Part 2 of our interview with Ramesh Ferris, a modern-day warrior on a mission to eradicate polio.
To honor Rotary’s 108th Anniversary and their efforts to eradicate polio
In Part 1 we spoke with Ramesh Ferris about his story and what keeps him going. Our interview continues here:
It’s often said that writing is a process of discovery. Did you discover anything new about yourself during the time you spent working on your book Better Than a Cure: One Man’s Journey to Free the World of Polio?
I wrote a large portion of my book in 2008 while I was on the road for my Cycle to Walk Polio Campaign where I was hand-cycling 7140kms across Canada from Victoria, BC to Cape Spear, New Foundland and Labrador. As I hand-cycled into different communities I was honoured to have so many opportunities to hear from polio survivors; I learned so much from them. I learned that many people are unaware about polio and the effects it can have on someone, but once they are educated they feel moved to want to help. The more people I met and educated the more I was determined to type out my experiences in hopes to engage others.
My hope one day is that a publisher will want to take on my book to assist me in spreading this message even further: we need to continue to work in making our world polio free.
Ramesh, you live with the effects of polio on a daily basis, but for many others it is a disease so distant that some think it’s been eradicated for years. In what ways can we make polio matter for this audience?
When we eradicate polio it will be the second disease in human history which we will have successfully eradicated, small pox being the first disease eradicated in 1979. Members of the global community have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to free the world’s children of polio and prevent, as the World Health Organization predicts, 10 million children from needlessly having to be paralyzed over the next 40 years. We can be part of human history. Get excited! We are on our final 1% and we are this close to truly accomplishing something monumental.
In what ways are polio awareness campaigns working to reach new audiences?
In 1985 Rotary International establishment its PolioPlus Program and has done a lot of innovative awareness work in communities around the world to raise funds and educational opportunities. This on-the-ground education now includes the use of social media. Rotarians have also been known as the boots on-the-ground volunteer service arm of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) through their participation in National Immunization Days, which have provided over 2 billion children with the polio vaccine since 1985. The partners in the GPEI and other NGOs have joined efforts with local Rotary members and others to help children the world over to live a polio-free life.
Another organization called the Global Poverty Project has a campaign called the End of Polio. I have had the honour of working with them on several occasions. They have had two major successful events – The End of Polio Concert in Perth, Australia, and the Raising Awareness of Polio event at their Global Citizen Festival. The GPP has been successful in working in cooperation with other organizations like Rotary and The Gates Foundation to attract a new generation of globally-minded citizens to take responsibility for global causes such as the fight against polio.
What kind of impact has The Rotary Club had on your life and why do you, as one of the most well-known survivors of polio, believe Rotary can be instrumental in closing the gap?
Rotary clubs in Whitehorse, Yukon were instrumental in providing me the support and linking me with the sponsorships I required to get my Cycle to Walk Campaign on the road in 2008. I feel privileged to now be part of a 1.2 million strong world-wide Rotarian family which is committed and determined to seeing the end of polio.
Rotary can be instrumental in so many ways and at so many levels. They are a well-branded, community-focused organization which has networks of committed and caring community members from the ground level up.
They’ve invested a lot of time in creating relationships with governments around the world to ensure polio eradication remains a top priority everywhere. Most importantly, they recognize that they are part of a team and this is essential for bringing an end to polio.
Lastly, what are some steps the average person can take to help eradicate polio?
(1) Make the decision to get your kids vaccinated and make sure your own immunizations are up to date. A case of polio anywhere in the world is a threat to children everywhere in the world.
(2) Ensure that polio eradication remains in the spotlight in your communities. Write to your local government representatives so it can become part of their agendas.
(3) The cost of the polio vaccine is less than a dollar. Approach the local Rotary Club in your community and start up or participate in a project or community awareness event to raise some funds for PolioPlus. This horrific disease is completely preventable.
(4) When you’re at your local coffee shop, educate your fellow community members about how we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to end polio now. This is history. Be part of it!
Rotary is celebrating their 108th year. Join their World’s Biggest Commercial, Tweet them @EndPolioNow or @Rotary and visit EndPolio.org/Advocacy to help them get world leaders involved in polio eradication.