How do you eradicate a dreadful disease from the face of the earth?
One vision, one child, one village, one country and one continent at a time.
It has been referred to as the finest humanitarian project by a non-governmental organization. Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, Rotary International’s vision of a world free from polio started out with a remarkable first-step. In 1978, Dr. Benny Santos asked Rotary International to provide the polio vaccine, and with that in hand, he would organize and mobilize all their national Rotarians to ensure that every child living in the Philippines was immunized against polio. Six million children received the vaccine, and because of these efforts, were given a chance to live without the risk of deformity and pre-mature death. From a noble genesis came a global miracle of faith, action and consequence.
Go Big or Go Home!
In 1982, and in anticipation of Rotary’s 100th anniversary in 2005, Rotary International was inspired to take on a larger world vision – to vaccinate ALL children throughout the Entire World! Could it be possible? If not us – then who? I have often heard that if your goal doesn’t scare the living daylights out of you – it is not worthy of you! What a perfect example of this challenge.
And so it happened. It was called ‘Polio Plus.’
By 1988, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) was established, drawing upon the strength of a public-private partnership. This partnership has grown to include Rotary International, World Health Organization, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and governments from around the world.
Reduced Polio by 99%!
In 1988, 350,000 cases of polio were reported in 125 nations in the world each year.
Year-to-date, there have been only 14 reported cases of polio worldwide.
Celebrating the Success and Keeping the Vision Alive
October 24 is World Polio Day.
Rotary International established World Polio Day to celebrate the birthday of Dr. Jonas Salk, whose team developed the first polio vaccine. The intention of this day is to bring education and awareness about the initiative to help inspire the on-going commitment necessary to secure the gains moving forward.
As a new member of a local Rotary Club, I was deeply moved and inspired by this story. Rarely in one life-time do we get the opportunity to witness first-hand such remarkable results. Most of us, as baby boomers or seniors, will know of someone who has suffered from polio. One call – one proposal started a world-wide movement and changed the world.
October 24 may be a good time to reflect on how we can change something for the better in our world. It doesn’t need to be as grand and noble as this initiative. Perhaps it is as simple as reaching out with the gift of a smile or a kind and encouraging word. Making sure no one feels invisible or forgotten.
At Age-Friendly Business, we have a vision of a world that is age-friendly and recognizes the value and contribution of all persons, especially as we transition in later years. We think it is a movement as well – to change the way the world sees and serves the age 50+.
Margaret Mead’s timeless message reminds us to: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Come join us.
Rhonda Latreille, MBA, CPCA
Founder & CEO