The Board of Trustees of the Rotary Foundation 2017 - 18
Disease epidemics have a long history of threatening the health of our world. From the bubonic plague of the 14th century to the emergence of HIV in the 1980’s and more recently the Ebola outbreak, epidemic level diseases have caused tragic devastation to people and populations. Through science, preparation, and cooperation we can plan for the next epidemic and be prepared when it strikes.
An effective global response to infectious disease outbreaks requires new forms of public-private cooperation.
Opportunities to innovate and collaborate in the context of epidemic preparedness are numerous and can be implemented with lessons learned from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
We’ve learnt from the history of polio eradication that it takes much more than the creation of an effective vaccine to end a disease. Once a vaccine is ready, there is still a big gap to fill in terms of distribution, social mobilization, advocacy, diplomacy, global coordination, health worker support and training.
Through working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and our partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative we can apply several best practices to prepare for the next epidemic.
Innovation and collaboration will continue to serve as our best weapons in global health. Through strategies based on these best practices and key learnings we can be better positioned to respond to the next epidemic and save countless lives.
At the Rotary International Convention in June, Rotary and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation renewed their long-standing support for ending polio in dramatic fashion: Rotary committed to raising $50 million per year over the next three years, with every dollar to be matched with two additional dollars from the Gates Foundation.
This expanded agreement will translate to up to $450 million for polio eradication activities.
Jay Wenger, director of the Gates Foundation’s polio eradication program, talks about his work as an epidemiologist and about why ending polio for good is so important.
That notion changed when I had the opportunity to work at a mission hospital for a couple of months during medical school. One thing I saw during that experience was that you could deliver a lot of health care and prevent a huge amount of disease for a relatively small amount of money.
Eventually, I became interested in infectious diseases. I liked the idea of focusing on something specific – that seemed more doable to me than knowing everything about everything, as it seemed a general practitioner needed to do. I went on to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), where I received additional training in infectious disease epidemiology.
Epidemiology involves studying disease in an entire population – figuring out who gets sick, how it spreads, and how it can be prevented. It included working on outbreaks, which is like solving a disease mystery but needing to do it in a hurry.
When I was at the CDC, we studied one outbreak where a dozen or so individuals in the same area wound up with the same skin infection. So I went to the affected area and started trying to figure out what these people had in common. It turned out they had all been patients at one particular clinic – that was one clue. When we looked further into the record, we found they had all had the same specific operation. In the end, we figured out that all the cases traced to a single bottle of fluid under one sink in that clinic, which had contaminated the equipment they were using.
That’s a lot of what epidemiologists do: We track infectious diseases, try to figure out how they spread, and then, hopefully, figure out what to do to stop it.
I worked in a group at the CDC that focused on bacterial meningitis, which is an infection of the brain and spinal cord. A bacteria called Haemophilus influenzae Type B (Hib) was the most common cause, infecting up to 15,000 kids in the U.S. every year. This was when the Hib vaccine had just been developed. I got involved in monitoring how much disease was out there and how the vaccine was working, and it was really striking. We went from thousands upon thousands of cases per year to a couple of dozen as vaccine use spread to all kids across the country.
Seeing the power of a vaccine program was a big part of what led me to get involved with polio eradication.
I was born in 1955, which is the same year, incredibly, that the Salk vaccine for polio was licensed and introduced in the U.S. At that time, polio was the most feared infection in the country.....
Six Rotary members and Rotary Peace Center alumni will be honored this November as People of Action: Champions of Peace. Their commitment to creating peace and resolving conflict will be recognized during Rotary Day at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.
The honorees, which were announced on International Peace Day, are all involved in projects that address underlying causes of conflict, including poverty, inequality, ethnic tension, lack of access to education, or unequal distribution of resources.
The six Champions of Peace are:
Jean Best, a member of the Rotary Club of Kirkcudbright, Scotland —Best leads a peace project that is designed to teach teenagers conflict resolution skills they can use to create peace-related service projects in their schools and communities. Best worked with peace fellows at the University of Bradford to create the curriculum. She has also worked with local Rotary members and peace fellows to set up peace hubs in Australia, England, Mexico, Scotland, and the U.S.
Best is a mentor at Cal Policy Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. She became a Paul Harris Fellow for contribution to developing peace strategies.
