Las Cruces – Few Americans have ever seen the effects of polio, or are even aware the disease still exists. A native of India, Rahul Tangirala knows a lot about polio. He's a graduate student studying economics at New Mexico State University. He's also trying to raise awareness about the disease while raising money to help those affected by it in his home country.
"I've seen a lot of poverty in India and it's unfair that people in cities have so much and in villages have so little. The divide between rich and poor is grievous," Tangirala said. "When it comes to polio, kids who are already affected, they don't have much support. They become a burden to their family. It only costs $50 per surgery to help them."
While polio has been eradicated from the Western Hemisphere, about 1,200 new cases are reported each year in places like India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria. Tangirala said 40 percent of those new cases are in India, a problem the country hopes to irradiate in the next two years.
Tangirala's bachelor's degree is in commerce from Loyola College in India. He now works at NMSU's Arrowhead Center as a graduate research assistant, working on economic development projects. He's also formulated his own plan to raise money and make people aware the problem of polio still exists in the world.
Tangirala is the director of international service for Rotaract, the university version of the service organization Rotary International. As part of his efforts, he put together a proposal for more than 60 Rotary clubs in New Mexico and West Texas to sell items from India, including clothing, jewelry, forehead stickers, paintings and other items. The money generated from sales goes directly to the effort. So far, he has raised more than $8,000 toward his goal of $25,000, enough to provide corrective surgeries for 500 children.
"I have always wanted to learn about how the West perceives the world and NMSU has given me the opportunity to learn about the same and widen my learning in the best possible way. My specialization has helped me understand public policies in a different light altogether," he said.
"Rahul is doing some really great fundraising," said Sara Pirayesh Sanders, the entrepreneurship director for the Arrowhead Center. "He is generating a lot of interest and I think this shows NMSU students really want to help social causes."
Tangirala said so far NMSU Rotaract has collaborated with other students at the University of New Mexico, the University of Texas-El Paso, the University of California-Davis and Tecnologico de Monterrey's campus in Chihuahua, Mexico. He has also written letters to other university Rotaract clubs and high school Interact clubs letting them know about the project and asking for help spreading the word.