• Club Number 18039
  • District 9685
  • Chartered 1946

Club News

Pope Francis thanks Rotary for its efforts to end polio

Vatican City (30 April 2016) — Nearly 9,000 members of Rotary​ from across the globe attended the Jubilee Audience at the Vatican in St. Peter’s Square on 30 April 2016 at the invitation of Pope Francis.  At the end of the Audience, a delegation of Rotary members - led by Rotary International President K.R. Ravindran - met Pope Francis where he emphasized the importance of vaccinations against polio and urged Rotary to continue. 

Pope Francis follows Paul VI and John Paul II in connecting with Rotary to encourage their support of a more peaceful and compassionate world.  

“It is a tremendous honor to be part of this Jubilee Audience,” said Ravindran. “Pope Francis has inspired men and women throughout the world – regardless of their faith – with his humble acts of kindness. His call to alleviate the root causes of extreme poverty and human suffering transcends religion, age, nationalism and politics. Rotary members from every religion, nation and creed share Pope Francis’ spirit of mercy and compassion, which inspires us to act boldly to address the most difficult challenges facing our world today.”

By promoting peace, fighting disease, ending polio​ , providing clean water, sanitation and hygiene, supporting education, saving mothers and children and growing local economies, Rotary members are improving lives and bringing positive, lasting change to communities around the world.

Rotary and its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative​   are on the brink of making global health history as polio is slated to become the second human disease ever to be eliminated.  Cases of this paralyzing but vaccine preventable disease have plummeted by more than 99.9 percent, from about 350,000 cases a year in 1988, to 74 confirmed in 2015. Since launching its PolioPlus​ program in 1985, Rotary has donated US$1.5 billion and countless volunteer hours to protect 2.5 billion children in 122 countries from polio. More than 13 million people are able to walk today, who would otherwise have been paralyzed from polio.

Pope Francis personally vaccinated a child against polio in Mexico this past February. While he was Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Pope Francis was named an honorary member of Rotary – making him the first known pope to receive and accept a Rotary club membership.

Pope Francis thanks Rotary for its efforts to end polio and urges Rotary members to continue vaccination campaigns.

Africa reaches important polio milestone

Today marks a significant milestone for Africa in its effort to eradicate polio from the continent. A full year has passed since Africa’s last reported case caused by the wild poliovirus.

Somalia was the last country to identify a new case, which occurred on 11 August 2014. While Africa has achieved an important public health milestone, the job is not yet finished. To end polio forever, all countries – both endemic and non-endemic – must strengthen routine immunization, address gaps in disease surveillance and do more to reach children who are still being missed by vaccinators.

“We cannot wind down our efforts now. We need to continue immunizing until the last country is certified polio-free, and thereafter,” says Dr. Tunji Funsho, chair of Rotary’s Nigeria PolioPlus Committee. “As long as the virus remains anywhere in the world, it is only a plane ride away.”

Rotary members have played a key role in the eradication effort. They have led the way in raising funds, advocating for government support, building awareness, and mobilizing volunteers on the ground.

“The work of Rotary and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative has also cut through the clichéd narrative of Africa as the land of poverty, disease, and conflict,” says RI General Secretary John Hewko. “Real human development has been achieved despite the toughest obstacles and despite the opinion of many who thought we could not eradicate this disease in Africa.”

Strong continued support toward polio eradication in these final years of the campaign is the best way to ensure that today’s milestone will indeed mark the last case of polio in Africa, says Michael McGovern, chair of Rotary’s International PolioPlus Committee.

“Rotary members have many opportunities to make a difference, including being part of history as we seek a polio-free world,” McGovern says. “Members have led the way in fundraising and lining up volunteer support for polio eradication.”

Through 2018, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is matching 2-to-1 every dollar that Rotary commits for polio, up to $35 million a year.

Contribute to End Polio Now
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By Arnold R. Grahl
Rotary News 
11-Aug-2015

Rotary's Historic Bridge Climb In Sydney

During Friday's world record-breaking Sydney Harbour bridge climb, Rotary members raised enough money to protect 240,000 kids from polio. 