Ann Frisch, a member of the Rotary Club of White Bear Lake, Minnesota, USA — Frisch believes unarmed civilians can protect people in violent conflicts. She collaborated with Rotary members in Thailand to establish the Southern Thailand Peace Process training program in 2015 in Bankok, Hat Yai, and Pattani in southern Thailand. The group brought together electrical and irrigation authorities, Red Cross staff, a Buddhist monk, and a Catholic nun to this border region to train civilians to build so-called safe zones. These are areas in which families, teachers, and local officials do not have to confront military forces every day.
Frisch, a UN delegate to Geneva, co-wrote the first manual on unarmed civilian protection, which was endorsed by the UN. Her training in a civilian-based peace process is administered by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, the department that trains all UN personnel.
Safina Rahman, a member of the Rotary Club of Dhaka Mahanagar, Bangladesh — Rahman is an important advocate for women’s rights in the workplace in Bangladesh. As a garment factory owner, she was the first to offer health insurance and maternity leave for her female employees. She worked with the Rotarian Action Group for Peace to organize the first international peace conference in Bangladesh. A policymaker for the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, she champions workplace safety and workers’ rights and promotes girls’ education and women’s rights.
Rahman is chair of two schools that provide basic education, vocational training, conflict prevention, and health and hygiene classes.
Alejandro Reyes Lozano, a member of the Rotary Club of Bogotá Capital, Colombia — Using a Rotary global grant, Reyes Lozano is training 27 women from six Latin American countries to develop skills in peace building, conflict resolution, and mediation to deal with conflicts in their communities. The project also will build an international network of women peacebuilders.
Reyes Lozano, an attorney, was appointed by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to assist with negotiations and set terms and conditions to end the 50-year conflict with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Kiran Sirah, a graduate of the Rotary Peace Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — Sirah is president of the International Storytelling Center in Tennessee, USA, which uses storytelling as a path to building peace. The organization seeks to inspire and empower people everywhere to tell their stories, listen to the stories of others, and use storytelling to create positive change.
Kiran, the son of Ugandan refugees, created “Telling Stories That Matter,” a free guide for educators, peace builders, students, volunteers, and business leaders. The resource is now used in 18 countries.
Taylor Stevenson, a graduate of the Rotary Peace Center at the International Christian University in Japan — Stevenson developed a global grant to improve sanitary conditions for waste collectors in Pune, India. Waste collectors together handle 20 tons of unwrapped sanitary waste every day. Stevenson collaborated with SWaCH, a waste-collector cooperative, to create the “Red Dot” campaign, which calls for people to wrap their sanitary waste in newspaper or bags and mark it with a red dot.
This helps waste collectors identify sanitary waste and handle it accordingly. Stevenson developed all the educational imaging for the campaign. She also secured in-kind offerings of support, including free training space and campaign printing. She is also a Global Peace Index ambassador.
The road to eradicating polio has been a long and difficult one, with Rotary leading the fight since 1985. Going from nearly 350,000 cases in 1988 to just 10 so far this year has required time, money, dedication, and innovation from thousands of people who are working to end the disease.
Here are five things you may not know about the fight to end polio:
1. Ice cream factories in Syria are helping by freezing the ice packs that health workers use to keep the polio vaccine cold during immunization campaigns.
2. Celebrities have become ambassadors in our fight to end the disease.
They include WWE wrestling superstar John Cena, actress Kristen Bell, action-movie star Jackie Chan, golf legend Jack Nicklaus, Grammy Award-winning singers Angelique Kidjo and Ziggy Marley, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu, anthropologist Dr. Jane Goodall, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Bill Gates, and world-renowned violinist and polio survivor Itzhak Perlman.
3. Health workers and Rotary volunteers have climbed mountains, crossed deserts, and sailed to remote islands, risking their lives to vaccinate children against this disease. Rotary has funded more than 1,500 motorbikes and 6,700 other vehicles, as well as 17 boats, to make those journeys. Vaccinators have even traveled on the backs of elephants, donkeys, and camels to immunize children in remote areas.
4. In Pakistan, the polio program emphasizes hiring local female vaccinators and monitors. More than 21,000 vaccinators, 83 percent of whom are women, are achieving the highest immunization coverage rates in the country’s history.
5. Thanks to the efforts of Rotary and its partners, more than 16 million people who otherwise might have been paralyzed are walking today. In all, more than 2.5 billion children have been vaccinated since 1988.
Rotary First Harvest has been funneling donations of imperfect or “ugly” produce to food banks in Washington via donated shipping since the 1980s. The program also organizes volunteers for gleaning, the ancient practice of going through fields after harvest to pick up remaining crops for the poor.
