Polio took a hit at this year's Rotary convention in Sydney, Australia.
First there was the record-breaking climb across the Sydney Harbour Bridge that raised enough money to protect 240,000 kids from polio. On 30 May, two days before the official opening of the convention, 340 participants ascended the bridge, eclipsing the record previously held by Oprah Winfrey for most climbers on the bridge. Waving 278 flags, they also broke the Guinness World Record for most flags flown on a bridge.
Then it was announced that the World's Biggest Commercial, Rotary's public awareness campaign for polio eradication, set a Guinness World Record for largest photo awareness campaign. More than 100,000 people from 170 countries have uploaded their photos, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Bill Gates, Archie Panjabi, Jackie Chan, and many more.
But the biggest news was the $101 million pledged to polio eradication. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott opened the convention on 1 June with a commitment from his government of $100 million to the PolioPlus campaign. Two days later, Sir Emeka Offor, executive vice chair of Chrome Group, announced a $1 million gift to The Rotary Foundation to help end polio.
"Scores of my friends and classmates fell victim to this dreaded disease," said Sir Emeka, who serves as Rotary's PolioPlus ambassador in Nigeria. "As a young man I vowed that I would someday do something significant to end polio in Nigeria."
While Rotary's work to end polio took center stage at the convention, it wasn't the only Rotary initiative getting attention down under. Here are some highlights from the Sydney convention, which ran 1-4 June:
- Providing clean water. Collaboration and partnerships were emphasized at this year's World Water Summit, held 30 May. Global experts in clean water and sanitation urged attendees to join with the private sector, nongovernmental organizations, and governments to work more efficiently and effectively.
- Empowering youth. Australian cricket star Brett Lee, founder of Mewsic, and Maya Ajmera, founder of the Global Fund for Children and former Rotary Scholar, inspired attendees with their dedication to providing a better life for the world's poorest children.
- Promoting peace. Mwila Chigaga, former Rotary Peace Fellow and gender specialist for African Regions at the International Labour Organization, spoke to convention goers about ensuring decent work and equal opportunities for men and women.
- Fighting disease. Renee Saunders, senior public health adviser for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stressed the importance of public-private partnerships in helping to achieve an AIDS-free generation. Professor Martin Silink spoke of the challenges he overcame — with Rotary's help — to make diabetes a United Nations resolution.