Category Archives: Thanks for Life – End Polio Now

Rotary in London on TV

Rotary in London featured on television twice over the Remembrance Weekend in 2018.

The first appearance was in the Lord Mayor’s Show on Saturday 10 November 2018 where some 25 Rotarians joined the parade with a traction engine, emphasising Rotary’s work in eradicating Polio from the world.  Two Rotary Polio Ambassadors – Konnie Huq and Anne Wafula Strike – we interviewed by the BBC as the parade moved through the streets of the City of London.

The second appearance was in the Remembrance Sunday Parade at the Cenotaph in Whitehall.  A significant group of Rotarians were seen in a telephoto long shot which was also broadcast by the BBC.

District Governor Mike Wren said, “I am delighted that Rotary’s contribution to our society is being recognised in this way.”

DG Helen leads a toast to Purple4Polio

District Governor Helen proposed a toast to the Eradication of Polio throughout the world at the Tea Party held specially to celebrate Rotary’s progress on eradicating the disease. The event was also the “Media Launch” of the Purple4Polio campaign and coincided with International Women’s Day.

Featured guests at the event included Jane Garvey, Woman’s Hour Presenter for BBC Radio 4, Konnie Huq who used to present Blue Peter, Emily Buchanan who used to be a World Affairs Correspondent for the BBC, Julia Roberts a polio survivor who became a professional dancer and TV Presenter, Bethany Hare who leads the Bethany Smiles Charity, and the principle sponsors Somnath Saha (CEO Typhoo Tea) and Liz Baker from Wilkin and Sons – makers of Tiptree Jams and Preserves.

RIBI was there in force with RIBI President Eve Conway, Janine Birtwhistle, and James Bolton doing an excellent job on the social media. Professional videographer Jonnie Allan recorded the whole event and the many interviews, ably supported by BBC Producer Helen Shreeve.

After short presentations from all the principle players, there was a tea-tasting organised by Typhoo, and then the specially baked celebration cake, made by a former Rotary Young Chef champion and which contained Tiptree preserves, was cut.  Deaba was also there, serving refreshments to ‘fill out the corners’.

York Gate was packed to capacity with more than 70 people present, and the event scored an enormous number of hits whilst trending strongly on social media.

Polio Planting Programme

Many Rotarians from our District and further afield, described by the London Live Freeview TV Channel as an “army of volunteers”, assembled at the Benugo Cafe in Regents Park, Central London, before planting our ‘thousands’ of crocus corms on Friday 9 December 2016.

As well as members of our District, we had Ade Adepitan, Konnie Huq, Julia Roberts and Anne Wafula-Strike who are all Rotary International Polio Eradication Ambassadors. Stefan Levy of London Live was also on the scene interviewing the celebrities for the live broadcast.

With Judith Diment, the Rotary International Polio Task Force Advocacy leader lending important support to the event, as well as RIBI President Eve Conway – complete with her teddy bear – this was significant exposure of our work in the media.

And there was even more good news when we learned that there had been no new cases of polio recorded in the world that week, meaning that the total stayed at 34 for the year to date.

Science Museum Supports Polio Eradication


At a special “Lates” evening at the Science Museum dealing with contagious diseases in 21st Century, Rotary International featured with its major successes in the field of Polio Eradication.

As well as a large stand supported by District Governor Helen and volunteer Rotarians from several parts of Great Britain and Ireland, Rotarian Judith Diment(left), leader of the Rotary International Polio Advocacy Task Force, was given a one hour slot in the main lecture theatre.  She was supported by two broadcasters Konnie Huq (centre) and Julia Roberts (the dancer – not the film star!) who had contracted Polio Myelitis as a child. The Rotary International Great Britain and Ireland President Eve Conway and our past Rotary International Main Board Director Peter Offer were also in the audience.


The queue to enter the Science Museum stretched around the block, and the main galleries were packed with young professionals.  Many knew very little about polio and were amazed when told that Polio is only a plane ride away from our shores.  Those on the stand thought that this was a really worthwhile effort in the week of World Polio Eradication Day.

Polio Event in Central London


Members of the District Team and representatives of the media met at the Corinthia Hotel in Central London on World Polio Day, 24 October 2016, to talk about the final stages of Rotary International’s signature project – Polio Eradication.

With input from Rotary’s leaders in Great Britain and Ireland, and Rotary’s worldwide Polio Eradication Advocate Judith Diment, supported by London’s Rotary Foundation Chairman Tom Hunt, the evening was full of useful information and comment.


In particular, Gautum Lewis (above on the left), a child polio sufferer in Calcutta/Kolkota, moved the audience with the story of his early life and with his insight into the future for those who suffered polio in their youth.

Feeling on top of the world


DOMECLIMB2Following an arduous climb with other Rotarians from the London District, our District Governor Toni Finkel finally conquered the summit of the O2 Dome near North Greenwich in London. You can support Toni through

DOMECLIMB1On reaching “terra firma” once again, a slightly breathless Toni declared that the journey down was less tiring!


