'Volunteer work is an enormous renewable resource for social, economic, and environmental problem-solving throughout the world. But the lack of solid data on volunteering has left it under-valued and its full potentials unrealized', Lester M. Salamon.
There are countless voluntary organisations in so many countries around the world and the work they do is invaluable.
One such organisation is Rotary International. I've been a member for over twenty-five years. Although I volunteer to help whenever possible, whatever I can contribute is a very small drop in the ocean that contributes to the work of Rotarians worldwide.
Did you know that Rotary launched its PolioPlus programme in 1985? It was the first initiative to tackle global polio eradication through the mass vaccination of children. Rotary has contributed more than $1.7 billion and countless volunteer hours to immunize more than 2.5 billion children in 122 countries. In addition, Rotary’s advocacy efforts have played a role in decisions by donor governments to contribute more than $7.2 billion to the effort.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative, formed in 1988, is a public-private partnership that includes Rotary, the World Health Organization, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and governments of the world. Rotary’s focus is advocacy, fundraising, volunteer recruitment and awareness building.
Many people will know about the thousands of people who have been struck down by Polio during their lives. Rotary's mission is to rid the planet of this terrible disease and we're so close. The statistics on 21 March this year tell a heartening story. There have only been five new cases of the Wild Polio Virus reported so far this year in Afghanistan. Despite there having been twenty-two children paralysed with Polio in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2017, one has been reported in Pakistan this year. and seven in Afghanistan. Rotarians worldwide not only raise money to help fight the disease, they also travel to affected countries to immunise thousands of new babies each year. Immunisation is the only way to ensure that Polio can be eradicated from the world forever.
Polio is one of Rotary's longest standing and most significant efforts. We will not stop working until we reach zero. Any donation that is made can help to:
- Immunise 400 million children against polio every year
- Improve surveillance systems to diagnose new cases and detect the poliovirus in the environment
- Hire more than 150,000 health workers to find and vaccinate every child.
But can Rotary sustain this effort? As in many other voluntary organisations, Rotarians are getting older and will need to make significant changes if they are to attract a younger generation to join their ranks. Many people believe that Rotarians are stuffy older men in suits who attend weekly meetings and are steeped in tradition. It's true that some still exist but many of these older Rotarians are young at heart and still have a valuable contribution to make by way of mentoring younger people by sharing their wisdom. And changes are afoot with many clubs thinking of exciting projects that will attract younger people to join in and contribute to one or other of the six pillars of Rotary that are the focus this coming year, namely:
- Peace and Conflict Resolution
- Disease Prevention and Treatment
- Water and Sanitation
- Maternal and Child Health
- Basic Education and Literacy
- Economic and Community Development
You might think that the time is right to contribute to your community, both locally and internationally. If you have a great idea for 'giving service above self' - the Rotary motto - then get in touch and share your ideas with us. You might be just the person, or group of people, able to regenerate a fabulous organisation that could do with some new ideas, new, younger volunteers and help us to have even more fun than we already have!
And, who knows, you might even like to become part of an international project like this one.
After all, it's your thoughts that count ...