Despite the physically gruelling four-hour trek up and down the bridge's storied steel arches, the 340 participants kept their good spirits and stood side-by-side waving 278 flags. "When the helicopters were going around, you just felt like one great big nation," says Graeme Davies, district governor of the Rotary Club of Kincumber in Australia. 

The massive turnout eclipsed Oprah Winfrey's world-record climb in 2011 when she summited the bridge alongside 315 of her most ardent fans. But for Rotary members, the record paled in comparison to the experience and the opportunity to take a step closer to ending polio forever. The event raised 110,000 Australian dollars (US$102,300). "It made me even prouder to be a Rotarian," said John Avakian from Healdsburg, California, USA. "It was an incredible experience of tremendous camaraderie."

Rotary members cheered for each of the 26 groups as they made way through the lobby to the entrance of the bridge climb. Cloud cover hid the sun for most of the morning, but light broke through briefly as the climbers unfurled their flags, which had been tucked into their sleeves during the ascent. Helicopters circled overhead from a variety of local Sydney news stations. 

Climbers cheered, danced, and even broke into the "Wave" from 400 feet above ground. "I think that's exactly what Rotary needs," said Nate Harimoto of Thousand Oaks, California, "a show of force from all around the world." Climbers from Taiwan, Australia, China, Japan, United States, and dozens of other countries and regions supported each other during the event. They watched each other's backs, literally and figuratively, helping to steer climbers' heads away from hanging steel beams. 

For a day, their commitment to help others also became a commitment to help each other. And in the process, they raised enough money to show the world how committed they are to polio eradication. For Leilani Ross of Queensland, however, the climb was also about closing an important family chapter. She had long wanted to climb the bridge with her father, but didn't get the chance before he died a few years ago. "The friendliness is just wonderful," Ross said. "Everyone is very welcoming." 

Cheryl Drozdowicz, a former Youth Exchange student from Wisconsin, USA, who stayed with Ross 35 years ago, watched her go up. After the convention, Drozdowicz will travel back to Queensland for the first time since her program all those years ago. "I always feel like a piece of my heart is still there," Drozdowicz said. 

Fondly known as the "Coat Hanger," the bridge officially opened in 1932. The bridge is also referred to as the "Iron Lung" because it employed so many Australians during the Great Depression. Tourists began climbing the bridge in 1998, which is now considered a tourist must with over 3 million visitors from more than 130 countries in that time. 

Adam Ross 

Rotary News

Photo Credit: Rotary International/Alyce Henson

Paralympian Dennis Ogbe Defying Paralysis

Dennis Ogbe grips the discus in his right hand. He swings his arm and twists at the waist as far to the right as he can. With one move he snaps back, letting the saucer fly. Upper-body strength is important for any discus thrower, but for Ogbe, a Paralympian, it’s everything. 

At age three, Ogbe contracted malaria, and while receiving treatment at a clinic near his home in rural Nigeria, he became infected with the poliovirus. Paralyzed from the waist down, he was sent home in the arms of his mother. 

He credits his physical rehabilitation to a harsh form of therapy – the taunts of the other children in his village. After taking his crutches away, kids would dare him to take several steps forward before they would allow Ogbe to join in a game of soccer with them. Eventually, his right leg became stronger and he could walk without a wheelchair or crutches, but his left leg remained paralyzed. 

Ogbe, now a U.S. citizen, has made a name for himself in the international Paralympic community and holds the American records for discus and shot put. While competing, he earned a bachelor’s degree and an MBA from Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky. Today he serves as an advocate for polio eradication and as an ambassador for the United Nations Foundation’s Shot@Life campaign to promote childhood immunizations. He spoke at Rotary’s World Polio Day: Making History event on 24 October in Chicago, which is where we caught up with him. 

“Whatever I do in this life, I hope and pray that it is going to inspire people,” he says. “I hope it challenges them: ‘If Dennis can do it, I can do it.’” 

THE ROTARIAN: What challenges did you face growing up with polio? 

