Working to Eradicate Polio

Nigeria reaches crucial polio milestone

By Ryan Hyland

Volunteers vaccinate children in Maiduguri, Nigeria, against polio, marking the houses they’ve visited.
Photo by Andrew Esiebo

It’s been three years since health officials last reported a case of polio caused by the wild poliovirus in Nigeria. The milestone, reached on 21 August, means that it’s possible for the entire World Health Organization (WHO) African region to be certified wild poliovirus-free next year.

Nigeria’s success is the result of several sustained efforts, including domestic and international financing, the commitment of thousands of health workers, and strategies to immunize children who previously couldn’t be reached because of a lack of security in the country’s northern states.

“Rotary, its Global Polio Eradication Initiative partners, and the Nigerian government have strengthened immunization and disease detection systems,” says Michael K. McGovern, chair of Rotary’s International PolioPlus Committee. He adds: “We are now reaching more children than ever in some of the hardest-to-reach places in Nigeria.”

McGovern says Rotary members in Nigeria play an important role in ridding the country of the disease. “Rotarians have been hard at work raising awareness for polio eradication, advocating with the government, and addressing other basic health needs to complement polio eradication efforts, like providing clean water to vulnerable communities.”

Nigeria is the last country in Africa where polio is endemic. Once Africa is certified as free of the wild poliovirus, five of the WHO’s six regions will be free of wild polio. Polio remains endemic in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which means transmission of the virus has never been stopped.

Dr. Tunji Funsho, chair of Rotary’s Nigeria National PolioPlus Committee, acknowledges the milestone but cautions Rotary members about celebrating too soon. He cites the challenge of making certain that routine immunizations reach every child in Nigeria.

“It’s paramount that we ensure all doors are locked to the re-entry of the wild poliovirus into our country,” says Funsho.

Funsho says to achieve this, Rotary needs to maintain strong advocacy efforts, continue to increase awareness of immunization campaigns, and ensure members raise necessary funds. Rotary has contributed $268 million to fight polio in Nigeria.

“As the first organization to dream of a polio-free world, Rotary is committed to fulfilling our promise,” says McGovern. “Our progress in Nigeria is a big step toward that goal, but we need to maintain momentum so that Pakistan and Afghanistan see the same level of progress.”

Join Rotary on World Polio Day, 24 October, to celebrate our progress. Help us reach our goal of a polio-free world by donating today.

August – Membership and New Club Development Month

Promoting membership with new ideas, even some that challenge tradition

Picture – Michael McQueen

Strengthening Rotary’s membership is not just important for incoming district governors, it’s critical. That’s the message they received from several key speakers at their training event, the 2015 International Assembly in San Diego.

For membership to grow, leaders must be willing, for example, to ease stringent club meeting protocols and make other efforts to accommodate a younger, digitally oriented demographic.

Seventy percent of Rotary members are 50 years or older, while half of the world’s population is under 30, according to Rotary leaders. The contrast shouldn’t be something to fear, but rather something to embrace, said Rotary member Michael McQueen, a bestselling author who studies social change, youth culture, and cultural issues and whose consulting firm, The Nexgen Group, specializes in demographic shifts and social trends.

To engage this young demographic, McQueen says that staying relevant is crucial. He shared three key ways that enduring organizations can do that: re-calibrate, re-engineer, and re-position.

But relevance does not involve compromise, McQueen stressed; the values, priorities, and commitment of Rotary should never change. “Any organization that is willing to compromise its DNA in order to stay relevant never lasts. After all, if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything,” said McQueen, a member of the Rotary Club of Crows Nest, New South Wales, Australia.

RI General Secretary John Hewko expressed a similar view when he addressed the assembly. He said it’s clear that members have been able to accomplish a great deal, but asked what they are “willing to do” to make Rotary stronger.

“So I’m asking all of you, in the coming year, to be voices for doing everything we can in Rotary, not just everything that’s comfortable or easy or the way things have always been done,” he said. “Be advocates for thoughtful, positive, and lasting change. We have a great tradition in Rotary, but it’s our tradition. We made it, we own it — it doesn’t own us; if it no longer serves its purpose, we can change it.”

McQueen suggests adjusting some of the traditions, processes, and protocols that “could be the very things that cause us to lose relevance.”

In McQueen’s native Australia, the Rotary Club of Toronto Sunrise, New South Wales, has three members sharing leadership responsibilities for a year as co-presidents. The club reports that having the skills and ideas of three leaders is prompting other changes, and has already resulted in a 25 percent gain in membership. 

According to McQueen, change and innovation are led by people with fresh perspectives. Rotary members can draw new ideas from new members, guest speakers, family members, even children who tag along to club meetings.

“The beauty of people with fresh eyes is that they don’t know how things have always been done because no one has told them yet,” said McQueen. “They have no trouble thinking outside the box because no one has told them what the box even looks like.”

