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Gautam Lewis to premiere Al Jazeera Polio documentary at Putney Rotary Club

This event has been postponed due to adverse weather conditions

Gautam Lewis will be the guest speaker at Putney Rotary Club on Monday 02 February 2009. He introduce and show a documentary that will air on Al Jazeera English the following day.


Passport from Polio – documentary film for Al Jazeera

23 years ago British music manager, photographer, pilot and polio survivor Gautam Lewis was adopted by a young dual national ( British / Irish ) volunteer worker from Mother Teresa’s orphanage in Kolkata and brought back to an affluent life in London.

‘Passport From Polio’ tells his extraordinary story and follows his emotional journey back to Kolkata to take part in India’s epic polio immunisation campaign and find out what his life would’ve been like had he stayed.

“Part of me thinks it’s brilliant that I had polio because the rest of my life wouldn’t have happened.”

Still dependent on crutches from his own battle with polio, Gautam Lewis is now an ambassador on behalf of Rotary International for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. The battle to wipe polio from the face of the earth is the largest public health initiative the world has ever seen. If it fails, more than
10 million children will be paralyzed in the next 40 years.


Gautam Lewis is lively, articulate, inspiring and passionate.

Born in Kolkata in1977, he was abandoned at 3 after contracting polio and taken to Mother Teresa’s orphanage. At 7 he was adopted by a young
British woman – Dr Patricia Lewis, a nuclear physicist - and whisked back to London to a life of privilege. Privately educated which began at Hill House, followed by Bedales - a stark contrast for the boy who had once boarded with, and was one of, India’s poorest children.

Gautam has had a successful and colourful career in the music industry, managing ‘The Libertines’ among others. Disillusioned, he turned his back on the music industry and got involved with the polio campaign:

“If I can give something back, it’s more valuable than selling 100,000 records.”

As well as his work with Rotary International, Gautam fulfilled a childhood dream and qualified as a pilot in 2007. He now runs a charity ‘Freedom in the Air’ which teaches people with disabilities to fly.

Gautam was recently presented with the prestigious “Asian Leadership in Charity” award at the annual Asian Who’s Who dinner at London’s Dorchester Hotel.


In Kolkata, Gautam revisits his own past – Mother Theresa’s orphanage, the hospital where he had corrective surgery and his birthplace, meeting children and young people whose life he’d have shared.

When Gautam meets the mother of a little boy recently diagnosed with polio, he arranges for her to get free treatment at the same hospital where he was treated.

An epic 20 year global health campaign has almost wiped polio from the planet. In the final push, India poses the biggest challenge. The polio virus still thrives. The only way to eradicate it is to immunise every single child – at least 3 times.

On Immunisation Day, 70 million children are vaccinated in polio-prone areas across India. Gautam helps give the vaccine to children at one of over 1400 immunisation booths in Kolkata.

Gautam then joins a mobile vaccination team who go house to house to ensure no child is missed and discovers the cultural issues facing vaccinators: in Muslim communities suspicion of the authorities has fuelled mistrust of the vaccine – many believe it causes infertility. Health workers hope that Gautam can persuade some of the resistant families.

At one home, a mother claims her husband will beat her up if she gets her son vaccinated. At another house, the man who answers the door claims the children inside are not his. Finally, Gautam persuades a father to let his children be vaccinated.

At the end of the film, Gautam sums up his trip to Kolkata. He reflects on what he’s accomplished, his pride in having come from Kolkata and his luck at having been given the best chances in life by both his mothers.


1. LAMBENT PRODUCTIONS is a Brighton-based independent television company with a strong reputation in education and factual programming. The company has won numerous accolades for its lively, provocative and intelligent work for Channel 4, BBC, FIVE, Teachers TV and Al Jazeera, including the Grierson award 2006 for ‘Disabled and Looking for Love’ and C4 Creative Cities Award for ‘Gay-Z’.

2. ‘Passport From Polio’ is a documentary film directed by Joanna Head for Al Jazeera English’s ‘Witness’ series presented by Rageh Omar.

23 Jan 2009

Notes to Editors

Rotary is a worldwide organization of business and professional leaders that provides humanitarian service, encourages high ethical standards in all vocations, and helps build goodwill and peace in the world. Approximately 1.2 million Rotarians belong to more than 32,000 clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas. Members carry out this work in their community and/or overseas by giving their time and their expertise.

A Rotary Club is open to men and women who are business, professional or community leaders who want to use their experience for the benefit of others. Paul Harris formed the world's first service club in Chicago on 23rd February 1905. The name Rotary is derived from the early practice of rotating meetings among members' offices.


For further information about this news release, please contact Olusegun Sokoya [Email]

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