OGBE: In Nigeria, people with disabilities are often cast away or encouraged to be beggars. Polio was evident everywhere, at the bus stops and on the streets. But my father wanted me to have a better life. He told me that he would not see one of his children on the streets, left to beg. He realized that an education would be my saving grace. Most people don’t think of school. In Nigeria, it’s often survival of the fittest. My father believed that in any disability, there’s always an ability. And he gave me the opportunity to figure out what mine was. 

TR: What was it that drew you to athletics? 

OGBE: When I was in school, I had to push myself to play sports. I tried tennis, high-jump, and basketball, but I walked with a big limp, making it difficult. At the time, the only sports available for people with disabilities were shot put, javelin, power-lifting, and track. I couldn’t participate in track because I couldn’t afford a better wheelchair. So I found heavy spare rods at auto shops and began to practice throwing. 

Eventually I began competing. I ended up throwing for Nigeria at the 2000 Paralympic Games in Sydney, Australia. There I met an assistant track and field coach for the USA. He must have seen something in me, because I was offered a partial sports scholarship to Bellarmine University, where I competed against able-bodied athletes. 

When I wasn’t studying or training, I was working five jobs to pay tuition. If I look at my life without sports, I wouldn’t be where I am today. The competitiveness in sports was the push I needed from the very beginning when I contracted polio. It gave me a goal to work toward. It was the mentality of “I can do more” that brought me to where I am today. 

TR: How does this competitive mentality help you in your work fighting polio? 

OGBE: My father always told me that it’s not how one starts that matters, it’s how one finishes. The end is still a hundred miles away, but I know one thing: When I am crossing that finish line, I want to be holding hands with the people who have helped me in my life. There have been many people who have gone out of their way to help me get to where I am today, and I owe it to them to finish strong. That’s how I feel about polio. It’s been a long fight, but we have many friends. I know if we continue to give it our best shot, we will finish this race on top.  

Megan Ferringer 

Adapted from a story in the April 2014 issue of The Rotarian. 

For Paralympian Dennis Ogbe, upper-body strength means everything after losing use of his left leg because of Polio

Southeast Asia Region Declared Polio-Free

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) today congratulated the countries in the South-East Asia Region of the World Health Organization (WHO) on being certified polio-free, a historic milestone in the worldwide effort to end polio. The 11 countries in the region – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor Leste – are home to 1.8 billion people and represent the fourth of six WHO regions of the globe to become polio-free.

India, once deemed the most difficult place to end polio, recorded its last case on 13 January 2011, enabling completion of regional certification. Other countries such as Sri Lanka, Maldives and Bhutan have been polio-free and waiting for this day for more than 15 years.

“This is a momentous victory for the millions of health workers who have worked with governments, nongovernmental organizations, civil society and international partners to eradicate polio from the Region. It is a sign of what we can bequeath our children when we work together,” said Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director for the WHO South-East Asia Region.

Rotary, which has committed more than $1.2 billion to the global eradication effort, thanked health workers, governments, Rotary members and its partners in the GPEI at the official certification meeting in Delhi.

“I speak for every Rotarian when I say again what an honor it is to be a part of today’s events. We have beaten polio in South-East Asia, and now we must do the same in the rest of Asia and in Africa.
Our goal is so close, we can almost touch it,” said Rotary Foundation Chair D.K. Lee.

Rotary also received praise from Dr. Bruce Aylward, WHO assistant director-general for polio, emergencies and country collaboration. “I want to thank Rotary and their 150,000 members in the South-East Asia region for their tireless work to eliminate polio,” he said.

South-East Asia’s remarkable achievement in ending polio was made possible by unprecedented commitment from governments to hold high-quality vaccination campaigns that reached a cumulative total of 7.5 billion children over 17 years, thanks to the dedication of millions of community health workers and volunteers. Between 1995 and 2012, the polio program conducted 189 nationwide campaigns across the region and administered more than 13 billion doses of oral polio vaccine.

The region’s accomplishment marks a vital step toward the GPEI’s goal of delivering a polio-free world by 2018. Innovative approaches and new partners are driving global progress in a multi-year plan to stop transmission, improve immunization rates and make a lasting impact on child mortality. However, this progress is at risk unless polio is ended in the three countries where it has never been stopped: Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. Recent outbreaks in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa are stark reminders that polio anywhere is a threat everywhere.  Until polio is stopped in the remaining three endemic areas, all countries need to maintain sensitive surveillance and high immunization rates to rapidly detect any importation of poliovirus and minimize its impact. Now that 80 percent of the world’s population lives in regions certified polio-free, the goal of eradication is closer than ever.