Leaders of the Seattle program visited Little Rock last fall to talk with Rotarians who have been supporting a project that helps small-scale sustainable farmers in Arkansas. The two clubs discussed ways to bring farmers and food banks together to fight poverty and build better food delivery systems.
Recently, Rotary First Harvest has taken its hunger fight to the national level with its Harvest Against Hunger initiative. The effort places volunteers from AmeriCorps VISTA with partner food banks to create new programs for recovering produce, recruiting volunteers, and gleaning, with the goal of increasing the quality and quantity of healthy foods available to those in poverty.
“We refer to (the initiative) as an incubator for ideas,” says David Bobanick, executive director of Rotary First Harvest. “We are not saying, ‘Here is our model — make this work in your community.’ Instead, our approach is, ‘Here is this VISTA resource — make something that works in your community.’”
After the meeting with Little Rock Rotarians, Harvest Against Hunger placed a VISTA member with the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance to work with local farmers, including those in the Little Rock project.
One effort that has been working in Washington is a Farm to Food Pantry program, which awards small grants for scattered hunger-relief groups to form two-way relationships between small-scale or remote farmers and food banks.
“We saw increases not only in the variety of produce coming into food banks, but that those farmers selling produce were more likely to donate additional produce,” says Bobanick. “It’s one thing that could work in Arkansas. In any event, we will leverage off the pre-existing connections with the farmers in the Little Rock project.”
On the 18th of November, Rotary General Secretary John Hewko and a team of staffers will join Rotary members to bike up to 104 miles in El Tour de Tucson to raise funds for polio eradication. The event is one of the top cycling events in the U.S. attracting more than 9000 cyclists each year. This year's goal is to raise $3.4 Million, which will be tripled by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for a total of more than $10 Million, for the fight to end polio. Learn More about each team member, follow them as they train, and add your support by donating to their ride.
Andrew Best is a supervisor for Club and District Support in Rotary’s office in Australia. Not only does Andrew support Rotary clubs as a staff member, he is a member himself. He lives a very active lifestyle and could not imagine how drastically a disease like polio could affect it. Australia was able to end polio in 1971, so he knows that his generation is not aware that children still suffer from the disease. He wants to ride in Miles to End Polio, not only to raise money, but to raise awareness of the disease amongst young people in Australia. Donate to Andrew's Ride
Kea Gorden is a planned giving officer at Rotary headquarters. Kea is proud to be part of Rotary during this important time in global health’s history and to see the disease eradicated during her lifetime. Kea biked long distances as a Peace Corps Volunteer in rural Zimbabwe, but is excited to take on the challenge of riding more than 100 miles at El Tour de Tucson. She is looking forward to getting to know her colleagues better, while raising funds for polio eradication.
In a rapidly evolving society, many communities are experiencing a generation gap between older and younger residents. Oakland, California in the United States is one such place.
Bridging the distance between the older citizens of Oakland and the younger communities they serve is a challenging, but rewarding opportunity for Peter Sherris, a retired cardiologist who runs the Rotary Club of Oakland’s KinderPrep program. Through the program, the club upholds Rotary’s guiding principles and brings vocational service to life by giving members opportunities to use their skills to mentor youth. The program allows members to share their knowledge and guide youth in building a successful future.
Since 2012, the club adopts nearly 1,000 low-income preschoolers each year who attend transitional kindergarten programs operated by the local school district. Club members serve as classroom aides, organize field trips and raise almost $85,000 a year for artist-in-residence programs, books, supplies, toys and additional classroom items.
“We feel we can have a big impact on [students’] readiness for kindergarten – just by having another adult in the room who can help them learn to hold a pencil or find a letter,” Sherris said. Classroom teachers agree, giving the program an overall rating of 4.8 (out of 5) in a recent assessment. They are especially grateful for the classroom help and field trips to the local zoo and amusement park since many of the families served by the program do not have the means to take their children to these places.
Alongside Rotary, many other organizations work to bridge the demographic divide. Encore.org, a San Francisco-based nonprofit, promotes second acts for the greater good. Recently the organization launched Generation-to-Generation, a campaign to mobilize 1 million adults ages 50 and older to help children and youth thrive.
Rotary members are already engaging in these types of mentorship programs and we look forward to partnering with clubs to help enhance their service efforts. Our combined efforts can empower youth with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed. Contact us to get involved.
- Paul Taylor, Writer, Researcher, Speaker and Senior Fellow at Encore.org in Rotary Service Connections
Posted by C.J. Singh on September 8, 2017 at 4:06pm
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