By Dan Rankin
At the Pyramid Centre on Monday, Oct. 24, World Polio Day, the Rotary Club of St. Marys hosted a dinner and presentation by Rotary UN Representative Doug Vincent, who is also a Charter Member and Past President of the Woodstock-Oxford Rotary Club, with 31 years perfect attendance.
Vincent gave a colourful presentation on Rotary initiatives he has taken part in around the world, using a number of magic tricks to drive home the point that through one person’s idea, effort and investment, many great things have taken place.
Rotary District Governor Diane Chandler, who helped introduced Vincent also spoke on the theme, drawing comparisons to the actions of Chicago businessman Paul Harris, who founded Rotary in 1905.
“He wanted to do some networking, and share some ideas, and give back to his community,” she said. “The group became known as Rotary because they rotated their meeting places. They decided to share that idea, and today we have over 1.2 million Rotarians in over 35,000 Rotary Clubs all over the world.”
Then, 100 years ago, another Rotarian named Arch Klumph had an idea, she said. “His idea was, we should start an endowment fund to do good in the world,” said Chandler. “This year, we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the beginning of that endowment fund which is now known as the Rotary Foundation. That endowment fund started with $26.50. 100 years later, it is one of the top-rated foundations in the entire world. We have changed the lives of millions of people all across the globe.”
In his speech, Vincent told the story of Benny Santos, a Rotarian from the Philippines who he has met several times. In the 1970s, Santos shared an idea with his club members, “to do a project in the poor community to go out and inoculate children against [polio]. It was so successful, they had to call in nursing students from the local hospital. It spilled over to neighbouring Rotary clubs, and then it became a district project,” Vincent said.
Eventually, Rotary International’s polio eradication project became the world’s largest health initiative, Vincent said, adding that Rotarians have put over $1 billion into polio inoculations. Bill Gates has separately donated $600 million, he added.
Thirty years ago, around 350,000 children and young adults were affected and crippled by polio annually, he said. As of the most recent report, there have been 32 cases so far this year, he said. “Last year, there were 74 to date at the same time, and every year it’s going in half,” said Vincent. The number of countries with reported cases has dwindled to three: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.
“We’re one percent away from eradicating polio,” he said. “It all started because a Rotarian in a Rotary Club in the Philippines had an idea.”
He closed by encouraging his audience to learn more about the “magic” of matching grants, and consider contributing to these investments that he said are making a major difference in the world.
“You have the power within Rotary to do extraordinary things and make a difference in the world,” he said.
Tickets for the Rotary Club of St. Marys’ wine and cheese fundraiser, scheduled to take place at the Pyramid Centre on Nov. 12 are on sale now.