City to Surf Fundraiser for Polio - Sponsor the team today!

C2S EndPolio is a group of young professionals training to compete in the City to Surf 2012

With only 4 1/2 months from our April 1st launch until the race, it’s going to be a hard slog for these incredibly unfit “Nannas” to train up and raise as much money for End Polio Now as possible.

Poliomyelitis is an acute, viral, infectious disease affecting children. It is spread from person to person, affecting the central nervous system. Polio causes paralysis, pain, fever, seizures and spastic paralysis, and leads to lifelong deformity, paralysis and pain. There is no cure.

While the current vaccine was invented in 1955 and the developed world is largely Polio-free today, Polio was still endemic in the developing world due to limited access, funding, administration and regional conflicts.

In 1988, Rotary World President Royce Abbey (Melbourne, Australia) announced a global effort in conjunction with the World Health Organisation and UNICEF to eradicate Polio. Already the program has overcome obstacles of distance, access, co-ordination, religion, politics and booming populations to eradicate Polio in the Americas, Europe and the West Pacific. The number of annual diagnosed cases have been reduced by 99%; from an estimated 350,000 cases in 1988 to around 1,000 per year now.

After 3 years with no new cases, a country can be officially declared Polio-free. This means the vaccination and follow up boosters of all children under the age of 10. With a global birthrate of 252 children per minute, this is an exponentially challenging administrative and volunteer effort to maintain. Despite being certified Polio-free in 2001, an outbreak was confirmed in China in September 2011 involving a strain of Poliomyelitis prevalent in neighbouring Pakistan.

The push to finally eradicate Polio must be amplified. The last 3 countries with a total 650 new cases of Polio every year are Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. With increasing travel and globalisation, if Polio is not eradicated now, the virus will become globally endemic again within our lifetimes.

C2S EndPolio is a Rotary Foundation project of Ryde Rotary Club.

Rotarians have reason to celebrate as Rotary reaches 107 years

Rotarians have significant reasons to celebrate Rotary’s 107th anniversary on 23 February.

Major gains have been made in the fight to eradicate polio, Rotary’s top priority. In January, India reached a historic milestone by marking a full year without recording a new case of polio. The country has been an epicenter of the crippling childhood disease.

Worldwide, fewer than 650 polio cases were confirmed for 2011, less than half the 1,352 infections reported in 2010. Overall, the annual number of polio cases has plummeted by more than 99 percent since the initiative was launched in 1988, when polio infected about 350,000 children a year. More than 2 billion children have been immunized in 122 countries, preventing 5 million cases of paralysis and 250,000 deaths.

Also in January, Rotary leaders announced that Rotary clubs raised more than US$200 million in response to a $355 million challenge grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In recognition of Rotary’s commitment, the Gates Foundation contributed an additional $50 million. All of the resulting $605 million will be spent in support of immunization activities in polio-affected countries.  

 “We’ll celebrate this milestone, but it doesn’t mean that we’ll stop raising money or spreading the word about polio eradication,” Rotary Foundation Trustee John F. Germ told Rotary leaders at the International Assembly in San Diego, California, USA. “We can’t stop until our entire world is certified as polio-free.” 

End Polio Now lightings
In what has become a Rotary anniversary tradition, Rotary clubs around the world are illuminating iconic structures with the End Polio Now message.

This year, light displays center on Pakistan, where Rotary clubs will illuminate Frere Hall in Karachi and the WAPDA House in Lahore. Other lighting sites include the Tower of London; City Government Building in Taipei, Taiwan; Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, Tokyo’s fifth tallest building; Federation Square, one of southern Australia’s top tourist draws; and two famous landmarks in Brazil -- the historic Sitio Arqueológico de São Miguel das Missões in Rio Grande do Sul, and the Palácio Garibaldi, a neo-classical architectural treasure in Curitiba.

