By Dean Rohrs, Rotary Foundation Trustee and past RI vice president
A few years back, I was taking part in a polio immunization field trip in northern Nigeria, vaccinating children against the disease. After a dusty trip on non-existent roads right into the northern Nigeria countryside, I was dropped off under a tree with a Rotaractor translator, one other Rotary member, and the local polio immunization team. This is an area frequented by Boko Haram and although I grew up in Africa, and am adventurous, I wasn’t sure that I would ever be found again.
I was a typical, energetic four-year old in South Africa, running around our house with visions of my hero, long distance runner Jan Barnard, in my head when I felt something wrong. I ran inside and told my mother, “I have a dripping tap in my chest.” This was my way of describing what I felt, my heart skipping beats now and again. My mom, Christine, pressed an ear to my chest and called our general practitioner.
That would be the last day I would run imaginary races with Barnard. I had contracted spino-bulbar polio, which destroys neurons in the brainstem causing respiratory or cardiac failure. I was given less than a 2% chance of survival. This was in 1955, during a polio epidemic in South Africa, months before the Salk Vaccine was declared safe and effective.
By Phil and Joyce Ogden, Rotary Club of South Launceston, Tasmania, Australia
My wife Joyce and I enjoy tandem cycling. Two years ago, when I met somebody who had cycled the Nullarbor Plain in Australia, a seed was planted in the back of my mind that maybe this was a challenge for us to do in the future.
We are closer than ever to ending polio. We have reduced cases by 99.9% since 1988. With our partners, Rotary has immunized more than 2.5 billion children worldwide to end polio for good. But we’re not there yet and we can’t afford to be complacent.
Editor’s Note: Bob Rogers of the Rotary Club of Sebastopol, California, USA, and Greg Owen, Rotary Club of Long Beach, California, USA, both End Polio Now coordinators, came together to form a PolioPlus Society in their zones. The Society, which encourages automatic annual giving to Rotary’s PolioPlus fund, has been praised by senior Rotary Leaders as a model for others to follow.Rotary Voices talked to Rogers and Owen about the origins of the idea.
Q: How did you get the idea for a PolioPlus Society in your zones?
Bob Rogers: It was back in 2018 or 2019 and I was beginning my role as District 5130’s PolioPlus committee chair. Cort Vaughn, our End Polio Now coordinator, told me how District 5110 had formed a society several years earlier as a way to increase sustainable giving to the PolioPlus Fund. The original concept has been credited to Harriett Schloer of the Rotary Club of Bend High Desert in Oregon and her district governor, Dell Gray. Vaughn noted it had proved very successful and had been copied by other districts.
By Kunle Adeyanju, Rotary Club Ikoyi Metro A.M, Lagos, Nigeria
Nothing worth accomplishing has ever been achieved effortlessly. And this was certainly true of my amazing road trip from London to Lagos on my motorbike to raise awareness for End Polio Now and raise funds for Rotary’s efforts to eradicate polio. The road trip passed through desert, freezing cold, stunning forest landscapes, and across some of the remotest part of the earth.
By Jayne Hulbert, past governor and Rotary Foundation chair, District 5150
The eradication of polio is personal to me. My sister and my husband’s father both were victims of this dreaded disease when they were only 5 years old. I joined Rotary because of our fight against polio.
Last year, when I learned that Rotary had created the fundraiser site, Raise for Rotary, I immediately knew I wanted to use it. I am always looking for ways to make it as easy as possible for people to donate to The Rotary Foundation. As part of District 5150’s PolioPlus fundraising campaign we set up our first Raise for Rotary website. It was a huge success.
By S.R. Yogananda, past governor of District 3190 and 2011-14 regional Rotary Foundation coordinator
I had just come back from an assignment overseas in 1987 when I rejoined the Rotary Club of Bangalore East after an absence. I enjoyed the fellowship before meetings when I could connect with all my friends in one time and place. At one such meeting, one of our club leaders talked about Rotary’s top priority to eradicate polio and mentioned an upcoming immunization drive that Sunday.
District 2530 officials hold apples with the special End Polio mark at their district conference.
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. Continue reading →
Local civic and government officials and representatives from ten Rotary clubs at the 2019 World Polio Day event. Photo by David Andrews
By David F. Andrews, three-time past president, Rotary Club of Oshawa-Parkwood, Ontario, Canada, and chair of District 7070’s Public Image Committee
After many years of celebrating World Polio Day with proclamations, updates from Rotary and health leaders, and flag-raising ceremonies, the 10 Rotary clubs in District 7070 (Ontario, Canada) took a different course in 2018. An in-person event held in a new global classroom and simultaneously streamed live is now serving as a great model as we approach holding our first World Polio Day live event in a COVID-19 world.
Health workers administer polio vaccine to migrant families during a National Immunization Day organized by UNICEF and its GPEI partners in Ghaziabad, India, in January.
By Stephanie Herzfeld
On 27 March 2020, the World Health Organization’s South-East Asia Region recognizes six years of polio-free certification.
To be sure, this is an important benchmark as we progress toward a polio-free world, but as I look back on my first National Immunization Day trip to India, the country in the region once considered the most difficult to bring to zero cases, this date has now taken on a new personal significance. Continue reading →