R. I. Record-Breaking Bridge Climb

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Rotary Breaks Records, Puts Polio on Notice at Sydney Convention

During Friday's world record-breaking Sydney Harbour bridge climb, Rotary members raised enough money to protect 240,000 kids from polio. Photo Credit: Rotary International/Alyce Henson

4 June 2014 - Polio took a hit at this year's Rotary convention in Sydney, Australia.

First there was the record-breaking climb across the Sydney Harbour Bridge that raised enough money to protect 240,000 kids from polio. On 30 May, two days before the official opening of the convention, 340 participants ascended the bridge, eclipsing the record previously held by Oprah Winfrey for most climbers on the bridge. Waving 278 flags, they also broke the Guinness World Record for most flags flown on a bridge.

Then it was announced that the World's Biggest Commercial, Rotary's public awareness campaign for polio eradication, set a Guinness World Record for largest photo awareness campaign. More than 100,000 people from 170 countries have uploaded their photos, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Bill Gates, Archie Panjabi, Jackie Chan, and many more.

But the biggest news was the $101 million pledged to polio eradication. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott opened the convention on 1 June with a commitment from his government of $100 million to the PolioPlus campaign.

Two days later, Sir Emeka Offor, executive vice chair of Chrome Group, announced a $1 million gift to The Rotary Foundation to help end polio.
"Scores of my friends and classmates fell victim to this dreaded disease," said Sir Emeka, who serves as Rotary's PolioPlus ambassador in Nigeria. "As a young man I vowed that I would someday do something significant to end polio in Nigeria."

While Rotary's work to end polio took center stage at the convention, it wasn't the only Rotary initiative getting attention down under. Here are some highlights from the Sydney convention, which ran 1-4 June:

• Providing clean water. Collaboration and partnerships were emphasized at this year'sWorld Water Summit, held 30 May. Global experts in clean water and sanitation urged attendees to join with the private sector, nongovernmental organizations, and governments to work more efficiently and effectively.

• Empowering youth. Australian cricket star Brett Lee, founder of Mewsic, and Maya Ajmera, founder of the Global Fund for Children and former Rotary Scholar, inspired attendees with their dedication to providing a better life for the world's poorest children.

• Promoting peace. Mwila Chigaga, former Rotary Peace Fellow and gender specialist for African Regions at the International Labour Organization, spoke to convention goers about ensuring decent work and equal opportunities for men and women.

• Fighting disease.

• Renee Saunders, senior public health adviser for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stressed the importance of public-private partnerships in helping to achieve an AIDS-free generation.

• Professor Martin Silink spoke of the challenges he overcame — with Rotary's help — to make diabetes a United Nations resolution.

Peace Corps Acting Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet and Rotary International General Secretary John Hewko signed the letter of collaboration on Monday, 5 May, at Rotary's headquarters during a ceremony that was attended by RI President Ron Burton and RPCV Rotary staff.

In his remarks to the audience, Burton applauded the collaboration and both organizations' commitments to service.

"Today's announcement is particularly meaningful for me because I come from a family of Rotarians," said Hessler-Radelet, referring to her father, grandfather, and aunt. "We are eager to join together in common efforts to inspire volunteerism across the country and around the world."

Hewko noted how both organizations are committed to improving lives and building stronger communities by addressing the root causes of violence and conflict, such as poverty, illiteracy, disease, and lack of access to clean water and sanitation.

The two organizations also agreed to explore expanding the collaboration to more countries based on the results of the pilot. Rotary will enlist the support of its members in recruiting Peace Corps volunteers and involving returned Peace Corps volunteers in service projects at home.

ROTARY MEMBERS MADE COLLABORATION POSSIBLE

Hessler-Radelet credited Rotary members in the Denver area, particularly returned Peace Corps volunteers Sue Fox, Valerie Hopkins, and Steve Werner, with helping to make the collaboration possible.

The three Rotarians, who attended the signing, are members of the District 5450 Rotary-Peace Corps Alliance Committee, which has sought a formal agreement between the two organizations since 2010.

Werner said they wanted to create an official relationship to make it easier for Rotary clubs and Peace Corps volunteers to connect. "[The letter] ensures compatibility and a shared value system," he added.

Jesse Davis, one of more than a dozen Rotary employees who are returned Peace Corps volunteers, said he hopes the partnership inspires more like it around the world.

"While serving as a Peace Corps response volunteer in Panama, I found myself working with the local Rotary club on countless occasions. They were an integral partner in my work," he said.

STRENGTHENING CONNECTIONS - The letter of collaboration not only officially recognizes the partnership between the two organizations, but also encourages Rotary clubs and Peace Corps volunteers to expand the connections already in place.

In Togo, Peace Corps volunteers Daniel Brown and David Gooze have teamed up with Rotary and other partners in the United States and Togo to distribute more than 5,000 soccer balls to disadvantaged youth. They are organizing 'More Than Just a Game' sessions, which use soccer as a medium to teach children about malaria prevention.

"It's just one example of how Rotary and Peace Corps can collaborate on the ground to achieve lasting impact in the communities where we work," Hessler-Radelet said. Within the Philippines, Thailand, and Togo, Peace Corps posts and Rotary districts will coordinate at the country level with support from the headquarters of both organizations.

Local Rotary clubs interested in working with Peace Corps volunteers should contact their district governors. Clubs located elsewhere should work through their Rotary counterparts in the pilot countries.

Ask your Club President how you can support peace through Rotary. Learn about the Rotarian Action Group for Peace.

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