 The lightings “carry Rotary’s pledge to end polio,” says RI President Kalyan Banerjee, a native of India. “But we are not there yet. Rotary and our partners will continue to immunize children until our goal of a polio-free world is achieved. ”

Bill Gates – Nigeria advances the fight against polio

In a visit to Africa’s most populous nation, Bill witnessed remarkable progress against polio, with lessons for the fight against infectious diseases worldwide.

With continued hard work and investment the world is on a path toward something pretty incredible, the eradication of polio.  In the past two decades, polio cases around the world have been reduced by 99 percent.  If we can get rid of the last one percent, polio will become the second major infectious disease, after smallpox, that has ever been completely eliminated.  There are still gaps in funding for polio eradication, and new outbreaks could reverse some of the progress made so far.  But if polio is eliminated, never again will a child be crippled by this terrible virus.

We have a chance to get there because of some great efforts, particularly by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, which involves the World Health Organisation, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).  Our foundation is very involved in supporting polio immunisation campaigns and other efforts to educate parents and communities about the importance of immunisation.  We’re also supporting work to improve polio surveillance and to develop better vaccines and anti-poliovirus drugs.  

Northern India and northern Nigeria are two areas where polio continues to be a problem.

I visited northern India in May this year to see the progress there.  I was very excited to visit northern Nigeria in June, because the progress there since my last visit in February 2009 has been especially impressive.  As of 14 July, only five cases due to wild polio viruses were reported in Nigeria this year, versus hundreds last year.  I spent most of my first day in Kano, one of the northern states most vulnerable to polio.  I met with community leaders, visited a local health centre and stopped in at an informal school where students study the Koran in Arabic.

On the streets and most everywhere else we went, I noticed so many young children around.  Nigeria has more people by far than any other African country, and more than 40 percent of them are under the age of 15.  That makes polio immunisation a big challenge.  Kano had just begun a campaign to immunise more than 6 million children under the age of five.
  Part of the challenge is overcoming fear and suspicion.  In Kano in the past, false rumors linked immunisation to sterility and HIV.  Community leaders told me that because polio vaccine is free and brought to people in their homes, some people think there must be something wrong with it.

Community leaders play a critically important role in helping to overcome mistrust, and a big focus of anti-polio efforts is on informing these leaders and enlisting their support.  Another ironic thing I noticed was that because polio cases have been dramatically reduced, it’s more difficult to know whether local immunisation campaigns are reaching everyone they need to reach, particularly sub-populations that may be more at risk.  Without many actual cases, you have to rely on other ways of monitoring immunisation rates, and the different measures are sometimes quite inconsistent.  I think we need to look at how to help get more reliable data to guide our efforts and ensure they’re effective.

Also of concern is the risk that progress against polio in Kano might be undermined by the virus filtering back in from neighbouring countries and other parts of northern Nigeria.  Increasingly, the problem needs to be approached on a regional basis.  The school we visited was very interesting.  It didn’t really look like a school.  There were no classrooms, just children sitting on the street, against a wall or under a tree, holding slates with Arabic script written on them.  I asked one of the boys to recite the lesson from his slate, and he did.
  That night in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, I had dinner with government officials including the Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu.

It was interesting to learn about some of the creative approaches being used to inform Nigerians about the importance of immunisation.  Pro-immunisation messages are being embedded in the plot-lines of popular TV entertainment programs, for example.  One of Nigeria’s largest mobile phone service providers has agreed to send out about 25 million free text messages on polio and health.  The next day I had a number of meetings including a session with several state governors and one with Nigeria’s new President, Goodluck Jonathan.

Commitment from Nigeria’s leaders has been crucial in advancing the nation’s fight against polio.  

A recurring theme I picked up from the people I talked to was the importance of using what we’ve learned and accomplished in the drive against polio to fight other illnesses such as infant diarrhoea, respiratory ailments and malaria.  I do believe that polio eradication helps strengthen routine immunisation, which has the potential to save the lives of large numbers of children.  Wherever I go, I always find that saving children’s lives is a universal concern.

I was very impressed with Nigeria’s progress against polio.  I tried to encourage everyone to not let up.

Bill Gates – from http://www.thegatesnotes.com

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