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Devin D. Thorpe
Devin Thorpe

Monthly Archives: February 2014

Sightseeing In Delhi, Rotary Recap Vids

Today was my last day in Delhi. Tomorrow, I’m off to see the Taj Majal before hopping a plane for a 30 hour trip back to the States.

This vid features photos I shot today–watch in under 1 minute and then move on to something more important!

Yesterday was the busiest day of our trip. Here’s the quick highlight vid:

Here are the highlights from National Immunization Day:

And here are highlights from the Rotary Rally on the day before the National Immunization Day: 

Finally, here are a few photos from our interviews on Friday, February 21, 2014 with Rotary, the World Health Organization and UNICEF: 

Rotary Follows Up House To House To End Polio

This morning started early as we headed out to join Japanese Rotarians and Indian health workers as they left for their rounds, going house to house in some of the lower income neighborhoods in Delhi to ensure that every single child is vaccinated.


Japanese Rotarians gathering for the house-to-house follow-up.

With a television crew in tow, Dr. Mona Khanna attracted quite a crowd. Even with the attention, we were able to see children getting their drops.


Dr. Mona Khanna administers polio vaccine.

After spending the morning going house-to-house, we spent the afternoon going office to office to interview leaders in the war on polio. Our first stop was a visit to the office of Anuradha Gupta, the Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. 

She earned an MBA in Australia and her business mind really came through in our discussion. She played a critical role in snuffing out the last bit of polio in India. When she took the job in 2009, India had more than 700 cases of polio. By 2010, the country had fewer than 100. The last case was reported in January 2011.


Photo: Devin Thorpe, Dr. Mona Khanna, Anuradha Gupta, Michelle Kloempken of Rotary

Afterward, we went to see Raja Saboo, who served as the President of Rotary International in 1991-92. He was in South Africa for the end of apartheid. As a director of Rotary International in the early 1980’s, he was involved in the early discussions and the decision to pursue polio immunizations as Rotary’s global effort.


Raja Saboo

Finally, we visited St. Stephen’s Hospital here in New Delhi, to visit a rare polio corrective surgery ward. Children who suffer from polio, of course, end up paralyzed. Poor children who end up paralyzed, learn to get around by crawling. That practice tends to create deformities in their legs that can only be corrected surgically. With proper treatment, many kids who get around by crawling can ultimately be enabled to walk, sometimes unaided, though often with braces or crutches.


Photo: Dr. Mona Khanna, Dr. Matthew Vargese and one of his polio patients.

National Immunization Day: 170 Million Inoculations

Today was the big day. Today, Rotarians and health workers across India inoculated nearly 172 million children–every child five and younger in the entire country–against polio. 

Three primary activities were conducted today to accomplish the objective: 

  1. Booths were set up around the country and kids were encouraged to participate using little toy balls
  2. Mobile units fanned out seeking out people who didn’t go to the booths
  3. Units were set up in train and bus stations–even climbing aboard trains.


Michelle Kloempken, right, immunizes a baby.

Beginning tomorrow and for the rest of this week, teams will go house to house across India looking for children that didn’t get. Tomorrow, I’ll get to join one of those teams for a while.

The challenges associated with this massive effort are exacerbated by the poverty that so many Indian children experience. Without resources, about half of households in the country don’t have toilet facilities of any sort. Water sources are sometimes the same rivers into which raw sewage flows. These perfect conditions for polio and exactly the wrong factors to hope for eradicating the polio virus–and yet, they’ve done it.


It has been fun for me to accompany Dr. Mona Khanna, who was born right here in Delhi, but who was raised in the U.S. She is a practicing M.D. in Chicago who is also a reporter for Fox 32 there. She and I sat down for an interview for Forbes today. 

Today she split her time between inoculations and reporting. It was fun to watch her in action on both counts.


Dr. Mona Khanna, Fox 32


Dr. Mona Khanna, Humanitarian, Fox Reporter, MD, Shares Insights On Volunteering

This post was originally produced for Forbes.


