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.

DG 2022-23, Geraldine Rurenga

Rotary E‐Club of Brindabella

Geraldine joined Rotary in 2013 after completing an undergraduate degree in teaching and moving to Wagga Wagga. Since then, Geraldine has held a range of Rotary club and district executive board positions, including club president in 2016‐17 and 9705 district trainer 2017‐19. In addition, she has been involved with several other non‐profit organisations, including being a member of the management committee of the Wagga Women’s Health Centre in 2018 and 19. She has led a number of community events and fundraisers for local organisations.


Professionally, Geraldine has taught in a range of environments, from toddlers to adults, in Australia and in Denmark. After a couple of years teaching, Geraldine completed a Master of Education by research thesis, and moved into the tertiary education sector. Since 2016 Geraldine has worked at Charles Sturt University in educational design, consulting and leading educational projects including curriculum design at Goulburn NSW Police Academy and transforming university subjects for innovative online learning; and lecturing in education. Geraldine has research interests in Indigenous pedagogies, gender equity, and educational and social leadership.


Geraldine will make history as the youngest female Rotary District Governor, internationally, when she takes up the mantle in 2022. As a passionate educator and a young Rotarian, Geraldine is interested in building leadership capacity in our community’s young leaders. Geraldine’s goals in Rotary are promoting
diverse membership in clubs, and empowering young people to continue serving our global community through Rotary.

Rotary helping communities vulnerable to Covid-19

This article below is one of the reasons I am proud to be a Rotarian – PP John Roberson

Rotary’s strength in local communities and experience fighting polio can help get people who are still vulnerable vaccinated against COVID-19, Nigeria PolioPlus Chair Dr. Tunji Funsho said at a global summit about the pandemic that brought together heads of state, health officials, and philanthropic leaders.

The virtual summit on 12 May, hosted by Belize, Germany, Indonesia, Senegal, and the United States, sought to build on the goals of the first summit in September, including vaccinating more people, distributing more tests and treatments to high-risk countries, expanding the number of public health workers, and increasing funding for pandemic preparedness.

At a session focused on getting vaccines to the most vulnerable, Funsho spoke about Rotary’s work in bringing polio to the brink of eradication and how the global immunization infrastructure can be used in the global COVID-19 response.

“Our local Rotary clubs can conduct social mobilization to communicate the benefits of immunizations and our person-to-person and door-to-door strategies can achieve extraordinary results when it comes to vaccine hesitancy,” Funsho told the summit participants. “We are currently applying these same tactics to Rotary’s COVID response in Nigeria and other African countries.”

Vaccinating the world against COVID-19 requires the same sustained effort and commitment Rotary has demonstrated for decades in fighting polio, Funsho said. “We are positioned and ready to join, in partnership with others, to bring these resources and talents to vaccinate the world against COVID-19.”

YOUTH MENTAL HEALTH

FIRST PUBLIC EVENT IN TWO YEARS

Beryl and Astro

In February “Captain Beryl” compered a fund-raising launch to jupiter. Beryl is pictured above with Astro Alissi who is COPSY’s newest committee member and a jupiter Youth Ambassador (more on COPSY and jupiter below).

Over the last couple of years, it has been impossible to run public fund-raising events. After a few postponements, we decided to press ahead with a major fund-raising event on the 15thFebruary. It was enormously successful with over 140 people attending, raising pledges worth over $100,000 and educating local benefactors about what we are doing.

The event was hosted by the Shoal Bay Country Club in NSW at its fabulous Greek restaurant, Atmos. The four-course lunch and serving staff were generously provided free by our host so that all ticket sales at $135/head went to COPSY Inc. to support the jupiter service.

We must also thank Wine Selectors who persuaded three major local wineries (Mount Pleasant, Tulloch and Usher Tinkler Wines) to provide a dozen different wines over the course of the afternoon free. And, we also thank AV Living who synced the three large television screens around Atmos.

Contributing to the success of the afternoon were our guest speakers John Eales (shown in the picture above), Nick Newling (a popular advocate on youth mental health), Stephen Hunt (philanthropist and winner of the 2021 NSW Business Leader Award), Damian Coxon and Astro (both COPSY Inc. Committee members).

OUR E-CLUB’S ROLE

The E-Club Serving Humanity (D9705) has over half a dozen important international projects and just one local project, which serves youth in Port Stephens, NSW. In December 2021 Youth Mental Health – jupiter (RABS) was recognised as a RAWCS project.

Nan and Geoff Basser

Two of our members (Geoff Basser OAM and John de Ridder) are also on the Committee of the registered charity, Caring for Our Port Stephens Youth (COPSY Inc.). This charity runs a free and confidential mental health and wellbeing service for youth aged 12 to 21 in the Port Stephens LGA. It is an early intervention service where help is typically given for anxiety and depression.

The Rotary Club of Medowie-Williamtown (D9670) is the local partner for the project.

DEMAND FOR THE SERVICE IS GROWING

March 2022 is the third anniversary of the jupiter service. It is clear that there is a need for this service. In November 2021, 152 free counselling sessions were delivered compared with 50 sessions a year earlier.

Our first counselling room

Our first counselling room opened officially in March 2019 at the Salamander Bay Library and Community complex (close to the two high schools on the Tomaree Peninsula). In 2021 we opened rooms in Tanilba Bay (on the Tilligeree Peninsula) in partnership with the Tomaree Neighbourhood Centre. This year we opened a third set of counselling rooms in Raymond Terrace (office pictured above).

