Small club scores big with end polio effort
Past RI President Clem Renouf (left) receives an A$20,000 (US$16,600) check for Rotary’s US$200 Million Challenge from Bribie Island Rotarians, joined by Jenny Horton (right), of the Kenmore club. Photo courtesy of Barry Clark
In the past nine months, the residents of Bribie Island, Queensland, Australia, have learned a lot about polio and the global effort to eradicate the disease.
Led by the town’s Rotarians, they’ve also given a lot back.
In September, the Rotary Club of Bribie Island embarked on Project Eradication, aimed at raising A$1 (about US$0.80) for each one of the community’s 19,490 residents.
“One club member had lost his brother to polio many years before, and several others had been touched by polio in their youth or through friends and family,” said Bribie Island Rotarian Barry Clark, reflecting on the inspiration for the project.
Over the next several months, the 25-member club organized a raffle, a children’s coloring competition, wine sales, monthly food markets, a movie night, an Australia Day Ball, a golf day, and a 10-kilometer fun run/walk. Local newspapers were briefed about the effort in advance and agreed to publish monthly feature articles about the events.
The club also obtained support from the town’s polio survivors. One drew the winning tickets for the raffle and took part in the run/walk, pushed in a wheelchair by a Rotarian. Another gave an interview to area newspapers and reinforced the message that some parents in Australia still weren’t getting their children immunized. Yet another, who walked with a limp, began the dancing at the Australia Day Ball. A fourth spoke at a meeting of the Bribie Island club, inspiring members with his personal story of determination.
As the fundraisers unfolded, the project gained increasing visibility in the community and media. The club also sent out news releases about the work of Jenny Horton -- a nurse and member of the Rotary Club of Kenmore, Queensland -- in the polio immunization effort in India.
The publicity helped generate significant donations from residents and groups such as the Lions club, Bowls club, and community orchestra. The Bribie Island club also gained 12 new members.
On 13 May, Bribie Island Rotarians presented a check for A$20,000 (about US$16,600) for Rotary’s US$200 Million Challenge to Past RI President Clem Renouf at a celebration in Nambour. Another US$4,200 came from the Rotary Club of Toowong. Renouf and Past District Governor John Sever, former chief of the infectious diseases branch of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, were instrumental in laying the groundwork for PolioPlus.
Renouf offered high praise for Horton, who also attended the celebration. Horton has worked for the Stop Transmission of Polio program in Botswana, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan. The program was established in 1999 by the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and has received $681,900 in grants from PolioPlus for volunteers’ stipends.
“Someone once said, ‘If you want to send a message, wrap it in a person,’” Renouf noted. “Jenny is the ideal wrapping for our story at this stage of the war [against polio], not from command headquarters but from the front line.”
“It’s amazing to be part of a program which will eradicate a disease from the world,” Horton said.
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