Dr. Mona Khanna interviewing Deepak Kapur, Rotary’s National PolioPlus Chair

Dr. Mona Khanna, a reporter for Fox 32, the Fox affiliate in Chicago, is a practicing physician with a passion for humanitarian work. She has traveled extensively, giving of her time to relief as a doctor.

Rotary International invited the two of us to come to India, where I met her for the first time, to report on a story you’ll see here later about the eradication of polio. From here, Khanna will be traveling to the Philippines to do relief work related to the typhoon last fall and then she’s off to Myanmar for an international media conference.

On Sunday, February 23, 2014 at 5:30 AM, Khanna will join me for a live discussion about her work as a medical doctor and humanitarian.

Tune in and listen while you work.

Khanna’s bio:

“Dr. Mona” is the medical contributor for FOX Chicago News.

Dr. Mona is a triple board-certified medical doctor and an Emmy award-winning medical journalist who is committed to making a difference in the lives of others through raising health literacy and promoting healthy behaviors.

She embodies this spirit herself through 25 years of lap swimming, weight training, and energizing food choices that have helped her compete and finish 1st and 2nd in multiple Chicago sprint triathlons, half-marathons and marathons.

After immigrating with her family to Chicago from India, Dr. Mona started school in the U.S. as an English as a second language student, and ultimately graduated as valedictorian from Joyce Kilmer Public School in Rogers Park, then with top honors from Arlington High School in Arlington Heights, IL. At Northwestern University she attended the Medill School of Journalism, and then went on to medical school at the University of Illinois, where she is now a Visiting Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine and Associate in the Center for Global Health.

She travels annually on medical missions and is an acclaimed humanitarian and disaster volunteer for which she has been recognized with the 2013 American College of Physicians Volunteerism Award, 2012 Institute of Medicine of Chicago Global Health Humanitarian Award and 2008 University of Illinois Alumni Humanitarian Award. She is a founding member of the Department of Homeland Security, and her medical relief efforts have earned praise from Congress, Texas and California governors, Cities of Dallas and Fort Worth, San Bernardino and Riverside counties, and the Veterans Administration.

For her pioneering work in medicine and media, she was awarded the 2012 Chicago Foundation for Women “Breaking Barriers” Award and the 2005 Illinois State Society Award. She is also a winner of the 2010 Illinois Woman’s Press Association Reporting Award.

A four-time awardee of the American Medical Association Physicians Recognition Award, Dr. Mona is the only medical doctor inducted into the Medill Hall of Achievement. She is also the only career journalist inducted into the prestigious Institute of Medicine of Chicago and the Delta Omega Public Health Honor Society. After completing medical school and three specialty residencies (internal medicine, public health/preventive medicine and occupational medicine), she became one of the country’s youngest medical directors. She left executive medicine in 2002 with the goal of empowering patients through health education on television, and worked as a medical reporter in Palm Springs and Dallas before returning home to Chicago.

Dr. Mona was the first physician to report from the frontlines of a disaster site while providing care. This was at Ground Zero in New York City after the terrorist attacks of September 1, 2001. She has volunteered as an emergency aid worker for 15 years, and specializes in print, online and television reporting from sites where she provides medical aid, including from New York after Superstorm Sandy, from Port-au-Prince after the Haiti earthquake, from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and from Indonesia after the Indian Ocean tsunami. Her disaster and humanitarian work have also taken her to slums in India, a children’s orphanage in Thailand, schools in Suriname and Guyana, the Amazon Jungle in Brazil, post-tsunami battered Sri Lanka, church-based clinics in the Dominican Republic, the frozen tundra of the North Pole and the Ukraine and Israel. Dozens of print, magazine, online, television and radio reports have carried her accounts of human tragedy, triumph and preparation.

