Two young people set 'shining example' in polio fight
Joshua Kim, 14, and Anna Zanotti, 10, are praised during the third plenary session on 23 June for their efforts to help Rotary eradicate polio worldwide. Rotary Images/Monika Lozinska-Lee
Two children who decided to do what they could to rid the world of polio received thunderous applause 23 June during the third plenary session of the 2009 RI Convention in Birmingham, England.
Rotary Foundation Trustee Chair Jonathan B. Majiyagbe brought Joshua Kim, a 14-year-old from Northbrook, Illinois, USA, and Anna Zanotti, a 10-year-old from Mantova, Italy, on stage to "share with you the story of these two young people who have taken Rotary to heart."
Anna and her fifth-grade classmates in Mantova raised about US$164 in only two days after her mother, Rotarian Patrizia Zanotti, told her how Rotary and its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative have worked since 1988 to eradicate the disease. Cases of polio worldwide have declined by more than 99 percent, her mother explained, but the disease still threatens children in parts of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, and more money is needed to finish the job.
"I thought of how many children like me I could save with my money," said Anna, who came up with the idea of collecting donations as a class project. She used recycled chocolate boxes to make her own collection boxes, one of which she brought on stage.
She and her classmates thought of the donations in terms of actual lives, each represented by the 60 cents it costs to immunize a child. "Imagine a chocolate box that contains so many lives," she said.
Anna's actions resonated with the Italian minister of education, Mariastella Gelmini, who heard of her collection and issued a statement in support of Rotary's polio eradication work.
"I am delighted for Anna and other young people that they understand the great issues of the world and with full energy they are able to help children much less fortunate than themselves," Gelmini's statement read. "I support Rotary in this goal and will continue to do all that I can to help them achieve this."
Joshua, an eighth grader at Wood Oaks Junior High School in Northbrook, became interested in the fight against polio when he learned that his father's Rotary club had donated $10,000 for polio eradication to The Rotary Foundation. After he read an article on the End Polio Now campaign in The Rotarian, Joshua decided to donate his entire savings of $1,200 -- seven years of weekly allowance and money earned from neighborhood jobs -- to the effort.
"Joshua believes it really is important for people who have money to step forward and make a contribution to help needy people," said his father, Tony Kim.
"I wanted to be part of that effort because Rotary is so very close to eradicating it," Joshua said.
Majiyagbe praised "these two shining examples of young people who are giving of themselves and inspiring others to help other children."