And young people, he said, “represent an enormous opportunity for this organization from a membership point of view. They are an ambitious bunch of natural networkers who, contrary to popular opinion, have a strong sense of civic duty.”

Change is never easy, McQueen conceded, but Rotary members must be open to it. “We must avoid the trap of ever feeling we have arrived at the winning formula, which we then set in stone. After all, the moment you think you’ve made it, you’ve passed it.”

Growing membership is a major goal of Rotary President Gary C.K. Huang. Engaging youth, inviting more women into clubs, and embracing change are all important to increasing and keeping members, Huang said.

Sometimes, he noted, adding a member is as simple as asking someone to join. Since he took office on 1 July, Huang has recruited several dignitaries while traveling, including Ed Royce, a U.S. congressman from California; Mulenga Sata, deputy mayor of Lusaka, Zambia’s capital; and Beatrice Lorenzin, Italy’s minister of health. All of them, Huang said, praised Rotary’s work before being asked to join.

RI President-elect K.R. “Ravi” Ravindran applauded Huang’s tireless work, calling him a “one-man army” promoting membership.

“All of you are going to be busy people next year, and I urge you to make a habit of asking other busy people to join. Don’t leave them out,” said Huang, “Maybe some of them will say no, and that’s OK. But I don’t want any of them to say they are not Rotarians because nobody ever asked.”

He added: “Our membership and services are what make Rotary powerful and strong. To keep it strong, membership recruitment and retention have to be a priority for every incoming Rotary leader.”

Orkeeswa – building a sustainable leadership pipeline

In September 2021, the Leadership Team at Orkeeswa in rural Tanzania visited 65 homes in 8 villages as part of the annual student selection process. Leading the selection process this year were two Orkeeswa alumni who have deep and meaningful relationships within their community. Because of Orkeeswa’s outreach program in the local primary school, the team are familiar with most of the students who applied. And, new Pre-Form One students are now being taught by Orkeeswa alumni 

Using the community as a classroom, Orkeeswa invests in student-centered, skills-based learning for young people at three critical points:

  • Orkeeswa Outreach uses trained and motivated Orkeeswa student and alumni leaders to run holistic programming in local primary schools;
  • Orkeeswa School provides high-quality academics, robust co-curricular programs, student wellness services, and community-based leadership through a holistic secondary school experience; 
  • Orkeeswa Incubator supports the ongoing impact of alumni through professional development, higher education scholarships, and small grants and mentorship for entrepreneurs. 

Orkeeswa is growing, and extending its reach in a self-sustaining cycle of leadership development and community impact.

You can assist this project sponsored by the Rotary E-Club Serving Humanity, D9705 by making your tax deductible donation here:

Lotus Program Teacher Training

The Lotus Program in Sri Lanka offers training to primary English teachers in participating schools. The recent training program was opened up to any interested teacher and attracted 400 enrolments. This is a record – the Lotus schools account for approximately 45 of the 400 teachers! The training is conducted online using Zoom which enables us to reach so many more than costly face-to-face workshops. We can also spread the training over several months instead of cramming it into 2-3 days.

For more information on the Lotus Program for English Literacy in Primary Grades go to www/microdevpartners.org .

For information about the training offered contact info@microdevpartners.org.

RAWCS Project 18-2005-06, sponsored by the Rotary E-Club Serving Humanity, District 9705

Be a role model for Each One, Bring One

Posted on  in Rotary Voices

I encourage all members to look for prospective members that you might be overlooking. Please give them the opportunity to become a member of the Rotary E-Club Serving Humanity

Editor’s note: Membership is the life blood of Rotary. Surveys have confirmed that members join because they want to connect with other people and take action to create lasting change. For Membership Month in August we have asked several experts to talk about how they reach out to prospective members, keep existing members engaged, and create an environment that allows new clubs to form and thrive. This is the first in that series

Elizabeth Usovicz

By Elizabeth Usovicz, Rotary International Director, Zones 30 and 31 

Rotary connections are powerful, for both current and future members. After 16 months of lockdown, online business and virtual Rotary meetings, I recently met a longtime client for lunch. The restaurant we chose was quiet that day, and the dining area was empty except for one table.  

Our fellow diners were two young men of different races. They seemed to be talking about business as my client and I were seated at a nearby table. We didn’t focus on their conversation until our ears perked up like hyper-alert terriers when we heard one of them say, “Rotary.” 

Expanding the conversation 

My client is a past president of her Rotary club, and we both began to listen in on the young men’s conversation. One was explaining the motto of Rotary, Service Above Self, and the service projects of his local Rotary club. “I have to introduce myself,” I told my client excitedly. She laughed as I slid out of my chair and moved toward their table. 