She has hosted and co-produced two award-winning ½-hour medical specials “Diagnosis: Cancer,” and “Cheap Medicine: Mexico’s Medications.” A former reporter for The Wall Street Journal, Dr. Mona received her Emmy award for her creative feature “The Health Benefits of Chocolate.” And for her leadership in empowering people across the globe through television, radio, magazine, newspaper and online heath reports as well as her work as an emergency volunteer, Dr. Mona has received more than 50 honors in the past decade, including five Emmy Award nominations, the Award of Valor from the National Association of Minority Media Executives and the Leadership Award from the American Medical Association Foundation. She has been recognized by the Chicago Indian-American Medical Association, Asian-American Journalists Association, the South Asian Journalists Association and the International Health and Medical Media Awards, among others. She is a popular event speaker on health disparities, leadership, public health, emergency preparedness, humanitarianism, and medicine and the media.

A former Rotary Scholar, she loves reading and international travel, cuisine and film, especially Bollywood movies. She has studied medicine in Israel, Ukraine, Switzerland, Hong Kong, China, Vietnam, and Japan.


Rotarians Rally India To Remain Vigilant, Keep Immunizing Against Polio

Today, I joined a rally for polio immunization organized by Rotary here in New Delhi, India.

Let me tell you, it was quite a production. After a fair bit of formal, reciprocal congratulations among Rotary, the World Health Organization, local political leaders and others present, local performers danced for the dignitaries.


Following the dance, the Rotarians marched through the neighborhood with a few hundred school children in tow. Visiting Rotarians from England were seated on horses for the parade. A band played loudly to accompany the march. Everyone came out to see what was going on!


Children came out of their homes to see what was up; some even joined the parade.


One of the British Rotarians, Mike Yates, explained that there are three reasons that he’s been coming to India at least twice each year for the past ten years to support the fight to end polio rather than just send the money:

  1. Rotary is a service organization and not just a money-raising one; as a matter of principle, he says he feels he needs to do service.
  2. The local Rotarians get a boost from visiting international Rotarians. He notes that for local Rotarians, the polio fight is constant and they need emotional support.
  3. When international Rotarians visit, more children get vaccinated because people come out to see the odd-looking visitors.


Rotary and its partners, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, government and the Gates Foundation, are committed to continuing to immunize children against polio until the disease is eradicated from the entire planet.

‘We’re This Close’ To Eradicating Polio Globally

The Rotary mantra in the fight against polio globally is “We’re this close.”


Devin Thorpe, Michelle, Kloempken, Mona Kharran, Deepak Kapur.

Inspired by our discussion about the remarkable global milestone in the effort to eradicate polio, we posed with a poster of Archie Panjabi to signal our belief that we are in fact “this close.”

Deepak Kapur may be the single individual most responsible for eradicating polio in India. For the last 13 years he has served as the National Chair of PolioPlus in India as a Rotary volunteer. I’ll share more of his insights in an upcoming Forbes piece.

Following our visit with Mr. Kapur, we met with Dr. Sunil Bahl of the World Health Organization. He’s been actively engaged in the fight for 20 years and feels rightfully proud to see polio defeated here in India.


Dr. Bahl is the manager of the National Polio Surveillance Project for India. He’s led the effort to track every case of polio, allowing teams to react quickly to each and every one.

Finally, we met with Nicole Deutsch, the Chief of Polio for UNICEF. She is new to India, but not to polio. She previously worked in Nigeria and was able to help us identify some of the unique challenges and applicable lessons for ending polio there.


Nicole Deutsch

Ultimately, a busy day ended on a positive note. “Yes, we can do this,” Deutsch said of ending polio in Nigeria. 

How Kokua Hospitality Made Their Mark in 2013

This is a guest post from Phil Tufano, Chief Operating Officer of Kokua Hospitality.


