By Motoaki Sagara, District 2530 Public Image & IT Committee Chair, Japan
How can we get more people to learn about Rotary’s polio eradication efforts? This is a question my district asked recently. It’s not easy to get the public’s attention. It’s even less so in Japan, where polio has not been circulating in the wild for some time.
Last year, District 2530, Fukushima, sold Fuji apples, a local product of Fukushima, with the word “END POLIO” marked on them. As a result, we were able to raise more than $3,000 for polio eradication. It was an innovative idea. But there was another reason I was interested in this project.
Local apple farmers are still recovering from the impact on their business of the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, as well as the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disasters. By using apples as a clever means to promote End Polio Now, we were also taking a step to save the apple farmers.
In Japan, apples are often used for celebratory purposes. Letters can be created on the apples through a process that makes the apples brighter red while protecting them against insects. Fewer farmers employ this technique today, but some still do. In the spring, the apples are covered laboriously by hand with paper bags, protecting them from pests and also suppressing the chlorophyll in the apple so that instead of green, it stays a creamy whitish color.
A few months before harvest time, the bags are removed, and the sunlight hitting the apples triggers the anthocyanin turning them red. Picture it this way, painting red over a white surface is going to appear brighter red than painting red over a green surface.
To make letters on the apples, stickers are placed over the apples when they are removed from the bags, and the areas covered by the stickers stay white while the rest is exposed to sunlight and turn red. It’s rare to use this process to create a message for a social cause, but our End Polio Now stickers were a big hit.
We placed our End Polio Now stickers two months before our apple sale, and then let the sun do its job. We set about preparing the boxes that would hold two apples each. It was exciting to think about the looks on the faces of the people who bought the apples when they opened the box and saw the End Polio message.
Everyone was excited on the day of the harvest, which was just around the corner from our district conference. In the morning we gathered in the apple fields to work together with local farmers to harvest the big sweet apples. When I removed a sticker, I found “END POLIO” clearly marked on the apple! We peeled the seals off 600 apples. The orchard was filled with the cheers.
On the day of the district conference, we were worried and anxious; “Can we really sell all of our apples? If they are not sold out, my family might have to eat them for a week!
However, as soon as the people entered the hall, they were amazed and began buying them eagerly. Interact and Rotaract members, as well as Fukushima’s public relations crews, joined in, filling the hall with enthusiasm.
The result was superb. The apples were sold quickly, almost flying off the shelves! Let’s all get creative in how we raise funds for eradicating polio.