They looked up, surprised, when I approached them. “Excuse me,” I smiled. “My colleague and I heard you say “Rotary” and we wanted to introduce ourselves.” I pointed to my lapel pin. “We are both Rotary members too!” 

Each One, Bring One – and beyond 

As it turns out, one of the men, Jeff, is a member of the Rotary club of Lee’s Summit, Missouri. He was discussing Rotary with Jordan, a prospective member. 

Jordan grinned in amazement at our Rotary connection, which happens every day for Rotary members across the globe. “Wow!” he said. “You mean people in Rotary just find each other like this?” My client, Jeff, and I each smiled. “We all serve,” I replied. “We are people from all backgrounds, all walks of life, and we all serve our communities.” 

That brief exchange was a simple, yet powerful moment of Rotary pride and purpose for three Rotary members. For Jordan, it was an impressive example of the strength of the Rotary network and our capacity to connect people across communities. 

Each one of us is a role model for growing Rotary 

Since that lunch meeting, Jordan has visited Jeff’s club twice and is on the path to becoming a member. Jeff’s support of the Presidential Initiative, “Each One Bring One” prompted me to reach out to three prospective members.  

What if each of us did the same? What if each of us encouraged the formation of a new club? By this time next year, our Rotary network and our capacity to connect people across the globe will be even more powerful. All we need to do, like Jeff, is to be a role model for Each One, Bring One. Find your Jordans and invite them to lunch. 

Read President Shekhar Mehta’s July message about Each One, Bring One 

About the author: Elizabeth Usovicz is a member of the Rotary Club of Kansas City-Plaza, Missouri, USA, and Rotary International Director for Zones 30 and 31. She was a Rotary International Women of Action honoree at the White House in 2014. 

Meet our District Governor 2021-22

Leo Farrelly is from Canberra. Leo joined Rotary in 1989 as a member of the Rotary Club of
Belconnen for 5 years and rejoined in 2008. LEO served as President in 2015-2016 and has filled many other positions in the Club.

Leo served as Assistant Governor of D9710 Group 5 for the period 2016-2017 to 2018-2019, and has been reappointed to that role for the 2019-2020 year prior to the inauguration of D9705.

Leo is a member of the Paul Harris Society and a member of the Scouting Rotarians Fellowship. His wife Elaine has been a member of Inner Wheel since 1979.

Leo is Principal and owner of PPM Strategies Pty Ltd a company that provides training in project and programme management directed at achievement of an organisation’s strategic plan.
Leo served 24 years in the Royal Australian Navy retiring in 1987 as a Lieutenant Commander in the Weapons Electrical Engineering branch. He served in Destroyer Escorts but did a 12 month stint on the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne and 2 years at the patrol boat base HMAS Tarangau on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.

After the Navy he worked in Defence industry and became interested in structured project management methods and the application of programme management approaches for the achievement of an organisation’s strategic plan.

Although retired, Leo continues to teach programme management on a regular basis, as he finds it very relevant to his Rotary work and his desire to see Rotary regenerate itself and thrive into the future.

Meet our RI President 2021-22

Shekhar Mehta

Rotary Club of Calcutta-Mahanagar
West Bengal, India

Mehta, an accountant, is chair of the Skyline Group, a real estate development company he founded. He is also a director of Operation Eyesight Universal (India), a Canada-based organization.

Mehta has been actively involved in disaster response and is a trustee of ShelterBox, UK. After the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, he helped build nearly 500 homes for families affected by the disaster.

He pioneered a program that has performed more than 1,500 life-changing heart surgeries in South Asia. He is also the architect of the TEACH Program, which promotes literacy throughout India and has reached thousands of schools.

A Rotary member since 1984, Mehta has served Rotary as director, member or chair of several committees, zone coordinator, training leader, member of The Rotary Foundation Cadre of Technical Advisers, and district governor. He is also the chair of Rotary Foundation (India).

Mehta has received Rotary’s Service Above Self Award and The Rotary Foundation’s Citation for Meritorious Service and Distinguished Service Awards.

He and his wife, Rashi, are Major Donors and members of the Bequest Society.

Presidential Initiatives

Equality is a fundamental human right, and it’s necessary for a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable world. Still, girls and women worldwide face inequities in areas including health and education and experience significant violence and disproportionate poverty. Rotary encourages clubs and districts to prioritize projects that improve the health, well-being, education, and economic security of girls in their communities and around the world. Take on a club-based initiative, a district grant, or a global grant that engages members of your community in a project that will protect and empower girls and increase equity by ensuring their access to resources that will improve their lives.

Host a Rotary Day of Service: a meaningful day of hands-on service activities where Rotary members and the community come together to improve their community.

Plan to attend a Presidential Conference. The 2021-22 presidential conference series will highlight the humanitarian work that Rotary clubs and districts pioneer locally and support globally.