Phil Tufano, Chief Operating Officer of Kokua Hospitality

In the Hawaiian language, the word kokua translates to mean, “extending loving, sacrificial help to others for their benefit, not for personal gain.“ At Kokua Hospitality, a hotel management firm based in Chicago, we are proud of our name and proud of the mission it represents – Giving to others. This is a mission we’re determined to live up to each and every day. For this reason, we are extremely proud of the accomplishment we made in 2013 through our philanthropic program, No Reservations Giving. In collaboration with Chartres Lodging Group, Kokua’s employees extended kokua to their communities through the No Reservations Giving program. It is an exciting new platform we launched for our staff and guests to help other people in need. The name of this program means let’s not hold ourselves back when we come across someone that can benefit from our help. Our mission is to leverage our hospitality management and investment expertise by supporting nonprofits that provide food, shelter and education to enhance the well-being of those in need.

Our employees are at the heart of No Reservations Giving. They are asked to “pay it forward” by volunteering their time and energy to groups that service our larger community. The company supports 20 paid volunteer hours per employee to benefit this worthy cause through building projects and fundraiser planning in each community. Each of our locations also sponsors annual “Volunteer Days” to promote our mission. Based on employee interests, our foundationengages in grant making, in which we match donations and regularly organize fundraisers. Our clients will be called on to support our causes through resource conservation in our hotels and donating funds that support our projects.

In 2013, No Reservations Giving supported organizations from food banks to Habitat for Humanity. As a result, the Kokua team volunteered more than 2,000 hours (equivalent to 83 days!) and donated approximately $15,000. Our donations helped families find comfort, security, and sweet dream in a home they call their own.

Past philanthropic efforts include raising significant funds for relief efforts at home and abroad, including New Orleans after the hurricane Katrina, Mumbai after the terrorist bombing of a hotel, and in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami. With 8 hotels currently under management/receivership, Kokua has matched more than 250 employee donations to a variety of charitable causes in all the markets it manages hotels including Chicago, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Honolulu, and Baltimore. We hope to continue to make our mark through No Reservations Giving and look forward to supporting other organizations that our team is passionate about.

Current participants include the DoubleTree by Hilton Chicago Magnificent Mile, The Allerton Chicago, Inn of Chicago, Aloft National Harbor, Embassy Suites Baltimore- Inner Harbor, and Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach. We encourage guests to inquire their front desk agent at our hotels to make a donation and to learn how they can help.


Indian Rotarian Devotes 30 Years To Polio Fight

Sajjan Goenka has been fighting polio since 1983. With polio eradicated from India–and all but three other countries in the world–he confessed to me today that when he accepted the Rotary International challenge to eradicate polio, he didn’t believe it could be done. No one did, he says.

imageDr. Mona Khanna of Fox 32 Chicago with Sajjan Goenka, photo by Devin Thorpe 

Goenka joined Rotary in 1968 and was first exposed to Rotary’s plan to end polio in 1983. The effort was formalized in India in the late 1980’s and Goenka was there to help organize the first rallies to bring attention to the need for universal immunizations. Over the years he has served as both a Club President and a District Governor.

In the early days, he says, Rotary took 100 percent of the responsibility, providing the volunteer manpower, the money and all of the infrastructure. Over the years, the Indian government has built up its infrastructure and the Gates Foundation has provided funding to help in the war on polio. Rotary continues to provide volunteers to staff and support the effort.

Goenka is a successful entrepreneur who says his company Texport Industries PVT. LTD, which exports garments to the U.S., does about $85 million in annual sales. He is a classic philanthropist who has devoted much of his time an energy to service, most often with, through and for Rotary.

His office is full of Rotary recognition and little else. In addition to the fight against polio, he and the Bombay West Rotary Club operate a health clinic here. He donated a school in his home town of Rajistan. Most recently, he is funding the Management Institute of Media Studies, a college-level program in both news and entertainment media.

His family foundation also operates health camps for poor people in Jhunjhunu, near Rajistan. The foundation provides health checkups, often in cooperation with the local Lion’s club, focusing on eye health and providing cataract surgeries. They also bring in heart, cancer and other specialists who see patients.

In cooperation with Rotary, Goenka funded the Rotary D.G. Goenka Blood Bank, named for his father. The bank collects and distributes 5,000 units of blood each year, serving ten hospitals in Mumbai.

