Rotary group heads to Ethiopia to help end polio

Four Goldenites are about to embark on an arduous journey to help their fellow man through the Rotary End Polio Now initiative.

Four Goldenites are about to embark on an arduous journey to help their fellow man through the Rotary End Polio Now initiative.

Bill Braisher, Tracy Fedor, Greg Ehman, and his 13-year-old daughter Madison Ehman are leaving for Ethiopia on Halloween for a 10-day trip to help eradicate polio.

“Ethiopia still has cases of polio. It’s been declared polio free but they still have to continue for five years with vaccinations. This is a mission comprised of people from Canada and the U.S., and we’re going to remote villages to administer the vaccination program,” said Greg.

The vaccination consists of drops that have to be administered, ideally, every year for five years — which is why they have a five year commitment in Ethiopia despite it being declared polio free.

Greg’s wife, who has gone on Rotary trips in the past, had originally planned to go to Ethiopia, but stepped back to let her daughter go instead.

“My parents got the invitation, and my dad asked if I’d be interested in going,” said Madison. “It seemed like a really neat way to get involved with Rotary. I really like doing things with Rotary.”

Rotary has been involved in the eradication of polio since 1979 when they first took on a project to vaccinate more than six million children in the Philippines. In 1985 the organization launched PolioPlus, the first and largest internationally co-ordinated private-sector support of a public health initiative. It came with an initial pledge of $120 million.

“They made a decision that this was going to be their single focus, to eradicate polio around the world. Today there’s only three polio-endemic countries left, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria,” said Greg. “We’re down to the final push, but that’s also the toughest areas to get. Polio is still only a plane ride away. All it takes is a transmission of someone who has it from one country to another.”

The group will be meeting up with other Rotarians in Ethiopia, and will spend the first five days touring cities and partnering agencies, and the next five days in remote villages, going door to door to administer the vaccine.

And although this trip is dedicated to the eradication of polio, the local Rotarians are also taking the opportunity offer a different kind of help.

“We’re going to a developing country, and they don’t have the things that we have. So Golden Minor Soccer has donated all of their excess soccer jerseys. So we’re taking 216 soccer jerseys in various sizes. And the Golden Rotary Club has also donated 50 soccer balls. We’ll be giving those out,” said Greg.