Gift of Life changes lives

A child holds a doll in a hospital bed, behind her are the child's parents and doctor
A Gift of Life heart surgery recipient, the child’s parents, and doctor.

By Magdalen R Leung, Rotary Club of Richmond Sunset, British Columbia, Canada, and a member of the Health Major Gifts Initiative Advisers committee

Magdalen R Leung

Through my participation in global grants from The Rotary Foundation, I have seen how the lives of 600 children in China have been changed for the better in the past ten years.

I have been involved in four global grants to support Gift of Life in Shanghai, China. These grants, ranging from $150,000 to $200,000, have provided life-changing heart surgery to children as young as three months old, with most of the children ages five or six.

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Korean Rotary club gives visually-impaired a chance to ride

A Rotary member in a blue vest adjusts the helmet for a visually-impaired rider.
Shin Tae Byull, a member of the Rotary Club of Cheongju Dream, Chungcheongbug, Korea, adjust the helmet of his riding partner at the start of the 24-kilometer ride.

By Seoha Lee
Photos by Seongjoon Cho

Early one morning in late October, members of the Rotary Club of Cheongju Dream, Korea, gathered with volunteers at Mushimcheon River Park, Cheongju, Korea. Excitement filled the air as visually-impaired individuals, young and old, arrived with social worker companions for a four-hour tandem bicycle ride.

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Iron lung’s third life builds awareness for End Polio Now

An iron lung sits inside a mobile exhibit with other decorations around it
The Rotary Iron Lung Education Exhibit (RILEE) makes a stop at Rotary International World Headquarters in Evanston, Illinois, USA, on World Polio Day, 24 October. Photo by Leann Arthur

By Suzanne Gibson, 2019-20 governor of Rotary District 6440 and a member of the Rotary Club of Barrington Breakfast, Barrington, Illinois

While planning a youth assembly in the fall of 2017, Rotary leaders in my district were looking for a fresh way to connect young people with the story of polio. Their generation is largely unfamiliar with this disease because it has not been endemic in our part of the world for decades. They have little memory, aside from photos in history books, of polio scares and children in iron lungs.

We wanted to explain how Rotary has been working to deliver on the vision of a polio-free world and why. We have reduced the number of cases of polio by 99.9 percent since 1988. But still, as long as polio exists anywhere, it remains a threat. There is no cure, only prevention, through vaccines.

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Living with polio for 70 years

Lee holds his cane and stands between four members of his club at the summit
Jong-Geun Lee at the summit of a 3,400-foot peak with members of his Rotary club who took turns carrying him on an A-frame on their backs.

By Jong-Geun Lee, District 3730 PolioPlus subcommittee chair and member of the Rotary Club of Wonju, Korea

I was born in a rural village in southern Korea the year after the Korean War ended. I contracted polio when I was 9 months old. I had a fever for several days and both my legs became paralyzed. My parents were teachers but had little knowledge of polio, so they relied on superstition and prayer to confront my illness. It wasn’t until I was two years old that I was finally diagnosed with polio.

I needed crutches to walk but was a cheerful and active child with many friends in the village. My younger brother carried my bag to school and back. If my classroom was not on the ground floor, my fellow students would carry me up the steps on their backs. At the time, we lived in a rented house on a hill near the school. My friends would carry me home. Even with all this help, I would fall often when my walking device became loose or the crutches caught on something, so I devoted myself to studying.

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Polio – A threat to every child

By Safia Ibrahim

Portrait of Safia Ibrahim
Safia Ibrahim

Sometimes I catch myself admiring my daughter as she reads a book at bedtime or does her math homework. These are skills we have come to expect from a child at her age. However, my memories as a young girl living with a disability from polio in Somalia are quite different.

I remember every morning I would wake at the peak of dawn, brush my teeth, comb my hair and change for the day. I then would sit outside our front door and watch as children from my neighborhood walk to school with their thermos full of water and school bags on their backs. I would wave to them with a smile but internally I was crushed.

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