Rotary Voices

That’s a nice flower, what’s it for?

A boy awaits the results of tests to determine if he has contracted polio.

By Mike Parry, regional Rotary Foundation coordinator for Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Isle of Man, northern and central England

As an RI representative on a World Health Organization post-polio outbreak surveillance audit in Ethiopia, I saw first-hand the front line difficulties experienced by doctors and local health workers. I also witnessed the very real fear of a child awaiting the result of tests to see if he had contracted polio. On my return to the United Kingdom, I was determined to be as involved as possible in supporting Rotary’s number one humanitarian project.

In the UK, we have a great fundraiser that has been supporting polio eradication and building awareness. I have had the pleasure of working with David Price, a former Ambassadorial Scholar and current member of the E-Club of London Centennial, to promote the sale of fabric crocus buttonholes. Since 2012 the high-quality fabric Rotary Crocuses have raised around £1.2 million (about $1.6 million) and been distributed in 15 countries.

A box of the fabric Crocuses.

The Crocus was chosen as the purple colour matched the dye painted on the fingers of children who have been immunised. As members of the Crocus Buttonhole Project Team, we have built upon the original idea of Lynne Mitchell, a past district governor. Fabric crocus buttonholes are offered to members of the public in return for a donation. Each Crocus comes on an information card which tells the story of the eradication programme and Rotary’s pivotal role in it. It provides the wearer with the answer to the question “that’s a nice flower, what’s it for?”

Every year, some 500 clubs take part and each distribute around 100 crocuses through street collections and club events, raising over £100,000 (about $132,000).

David Price notes that the fabric crocus has become a tried and tested fundraiser. “They are an easy way for clubs to reach out to their wider community to raise funds and awareness. When donors wear their crocuses they become walking adverts both for Rotary and the End Polio Now Campaign.” Find out more about the crocus sales.

What does your club have planned to observe World Polio Day? Learn what other clubs are doing, register your event, and tune in to our live streamed event 24 October.