Monthly Archives: April 2011

How Rotary Got Involved in Polio Eradication!

The story of how Rotary International got involved in polio eradication is one of forward thinking, taking action, controversy and daring to dream.  It runs the gamut of several visionary RI Presidents, key players such as Dr.John Sever of the National Institute of Health, meetings in Evanston with Dr. Albert Sabin and the cooperation and volunteer service from 1.2 million Rotarians around the world.  It’s a story that begins in 1978 and continues on today.  It’s a complicated story about raising almost one billion dollars, stopping wars and working in remote parts of the world.  It’s a story where over two billion children are alive today and polio free.  It’s a story everyone must know and tell.

Some background information to keep in mind:  in the 1950’s there were over 500,000 cases annually of polio worldwide  Each year fifty thousand children would die and thousands more would be crippled or suffer permanent disability.  Even with the Salk and Sabin vaccines that eventually protected the children in the United States, most countries still had thousands of case of polio on into the 1960’s and 1970’s.

And in 1978 some controversial things were happening in Rotary.  The Rotary Club of Duarte, California had their charter cancelled for admitting three women to membership!!  That’s another story for another time.

Now, although I could tell this story I would like you to experience it through the words of PRIPresident Cliff Dochterman (1992-1993).  Please click HERE to read this compelling story.

If you are interested in Rotary history consider joining the Rotary Global History Fellowship.

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Dictionaries Are A Treasure

Dictionaries are a treasure-trove of delight, a resource beyond compare and a necessity.  So it is no surprise that one of my favorite organizations is The Dictionary Project.  Dedicated to helping students become better readers, creative writers and resourceful learners  a personal dictionary is given to students to use in school and at home.  Volunteer organizations around the United States give dictionaries to third graders as this grade is the transition between learning to read and reading to learn.

The idea for The Dictionary Project came from a woman by the name of Annie Plummer who lived in Savannah, Georgia.  Each year she gave dictionaries to some children who went to a nearby school.  In her lifetime she gave away over 17,000 dictionaries.  Around the same time, Bonnie Beeferman from Hilton Head, South Carolina heard of the project and started giving dictionaries to students in Hilton Head and Charleston.  Bonnie received so many requests for dictionaries she asked for help from the community

Enter Mary French, a Charleston mother of two and community volunteer, who started providing dictionaries in Charleston and Summerville with the goal of providing dictionaries to all third graders in South Carolina.  She realized very quickly that this project needed serious funding.  In 1995, together with her husband, she formed a 501(C)(3) and with a Board of Directors, The Dictionary Project was born.

In 2002 The Dictionary Project went national and went on to include students in all 50 states.  Rotary Clubs, Lions, Clubs, Kiwanis, the Grange, the Elks Lodge and many other community organizations sponsor projects where they live.  Distribution of dictionaries to date stands at 14,756,000 with 2,461,000 in 2010 alone.

International projects in Central and South America and Africa are the newest addition to The Dictionary Project.

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Filed under Making A Difference

These Hats Are Noteworthy

Joshua Zecher-Ross, music director at the Cohoes Music Hall is doing his part to make sure children are warm in winter months.  Here he takes a break from conducting the orchestra during a rehearsal for Cabaret at the Cohoes Music Hall to knit a few hats for Hats For A Purpose, our special project to provide winter hats for kids.

Joshua taught himself to knit a few years ago and enjoys the respite it gives him from a busy day.  He also dyes his own wool using, of all things, Kool-Aid.  He uses white wool and various flavors of Kool-Aid to make unique colors.  Joshua reminds us that you must wash the wool throughly after dying.

I was happy to meet Joshua this past weekend and thank him for donating his hats to Hats For A Purpose.

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Hats Come Pouring In

A big surprise awaited me on Friday when I opened up a bag containing 19 Hats For A Purpose – our project to provide handmade knitted, crocheted or loomed  winter hats for children.  A member of the Red Hat Society had been hard at work making these adorable hats.  Every stitch is for a noble purpose.  These hats are woven on a circular loom – fun and fast – decorate with pompoms, flowers or tassels.  The kids are going to love them.  Thank you lovely lady.

Want to get involved?  Don’t know how to knit or crochet?  There are many videos onYouTube – just type knitting or crocheting into the search engine.  You can also post a comment or ask a question on this blog.

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A Powerful Story of Hope

Please take a few minutes and watch this video featuring my friend, Kathryn Cunningham Hall, the founder and president of Power Up Gambia.  I was honored to be Kathryn’s aide at a Rotary Zone Institute in 2008 where she was the keynote speaker.  Her story is powerful – how one person set about the task of raising $300,000. to provide solar panels to a hospital in a remote area of The Gambia – a hospital that had no reliable electricity and where babies were delivered by candlelight.  Now, not only is that hospital solar project complete but an additional clinic serving another 20,000+  people is complete with water and reliable electricity.  It’s amazing what one person with a passion can do.  More about PUG and Kathryn’s story in later posts.  But now, what about you?  What passion would you like to turn into a reality?

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About the Spirit of The Olympic Truce

Whether steeped in Greek mythology, fable, fiction or allegorical, Ekecheiria, or The Olympic Truce captures the imagination.  What we do know is that Greece was in a long and bloody civil war and, based on stories passed down through the years, the kings of three city-states, Elis, Pisa and Sparta, traveled to Delphi, hoping the Oracle could use her mysterious power to find a way to hold the athletic games in Olympia without further bloodshed.  The oracle was the sanctuary dedicated to Apollo and the spokesperson for Apollo was the priestess called the Pythia.

Legend says that the Pythia would fall into a trance allowing Apollo to possess her spirit.  From this state she prophesied about everything from public policy to personal matters. One of the prophesies was that of The Olympic Truce:  every four years the games would be held, war would be suspended, armies would be prohibited from threatening those participating in or attending the Games, legal issues and the death penalty were forbidden.

This was the common basis for peace and harmony among the Greeks and the forerunner to the modern Olympic Games.  Athletes, artists and their families, as well as ordinary citizens would be allowed to travel safely both before, during and after the games.  The sanctuary of Olympia remained a tradition for centuries.

Fast-forward to 1984 when the Hands In Peace organization, inspired by the spirit of Ekecheiria, and using a modern model of the Pentathlon developed for children by the Spacial Dynamics Institute®, began the first of their many Hands In Peace Games.  Aimed at building peace through cooperation and open dialogue these non-competitive athletic events coupled with artistic activities bring children together to work harmoniously in teams to do their personal best.  Shared artistic activities encourage the children to learn about different cultures and to express themselves in a safe environment and develop relationships with those once considered “different.”

The Truce represents a wish for peace and the Hands In Peace Games puts peace into practice.

Pep’s Note – there are as many versions of the Oracle at Delphi, The Truce and the Olympics as there are stars in the sky.  I hope you like this simple version.

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Filed under Moving Towards Peace