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The Children Stopped Dying…after Rotary Came

By Eve Conway

President of Rotary in Great Britain and Ireland


These are the powerful words that have stuck in my mind ever since I first heard them mentioned at my Rotary club: “After Rotary drilled the wells, the children have stopped dying!” They are the grateful words of a woman in the Dominican Republic as she recognized and hugged a Rotarian from America who had started a water project to drill wells in local villages.


About 25 per cent of the children there died before the age of five due to contaminated drinking water, falling prey to waterborne diseases.


With money raised by his Rotary club, matched with funds from The Rotary Foundation totaling $10,000, Rotarian Ric Jacobsen implemented the project to drill three wells providing clean water in three villages - and the children stopped dying.


And millions of children around the world “have stopped dying, after Rotary came” thanks to our countless humanitarian projects, made possible through Rotary’s own charity, The Rotary Foundation. This year we are celebrating the centenary of The Rotary Foundation marking one hundred years of our Rotary charity set up for the purpose of “doing good in the world”.



The author poses with medical team in Jawar, India.


American business news TV channel CNBC ranked The Rotary Foundation as number three in its annual list of Top 10 Charities Changing the World in 2016. Through The Rotary Foundation, Rotarians are able to change and save lives – and to stop children dying – across the world and, in the process, our lives are transformed as well by being able to make a difference to our world.


Through The Rotary Foundation, I was able to work with a group of Rotarians in London and Mumbai to start a successful project to stop mothers and babies dying in childbirth. This involved a vocational training team of senior midwives and a pediatrician from London going to India to train local doctors, nurses and village community health workers. In the three years since the project began, there has not been a single maternal death in Jawhar hospital in a poor rural tribal area.


So The Rotary Foundation is something we can be proud of from funding our countless projects to save lives and help communities, to funding our global scholars programme and about 100 Peace Fellowships each year to

eradicating polio.


We are on the brink of a historic milestone in achieving Rotary’s goal of a polio-free world, a campaign we started in 1985 when there were a thousand new cases of polio a day in 125 countries.


Working with our partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, including the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and more recently the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, we have managed to reduce cases of polio by 99.9 per cent, with just 35 cases in 2016 in three countries, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.


And there is hope that we could possibly see the last case of polio in 2017. We need three years of no new cases to declare the world polio-free. That is why Rotary’s Purple4Polio campaign, launched when I became President of Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland, is so vital to raise funds and awareness to finish o. the job.


Rotarians across Great Britain and Ireland have planted almost seven million purple crocus corms, working in partnership with the Royal Horticultural Society’s community-based “Bloom” groups, promoting Rotary’s campaign to eradicate polio. The crocuses will flower around Rotary’s 112th birthday on 23rd February.


We have our Purple4Polio Ambassadors involved in the campaign, including celebrity gardener Alan Titchmarsh, Paralympian, broadcaster and polio survivor Ade Adepitan and TV Presenter Konnie Huq.


Rotarians made a promise to the mothers of the world that their children would stop dying and being crippled by polio and we are now so close to achieving our goal of a polio-free world, ending polio now and forever.


Source: Rotary Magazine (Great Britain and Ireland), March, 2017

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