A doctor who shaved all his facial hair off for the first time in five decades to raise funds for a polio vaccine says his wife doesn’t recognise him.
While Dr Manoj Joshi, 68, had trimmed his beard before, he had not shaved his moustache since he was 16 years old.
Joshi’s wife said she she’d never seen him without facial hair before in the 42 years they had been married.
A member of Rotary International, a humanitarian service whose goal is to advance goodwill and peace around the world, Dr Joshi has been involved in what he calls “acts of giving” for his entire life.
On Saturday, World Polio Day, he took centre-stage at a park in front of Bradford City Hall to shave off his beloved moustache.
He was nervous and said he’d miss his beard, which was painted purple as an homage to how immunised children had their little finger dyed purple.
When a child receives their polio drops on mass polio immunisation days, their little finger is painted with a purple dye so it is clear they have received the vaccine.
Watch: Wild Polio wiped out in Africa
Read more: Top scientist who battled COVID-19 says we will never live normally without vaccine
Dr Joshi, from Bradford, West Yorkshire, hopes to raise awareness and funds for the Rotary Foundation’s End Polio Now campaign – and has so far raised nearly £4,000.
He said: “It was such an emotional day for me because this cause means the world and if we can eradicate polio and make sure no child is at risk – it will be a great day.
“We are so close and I think we need to keep doing all we can to push over the final stretch.
“For me, it’s very strange to be without my moustache which I’ve had for 52 long years – but shaving it off is nothing compared to what we are fighting for.
“The barber told me he would need a lawnmower to shave it all off – but thankfully he managed in just 30 minutes.
“It was light-hearted fun but there is a profound importance to this. These causes are so close to my heart.
“But I do feel very weird and strange now without my beard and moustache.
“You don’t normally keep something for half a century but my moustache has always been there.”
While there hasn’t been a case of polio caught in the UK since the 1980s, progress has been slower around the world in eliminating the disease.
Read more: Coronavirus restrictions will remain if large numbers refuse vaccine, warns UK taskforce
After Africa announced it was free of wild polio when Nigeria recorded its final case earlier this year, Pakistan and Afghanistan were left as the only two countries in the world continuing to see wild poliovirus transmission.
Dr Joshi said we are close to eradicating the disease.
The retired pharmacist said: “It costs just around 20p per person to save lives – two drops and you have protected a child for life.
“There were 1,000 new cases every day in 1985 but now there are only 50 cases in nine months this year.
“It’s an incredible achievement as it will be only the second time in history where a debilitating disease has been eradicated from the world forever – after smallpox.”
He added: “We hope the third one could be COVID.”
Read more: Polio vaccine in the crossfire of misinformation
Dr Joshi had the polio vaccination himself as a child in Uganda before he fled to the UK as a refugee in 1973.
He joined the Bradford Rotary Club in 1983 and has been committed to helping others ever since.
Earlier this year, he led a delegation of British Rotarians to Amritsar to assist medical teams during a national immunisation day in India, which has been polio-free since 2014.
There, he personally administered the vaccine to around 80 children.
The dad-of-two said: “It’s so important that we continue to give. When I arrived in the UK I was taken care of by complete strangers.
“And I want to devote my life to giving back – not because I have a lot, because I know what it’s like to have nothing.
“Shaving my beard is a silly thing, but if it can raise awareness and get people to donate – then it can be a great thing.”
“The smallest gift can make the biggest difference.”
You can donate to Dr Joshi’s cause here.
Watch: How is coronavirus treated?