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.
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.
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.