It now costs around $200,000 a year to provide free youth mental health counselling and well-being services across our three sites and through telehealth (mainly phones). While we are grateful for the grants we have received, public donations and events will be key to future of the service.

Santa Isabel, Solomon Islands

One area of our Project: Community Resources

Due to lockdowns in Australia, reduced travel and shipping restrictions our pile of resources continues to grow with the hope we can soon pack it into strong boxes and send it on its way. Donations include medical supplies, high school and primary textbooks and library books, washable sanitary kits and sporting uniforms and equipment.

Where?

They are going to Santa Isabel, a province in the Solomon Islands.  The journey starts in Orange NSW which is the collection point for schools, businesses, community groups and individuals across NSW and the ACT. The journey is rough requiring the sturdiest boxes we can find, using excessive amounts of packing tape with the hope they will hold together until they reach their destination.

Muscles needed!

Once packed (a time-consuming heavy task), labelled and contents recorded, they are loaded onto a rented 4tonne truck and volunteers deliver them to Sydney to be unladed onto pallets for shipping. From Sydney they make their way to Honiara where they pass through customs. More muscles required from our friends in Honiara to unload and load them onto a boat heading to Isabel. On arrival at Buala Station, once again more muscles are needed to transport them to the Diocesan Centre. From here, they are allocated to the groups (coloured tape identify who the boxes are for) and head to schools and preschools along the coast and up into the mountains. A Ute makes its way down the road to the provincial hospital. Volunteers with muscles walk boxes in both directions to women’s support groups, dropping off the sanitary kits to the Mothers Union who provide education session for women across the Island. Finally, a boat arrives to take the remaining boxes across the lagoon by boat to the Bible College and preschool.  

Impact

The donations have provided classrooms with books, schools with books to start or replenish libraries and teachers with resources. Newborns in the hospital have knitted hats and booties to help keep them warm, along with other donated supplies.  Washable sanitary kits head throughout the providence as part of the education program seeing girls’ attendance and grades rise as they no longer need to stay home when they have their period. Preschools have books and other resources, and women’s support groups have supplies to assist the vulnerable in their community.

For many in Australia, these are small things. For our friends in the Solomon Islands

  • an Australian school updating classroom readers sees a class with their first classroom set of books
  • a library downsizing here sees a school able to provide students with a library
  • groups and individuals sewing washable sanitary kit components and collecting underwear and hygiene items, sees women able to work and girls go to school
  • knitted hats see a baby survive the night
  • The soccer or netball kit that cannot be used in Australia as the sponsor changed sees a team united

The common response is infectious smiles and excitement along with gratitude that others care.

Challenges

While we get many donations of resources, the challenge is getting them there. Sourcing boxes, storage while we collect and pack, the cost of the various legs of the journey and customs duty can be prohibitive due to the cost involved.

Hope

We look forward to once again sending a pile of boxes, filled with new opportunities and being able to go back to our second home, a place where the smiles are welcoming, the generosity is at times overwhelming, and we have the privilege of walking with others and sharing our journeys together.

Lotus Program Sri Lanka November 2021

We recently received this feedback from a primary English teacher in one of the Lotus Program schools in Sri Lanka.

“My school is situated in Trincomalee district. There are more than 35 children in each classes. I am one and only English teacher in my school. I faced a lot of issues in my teaching career. I am a university graduate but I haven’t had any training for primary teaching. I want to tell something about our Lotus program. I have learned and am learning a lot of teaching strategies from the Lotus program. It’s an amazing experience for me. Every day I learn step by step through this program. I always try to learn new things and I always try to use them with my beloved students. I started my journey under the guidance of PIMD group. In grade 2 I begin by teaching only phonics sound through big books and posters given to us by PIMD. Every day I sing and dance with them and show how to pronouns all sounds. They all were interested. I always follow the guidelines and videos given by Lotus program. They were very helpful to me. In grade 3 I started to give dictations as the students learnt to write the sounds. First I gave them only two or three letters words and then one sentence, two sentence. Now they can write paragraphs. I am so happy about that. My grade 3 students can write long paragraphs as dictations. I tell them sounds and they can identify the sounds and write. It’s an amazing. The Lotus program is a very successful method. After the students start writing dictations I used the story books given by PIMD. Even today I am learning lot of things from this program. I have no words to thank them. My students are learning English very happily and joyfully. I can do lot of things in my school through this program. Thank you very much again and again.”

Protecting the Environment

Rotary shares an interest in protecting our common legacy: the environment.

PP Darcy Geale has accepted the role of representing the Environment in our Club.

We are committed to supporting activities that strengthen the conservation and protection of natural resources, advance ecological sustainability, and foster harmony between communities and the environment.

We empower communities to access grants and other resources, embrace local solutions, and spur innovation in an effort to address the causes and reduce the effects of climate change and environmental degradation.

HOW ROTARY WILL HELP PROTECT OUR PLANET

The Rotary Foundation will enable our members and their community allies through provision of funding.

$US18.4 million in Foundation global grant funding has been allocated to environment-related causes in the past five years through our support of community economic development and water, sanitation, and hygiene projects.

Clubs and their community allies will take action in these ways:

  • Protecting and restoring land, coastal, marine, and freshwater resources
  • Enhancing the capacity of communities to support natural resource management and conservation
  • Supporting sustainable agriculture, fishing, and aquaculture practices
  • Addressing the cause of climate change by reducing the emission of greenhouse gases
  • Strengthening ecosystems and communities affected by climate change supporting education initiatives that promote behavior that protects the environment
  • Advocating for sustainable consumption to build an economy that uses resources more efficiently
  • Addressing environmental justice issues and public health concerns