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One month ago, I was nervously holding my 2-month-old daughter in my lap at our pediatrician's office in New York City, waiting for her to get her first series of vaccinations. What would have appeared to be a routine visit was, in fact, a huge moment in my life.
You see, my legs were paralyzed by polio many years ago when I was an infant. I was born to a single mother and domestic worker in Mumbai, India. I was left at an orphanage because my birth mother could not care for me. I was adopted by an American family and moved to the U.S. where I could receive much-needed medical care.
When we left our pediatrician's office, my eyes began to well up as I started thinking about all the things that my daughter would not have to face because she would not have to suffer the debilitating effects of polio. I actually started listing out all of the ways that her life would be different from mine, all the things she would be able to do that were so hard for me -- because of a vaccine.
When I see her lift her little leg up, I begin to imagine and see that she will be able to walk, free from the thick, heavy leg braces and crutches that I must use to walk. I think about how she will not only be able to walk, but she will be able to run and play soccer, basketball, softball -- anything she wants.
She will not have to limit her choices of where she will live, work and play because of her mobility. Her physical being will not prevent her from harnessing new opportunities or having a better life.......
For Nigerian philanthropist Michael Olawale-Cole, understanding Rotary's positive influence in the world requires imagining the world without Rotary.
"How many millions of people's lives would not have been affected by Rotary's good work?" says Olawale-Cole, who joined Rotary as a member of the Rotary Club of Isolo, Lagos State, in 1980. "If Rotary did not take on the challenge of eradicating polio, how many more millions of children around the world would have died or been crippled by this disease? Who could have done that if not Rotary?"
Imagining what the world would be like without Rotary has made Olawale-Cole a generous supporter of The Rotary Foundation. In October 2013, he and his wife, Adebola, were inducted into the Arch Klumph Society, which recognizes donors who give at least $250,000 to the Foundation. The couple supports the Foundation through the Chief Michael Olawale-Cole Endowed Fund for Rotary Peace Centers.
"I see a world with so many challenges, inadequacies, and shortcomings in the areas of health, infrastructure, ethics, and peace, especially in the developing countries" says Olawale-Cole, "Rotary has filled many gaps in these areas so far, but we must continue."
Olawale-Cole regards the promotion of peace and conflict resolution as one of the world's greatest challenges. With sectarian violence gripping the Middle East, ethnic tensions flaring between Ukraine and Russia, and the brutal extremist group Boko Haram terrorizing much of the northern part of his homeland, he says that now is the time Rotary must ramp up its investments in peace and conflict resolution.
"We need to continue and expand our peace fellowship program because our students not only bring a wealth of knowledge to the world, they bring the integrity of Rotary," he says. "It's harder to bring education, clean water, and health to places where security is unstable. People need to feel safe first. I would like to see our efforts in peace the primary focus over the next couple of years."
Olawale-Cole sees his support of the Foundation as a duty. "I need to pay back to a world that has taken care of me and made me what I am today. I feel very fortunate in my life," says Olawale-Cole, who owns businesses involved in insurance brokering, tourism, management consulting, and oil production. "I can't imagine another organization that could be more trusted with my funds. I know that every dollar that goes to the Foundation will be spent judiciously and prudently. Rotary will give money to the right source for the right purpose. That, to me, is strength of this organization."........
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