This post was originally produced for Forbes.
Alem Mumuni contracted polio at the age of two in Ghana, a place where few people ever overcome the burdens of the crippling disease, but he has beaten them all, becoming a well educated, world-class athlete.
The continent of Africa may soon–if it hasn’t already–experience its final case of polio. The mere handful of polio cases this year suggest the virus is on the ropes in Nigeria, the last country in Africa where the disease is considered endemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). The global fight against polio was begun about thirty years ago by Rotary International.
Mumuni has become a potent spokesman for Rotary International, speaking out about the difficulties of the disease and inspiring people to support the campaign to end polio not only in Africa, but globally. As a Paralympic athlete from a developing country, he is also in a constant battle to raise money to fund his travel and training. Readers may learn more about his crowdfunding campaign on Kriticalmass.
With the help of his British coach, Alex Main, Mumuni has established the Alem Foundation, which serves to fund his training and travel and to inspire people around the world to rise above their challenges. The Salt Lake City Rotary Club (of which I am a member) will be hosting Mumuni during his U.S. visit.
Dr. Carol Pandak, director of Rotary International’s polio plus program, is leading the charge to end polio around the world with Africa being the region most likely to celebrate the end of polio. She, along with Main and Mumuni will join me on Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 11:00 AM to discuss polio in Africa and Mumuni’s inspiring efforts to compete in the Paralympic Games in Rio Di Janeiro in 2016. Tune in then to watch the interview live.
[At the time of the interview, I will insert a video player here. Bookmark this page and come back then to watch the interview live. Replays will be available here thereafter.]
More about the Alem Foundation:
By getting #Alem2Rio2016, the Alem Foundation aims at raising awareness and support for its mission, that is to provide opportunities to the young underprivileged children of Ghana and to change negative perceptions towards people with physical disabilities.
Alem’s life challenges and achievements have enabled him to build a legacy that has already changed many people’s perceptions and inspired younger generations.
Competing in Rio will allow him to become an even greater source of inspiration for disabled and marginalized children in Ghana and around the world and it will allow him to build an even stronger community of dedicated supporters for the Foundation.
Alem Mumuni with his coach Alex Main
The Alem Foundation was born in 2012 when Alex and Alem joined forces on their journey to London 2012 Paralympic Games.
Alex embarked on a remarkable journey moving to Ghana to coach first ever Ghanaian Paralympic team. Qualifying for the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Alex became Britain’s youngest ever female Paralympic coach.
Alem is a polio survivor and professional sportsman. Contracting polio at the age of 2 and crawling for 8 years, he knew the only way to be an active member of society was to be educated and ambitious. Completing his primary, secondary, tertiary education in Ghana he also excelled at disabled football and cycling, representing Ghana both at a national level. Focusing on his cycling he has represented Ghana at the London Paralympics and won 3 UCI African Paracycling Championships in the C2 class. He is now training hard to qualify for the Rio Paralympic Games in Rio.
On their journey to the London 2012 Paralympics, Ghanaian paracyclist Alem Mumuni and his British coach Alex Main created the Alem Foundation. By providing education opportunities, the grassroots charity looks not only to help the underprivileged of Ghana, but to inspire a change of perceptions towards disabled people. Over 2 million Persons with Disability (PWDs) in Ghana are treated as outcasts in society. Only education can change this, but access is limited. The foundation’s goal is to provide day-care centers across Ghana – starting in Akosombo village – that will improve access to primary education and provide much-needed healthcare to pre-school infants.
To date, the Alem Foundation has provided 26 children with Schools Scholarships for their primary education and funded life-saving surgery to a young girl suffering from Osteomyelitis. Alem continues to care for and inspire the local community, whilst being an ambassador for disabled people in Ghana. Alex now based in London, works professionally as an elite Personal Trainer and heads up fundraising efforts for the Alem Foundation.
The Alem Foundation is currently raising the much needed funds to get Alem to his 6 qualifying events in order to qualify for the Rio Games. With this exposure we are able to work alongside partners to help inspire the next generation of children and change the negative perceptions towards disability in Ghana.
More about Rotary:
Rotary is a global network of volunteer leaders dedicated to tackling the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges. Rotary connects 1.2 million members from more than 200 countries and geographical areas. Their work impacts lives at both the local and international levels, from helping families in need in their own communities to working toward a polio-free world.
More about Polio Plus:
Rotary launched its PolioPlus program, the first initiative to tackle global polio eradication, in 1985. Since then, Rotary and its partners have helped reduce the number of annual cases from 350,000 to fewer than 250 and remain committed until every child is safe from the disease. Rotary has contributed more than US$1.2 billion and countless volunteer hours to protect more than 2 billion children in 122 countries. In addition, Rotary’s advocacy efforts have played a role in decisions by donor governments to contribute over $9 billion to the effort.
Carol Pandak, Rotary International
Carol Pandak is the Director of Rotary’s global PolioPlus program, a position she has held since 2000. Carol has more than 20 years’ experience working for national and international nonprofit organizations, including Rotary International and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Carol directs all aspects of Rotary’s polio eradication activities including: advocacy in donor, polio-affected and at-risk countries; grant-making; and, program management. She also serves as the focal point for Rotary’s Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) partners, including WHO, UNICEF, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. She also supports Rotary’s International PolioPlus Committee, the volunteer committee that provides strategic guidance to the PolioPlus program.
At the American Academy of Pediatrics, Carol directed the Community Access to Child Health (CATCH) program, a national program that worked to increase access to healthcare for all children in the United States.
Carol has a doctorate degree in Adult Education and is a published author. She has been a lecturer for the International Studies Program in the College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University, where for 10 years she taught a course on civil society and NGOs from an international perspective.
Carol lives in Chicago, Illinois. She is a member of the Evanston Lighthouse Rotary Club and is Past President of the Schaumburg AM Rotary Club.
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