Today we're happy to share our last Polio story in honour of End Polio Now by Bill Howitt. As you read these stories, if you feel inspired to help in the fight against Polio please consider donating here

Today we're happy to share our last Polio story in honour of End Polio Now by Bill Howitt. As you read these stories, if you feel inspired to help in the fight against Polio please consider donating here

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will triple your donation. That means every dollar has 3 times the impact. If you want to do even more, consider joining a Rotary Club so that you can help change lives here and around the world.

In 2004, Rotary was concentrating on Polio in Africa and the call was out for volunteers. Members were chosen from east of the Mississippi to meet in Amsterdam to fly as a group to Cairo, Egypt. All of the volunteers brought an extra suitcase filled with children's clothing to be donated to a local orphanage.

In Egypt, Bill remembers gathering every morning with fellow Rotarians in yellow shirts waiting to be transported by bus to administer vaccines. "We were counted each and every time we got on the bus and again when we got off the bus. We were heavily protected by army personnel – one army truck led the bus and another followed closely behind," says Bill.

The group was cautious since before their arrival, there were many threats against their safety. A little earlier, a tourist bus was attacked, some passengers were taken and held for ransom and others were murdered.

Bill says, "Part of our difficulty was that we were using a "live" serum. The serum could not be frozen but had to be kept cold and would get warm if kept in your hand for too long. Available refrigeration was rare in Africa, so it was easy for those who wanted to harm us to know where we were picking serum up and where we were administering the injections. We were sitting ducks, so the army always went into the homes first as we waited in the bus, hoping they had cleared out any potential threats."

To easily identify homes with young children, another Rotary group had gone ahead of them in the weeks before they arrived and marked each doorway. The chalk marking would signal to Rotarians that a child under 5 lived there.

Everyone on the trip was also assigned an assistant who spoke the language. Bill was particularly impressed with his assistant, a young pharmacy student who spoke perfect English and several other languages and dialects.

Their group travelled on a barge up the Nile stopping along the way at small villages to administer the vaccine. Out of respect for the local people and the chief, the volunteers remained on the barge until the chief would welcome them ashore. Money and gifts would always be exchanged. Soon after, 50-100 children would appear. With the help of two drops and countless Rotary members, those children from remote villages would be safe from the poliovirus.

"This was very tiring work," explains Bill, "but the Red Cross was there to feed us at noon. Boxes of bread and fruit, as well as goat meat, were normal for midday."

Bill's experience helped change the story of numerous children in Africa, from the little ones who received the clothing donations, to all of the children who received the vaccine. Each story that we shared as we approach World Polio Day demonstrates the passion that Rotarians have to heal the world of this curable disease at any cost, including their safety.

It has been 16 years since Bill visited Africa to administer this life-saving vaccine. This year, on August 25th, The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that transmission of the wild poliovirus has officially been stopped in all 47 countries of its African region! This is a historic and vital step toward the global eradication of Polio, which is Rotary's top priority.

We're so proud of Rotarian's perseverance and the support of the Gates Foundation for everything that they've done so that we can be "this close" to living in a world without Polio. The fight continues, and Rotarians will continue to step up to this global challenge.

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