Afghan students raise awareness for polio eradication
Members of the College of Education Training team share their polio eradication campaign with a business owner in Jalalabad. Photo courtesy of the Global Connections and Exchange Program
Afghan students from several high schools fanned out across Jalalabad in September, raising money and awareness for efforts to eradicate polio from their country.
The students were all participants in the Global Connections and Exchange Program, a project of the Rotary Club of La Jolla Golden Triangle, California, USA, which administer Internet training labs in six high schools as well as a central training facility in Jalalabad. The effort is funded by a grant from the U.S. State Department as part of a larger initiative to promote technology, curriculum development, and international collaboration.
On 21 September, Abdul Qaum Almas, a member of the Rotary Club of Jalalabad and director of the program, and La Jolla Golden Triangle club member Fary Moini organized a workshop on the importance of polio eradication, attended by the students and community members.
Ajmal Pardis, the regional director of public health, made presentations with his staff, while a few of the students put on a play they had prepared about a young person who became crippled because his parents would not allow him to receive the polio vaccine.
The students left the workshop fired up to design their own fundraising drives, and spent two days visiting schools, businesses, homes, and government and political offices. White T-shirts identified them as participants in the Global Connections and Exchange Program and featured the words "Let's Kick Polio from Afghanistan."
First of its kind
Each team put together a slideshow on their campaigns and returned to the central training facility to share the results. Moini said the team from the College of Education Training lab, led by trainer Sahar Sohrab and team leader Ulfat Kazemi, won top honors for having collected the most.
"All the schools did a great job," she said. "I am extremely proud of them. They are the source of my inspiration and my strength."
Rotary Foundation Trustee Stephen R. Brown, a member of the La Jolla Golden Triangle club, said the students’ eagerness in spreading the word about polio was more significant than the AFA25,000 (US$550) raised. "These kids were armed with information, and they jumped on the opportunity to go out and talk to people about what polio is, and how two drops of vaccine can save lives."
"This activity was the first of its kind in Afghanistan, with students fundraising to save others from polio and tell the Afghan public how to assist in this important cause," Almas added.
Several months earlier, the La Jolla Golden Triangle club gave seed money to the Internet labs to help the students develop service projects in their communities. The students fixed local wells, repaired classroom equipment, and undertook landscaping projects. Brown said natural leaders emerged from the process, which helped the students when it came time to form teams for the polio drive.
He said the program is about much more than just Internet training for the students. "It has become its own unofficial trademark. They are all very proud of being in the program and its community outreach."
Several student leaders have begun taking steps to form an Interact club, Brown said.
Learn more about Rotary's work in eradicating polio.