The event was a fundraiser for Rotary’s campaign to “End Polio Now”.  Whereas, when we launched the campaign in 1985, we were expecting one thousand cases per day, the total number of cases in 2015 was just 74, and so far this year there have been just two cases in Pakistan.  The project is not coming to an end however, as there is still much to do.  The funds raised for the climb will be matched twice over by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Rotary Gets Proper Polio Credit


A distinguished group of people, many with a personal interest in polio, gathered at the House of Commons on Tuedsay 6 May 2014 to hear about the progress that Rotary has been making on the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

sharmaThe meeting started with The Hon Virendra Sharma MP announcing the principle achievement being celebrated was the brilliant news that India is now officially certificated as being Polio-Free. The last recorded case in India occured in February 2011, so the country has been free of polio for more than 3 years. Granting the certificate to India meant that the whole of South East Asia is now clear, and Rotary International was given full recognition for its role in this achievement.

scottRotarian Bob Scott, Chairman of Rotary International’s Polio Plus Committee gave an update on the worldwide position, and the steps that had been taken around the world from the original pilot programme in the 1970s in the Philippines, through the worldwide launch in 1985 and ended with a restatement of the certificate for South East Asia. In the audience were representatives from India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Indonesia, along with major donors and campaigners.

greeningNext to the microphone was Secretary of State for International Development The Rt Hon Justine Greening MP (and a member of the Rotary Club of Putney), who described how a world without polio was now tantalisingly close. Just five years ago, India accounted for more than half the world’s children contracting polio. The commitment of the UK Government to provide up to £300m over the next 5 years to the project was also confirmed. Between now and the target 2018 End Date, it is estimated that the project will prevent 8 million potential cases of polio that would have occured without Rotary International’s initiative. Not having those cases would provide economic benefits in the order of over £31bn.

aylwardDr Bruce Aylward, Assistant Director General of the World Health Organisation, provided up to date information on Pakistan where 12 immunisation initiatives have taken place so far this year without a single fatality. He had provided this story to the media but it had not been published. He described how the project would never have started if it had not been for Rotary International, and although big supporters had joined when we were winning, they would never have come along without the long term dedication and determination of Rotary International. The estimates of what the project will cost in total is now $10-$15bn, but the payback in the polio countries will be in the order of $50bn, and for the world as a whole in the order of $100bn. We have to continue because it just makes sense to get there.

kennyJohn Kenny, Chair or the Trustees of the Rotary Foundation reminded those present that although this was a celebration to be remembered, the war was still not yet won. We must copy the determination of the Rotarians in India who did not lose heart but remained united and unflagging in their support.

We then heard from two polio survivors who brought a serious note to the proceedings. Bina Patel had contracted polio in Kenya at the age of two. Also we heard from Arun Patel, a polio victim from the age of one, and today a Rotarian in the Rotary Club of Dagenham. Many survivors are alive today thanks to the care that they received whilst suffering from polio, and they also need the concern and attention of Rotarians. We need to follow Arun’s personal example – he has already raised almost $2m for the charity he started – Polio Children.

group2In the previous week, a group of 5 Rotary Scholars at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine had provided a seminar on Rotary International’s Polio Eradication Project, and they were all present at the House of Commons with some of the other Rotary Scholars in London.

The BBC had featured the project that morning on the Today programme with John Humphrys interviewing Dr Bruce Aylward. Dr Aylward was able to explain that although Afghanistan and Pakistan were listed as polio endemic, the disease is now isolated to one mountainous border region between the two countries. The cure to the problem was travel control – not travel prevention. Allowing travellers to get free immunisations well before they travel between and around the two countries would greatly assist in clearing the disease from both countries.


Watch Rotaract in London’s Brilliant Video

The Rotaract Clubs in London got together and made a video for their party to support Rotary’s End Polio Now campaign on Rotary’s Birthday. Credit goes to the brains behind the video – Alexandru Calcan, the composer (and performer) of the song – Michael Bianco, and all the London Rotaractors who took part. Well done Rotaract!! Click here or on the snapshot below to watch the video.rotaract_video

Some Good News from India!!!


By kind permission of Rotary International in Great Britain and Irelandpolio-free-indiaOn Monday 13 January 2014, a significant milestone in the worldwide effort to eradicate polio was reached when India celebrated three years since its last new case of the disease. Official certification of the country as polio free will take place in March and a celebration is planned in February.

Long considered the hardest place in the world from which to eradicate polio, India is now a case study for mounting a successful disease response effort under complex circumstances.

In 2009, India was home to almost half of the world’s polio cases. The country then launched a comprehensive polio eradication effort to create a health infrastructure to eliminate the disease. This included a surveillance network of more than 33,000 sites, an army of 2.3 million vaccinators deployed during national immunisation days and strategies to reach children in the country’s hardest to reach areas. This resulted in the delivery of 900 million doses of polio vaccine in 2011 alone.

President of Rotary International in Great Britain & Ireland, Nan McCreadie said: “Rotary has worked tirelessly for many years to eradicate polio and we congratulate India on this tremendous achievement. It is a significant milestone in the history of public health and will have a lasting impact on the health of the country’s children. The lessons learned from India’s success can now be replicated in other countries in order to further eliminate the disease.”

Rotary has been at the forefront of the fight to end polio since it helped launch the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in the 1980’s. This year, every dollar raised for the End Polio Now campaign will be match funded 2:1 by the Make History Today campaign, which will match funds to a total of US$35 million per year until 2018.

Friday, 10 January 2014

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