists and 1 dietician.

But its not his work with AstraZeneca that we should be shouting from the rooftops about, but he and his families work with Rotary International the humanitarian organisation that has been at the centre of the decades-long fight eradicating Polio from every country in the world.

Manoj joined the Rotary in 1968 as part of their junior club and has been a member for over 40 years. Joining the Bradford Rotary in 1983 and has served as President twice, before being named district governor of Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire for Rotary International in 2019.  When he became district governor Mr Joshi wanted to make a statement. He got t-shirts, jumpers and hats made, but what he is most proud of is his car, that is now covered in ‘End Polio Now’. Something that Manoj likes to refer to as his Rotary mobile.

Mr Joshi has worked as part of the Rotary’s efforts to end Polio globally since 1985, when it became a clear message from the club to eradicate the disease. Since then he and his family, have raised thousands as part of the efforts to tackle Polio. When the campaign started there were 1,000 new polio cases per day across 172 countries. However, thanks to Rotarians like Manoj there are now only 60 cases across Pakistan and Afghanistan. They hope to completely remove the disease in the coming years thanks to their work with UNICEF, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Health Organisation.

Its not just the fundraising that Manoj and his family has done though.

“I was very blessed, I led a delegation of UK Rotarians to Amritsar to attend the National Immunisation Day, in which we helped immunise children on that day. I, myself administered 80 drops to children. To have made that difference is a great feeling of humbleness and appreciation for the efforts to alleviate pain and suffering due to Polio.”

The immunisation efforts to remove Polio from the world are being hindered due to the current global pandemic, but Mr Joshi is confident that when they can, the teams will get to those who need it.

“When it is removed, it will be the second time in our human history, that a killer disease, a crippling disease has been eliminated. First one being smallpox, the second being Polio.”

Discussing the COVID-19 situation, Manoj is confident that a vaccine will be found, and the process is already in place thanks to the Rotary as its their Polio templates, that can and should be used to get the vaccination across the world efficiently.

Manoj and Bhavna Joshi with the Rotary mobile

Although the focus might be on a vaccine for Covid-19, the efforts to continue to raise funds for the Rotary continue for Manoj and his family, with an important date looming in October.

International Polio Day on 24 October has been celebrated for a number of years now. I initiated lighting up various parts Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire with purple lights. Purple is the dye that is used to mark the finger of a child, when they are immunised as a record of their immunisation. In Bradford, the city centre is lit up purple, and other parts of country also are lit up as well. It is becoming a national movement now, that the vast majority of the country will be purple to raise awareness. Its also to show this country, we are blessed that we have 100 percent polio vaccination. It’s not just about raising awareness; it’s about raising fund as it only costs 20 pence to immunise one child for life.”

Landmarks will not be only the only thing lit up to mark the day as Manoj has teamed up with Regal Food products to create a purple madeira cake to mark the occasion and raise funds. The money raised will be trebled by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Manoj himself will be part of the fundraising efforts this year, as during the UK lockdown he let his beard grow out, to mark International Polio Day, he will dye his long beard purple and shave his head to raise funds. It will be a surprise for everyone as no one has seen him without a moustache.

As Manoj continues to have an impact on thousands of lives across the world, he urges everyone who can to join the Rotary in order to help them to do more in the world.