Goenka is a remarkable Rotarian; it was a pleasure to meet him. I’ll be sharing more of his insights for finishing the global effort to end polio in an upcoming piece for Forbes.

Please forgive the following travel note.


As we zipped around Mumbai today, I shot the above photo that suggests the reverence Indians give cows. This one was wandering the streets apparently alone and unmolested.

New Venture Fund In Portland To Focus On Social Impact

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Carolynn Duncan is not your typical venture capitalist. No Harvard MBA. No Stanford pedigree. This music-major from Brigham Young University is marching to the beat of her own drum and making a difference while she’s at it.

Duncan is launching a $20 million venture fund, Northwest Social Venture Fund, to invest in technology startups with a social mission and less than $1 million in revenue. She plans to invest $500,000 to $3 million in series A rounds with such companies, according to Sustainable Business Oregon.

On Monday, February 17, 2014 at 1:00 PM Eastern, Duncan joined me to talk about her strategy for investing.

Tune in and listen while you work.

Duncan provided this overview of her firm and background:

The NorthWest Social Venture Fund is an impact fund that focuses on reducing suffering in the world through maximizing social & financial returns by investing in scalable social business opportunities. NWSVFund is aligned with the White House Grand Challenges mission, to tackle “ambitious but achievable goals”, and to work in partnership with entrepreneurs, engineers, and impact funds to identify and resolve civilization-afflicting problems.

Carolynn Duncan is the Founding Partner of the Northwest Social Venture Fund, and is also the CEO and Marathon Program Facilitator for TenX, an education company which runs and licenses financial literacy programs for high performance entrepreneurs & business leaders throughout the U.S., with program offices in the Northwest and Bay Area. Under Carolynn’s direction, TenX alumni have generated more than $24MM in revenues and funding since 2009.

Prior to TenX, Carolynn was affiliated with EPIC Ventures, a Salt Lake City-based venture capital firm, developed an entrepreneurial finance program and ran LivePitch events for FundingUniverse (now Lendio), assisted in launching the Eastern Idaho Entrepreneurial Center in partnership with BYU-Idaho and EPIC Ventures, founded the Hundred Dollar Business, was a founding employee of TagJungle, and worked at $3MM seed fund Provo Labs.

Prior to working in entrepreneurial finance, Carolynn worked as a communications specialist for DeseretBook, Granite Publishing & Distribution, Cedar Fort, Schooled Magazine, and Nomen Global Language Center. She has worked with at-risk youth through Utah Youth Village and the Casey Life Skills Program, volunteers as a “Big Sister” with Big Brothers, Big Sisters, is an advocate of Pathway, a distance learning program developed by BYU-Idaho, and has taught financial & employment literacy for young adults in the LDS Church. Carolynn has a Bachelor’s in Modern Dance, Music (Violin), and English (Literature/Creative Writing) from Brigham Young University-Idaho, and has done graduate work in entrepreneurship studies at Brigham Young University.

Arrived In India In Need Of A Shower

After nearly 30 hours of travel, I arrived in Mumbai, India this evening ready for a shower. This would be the perfect time for a selfie, but I’ll spare you the weary traveler photo.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

For better or worse, I remember when international travel implied a certain level of being disconnected from regular life. That is no longer the case. 

The hotel wifi connected easily, of course, my phone gets service here and so I have no excuse it seems. I found the 100+ emails in my inbox almost overwhelming. The fourteen hour flight suddenly seemed even longer by reflection.

Tomorrow I start my work with Rotary in earnest. We have several meetings planned with folks who can really help us understand just how India has been successful in eradicating polio.

The lessons from India are critically important. This isn’t just about congratulating Rotary, the Gates Foundation, the Government of India, UNICEF and the World Health Organization. The issue here is to understand how they did so that relevant lessons can be applied in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, where polio remains endemic.

Beyond that, we need to understand which lessons from the eradication of polio can be applied to similar battles with HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. 

The world proved with small pox that we can eliminate deadly diseases. The work ahead is to figure out how to do it again and again, first with polio and then many other diseases.

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