By Neo LothongKum, a member of the Rotary E-Club of the Carolinas
On 17 February, I will be starting a 999 kilometer (620 mile) run from the very top of Thailand down to the east coast of Pattaya to raise funds for polio eradication and support water projects here in Thailand.
Since coming to Thailand, I have had a desire to help people. In Phuket, I worked with the local police department to assist visitors and local Thai residents work out agreements when there were issues of insurance. I moved to Bangkok just before the 2004 tsunami, but volunteered my translation skills in helping search for missing people.
In Bangkok, I started taking care of stray dogs, and I also hope that some of the proceeds from my run will help my effort to create a center for these noble animals in rural parts of the country.
When I moved to Pattaya, I started getting involved in the network of local charities. I began running in 2012, and not long after that a friend introduced me to Rotary. I found that it suited me well. I could learn from more experienced members and help my club with fundraising and media contacts. I wanted to do something to help end polio and contribute to water projects, and that’s why I organized this run.
My route will take me to many drought-stricken provinces in Thailand. A few months a year they are totally flooded, and then they are totally dry. The life of a farmer in rural Thailand is not easy. Most are poor. This is a side of Thailand few visitors see. I have seen how these people struggle just to get by. Many do not have access to clean water.
I have also personally experienced living with water shortages. The area where my house was located had no water for a year and the only source of water was the well I drilled. Homes had taps, but there was no water to come out of them.
Although I have known about polio for some time, now that I am a Rotarian, I am even more dedicated to helping eradicate this disease. I used to think that we were safe in Thailand, but the doctor who vaccinated my newborn daughter told me there are still cases that come in from neighboring countries. Until we eradicate this disease everywhere, children anywhere are at risk. A few simple drops of vaccine protect a child’s life. This is simple and brilliant.
My run will start at the northern most point of Thailand at the city of Mai Sai and end 30 days later at the east coast of Pattaya. I am trying to raise $10 a kilometer. I plan on wearing a T-shirt from anyone who contributed for a day’s running, 33.3 kilometers (20.6 miles). The Rotary E-Club of Carolinas will match any donation up to $1,000. Polio donations are also matched two-for-one by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Thank you, and let’s work together to End Polio Now.