Today, the Rotarians visiting Ethiopia for the National Immunization Day this week got serious with the World Health Organization and UNICEF to learn how we’ll end polio once and for all.
We started the day with a discussion with Dr. Fiona Braka of the World Health Organization here in Ethiopia. She set the stage by explaining that there have been three recent outbreaks of polio on the African continent, one of which involves the Horn of Africa, more specifically Somalia, with some cases here in Ethiopia.
Many of the people in Somalia and the Somali region of Ethiopia are nomadic people who move around, crossing borders to which they are largely oblivious, following the rain. Concentrated in Somalia, they have experienced about 200 cases in this outbreak, which began in 2013.
The last case in Ethiopia was in January of 2014, now 11 months ago. Hardly cause to rest on laurels, the effort to wipe out polio here has focused largely on nomadic or pastoralist communities. As health workers move from house to house they will often mark visibly on the house an indication of the date and number of children immunized. One famous photo making the rounds here is of a health worker marking the camel of family in transit.
Later in the day, a smaller group of us had the opportunity to sit down with James MQueen Patterson, Patrizia Digiovanni and Shalini Rozario of UNICEF.
UNICEF Team: Almaz Merdekios, Immunization Officer, James McQueen Patterson, Health Specialist, Patrizia Digiovanni, Deputy Representative, Mohammed Diaaeldin Omer, Health and Nutrition Specialist and Shalini Rozario, Communication Specialist.
This was a data rich environment. James explained that there are about 13 million children in Ethiopia who need to be immunized several times. In addition, the country has pulled out all the stops to ensure that every child is immunized in the Somali region of Ethiopia.
In the relative short course of this outbreak, new measurement data shows that vaccinations improved dramatically and yet have already started to taper off as the population and the health care workers and volunteers become somewhat fatigued by the frequent effort to immunize.
The last case of polio in Africa was in late August, about 70 days ago. From our discussions with UNICEF staff, we learned that it is way to soon to celebrate. The monitoring and surveillance in Somalia and similar places in Ethiopia simply don’t allow the confidence that every single case that happens is diagnosed and reported.
Note that some people who get polio, don’t get paralyzed, meaning that they may have no idea that they’ve had polio. As aresult of these and other factors, James suggested that we need to be at least six months past the last case to begin seriously hoping that the last case is the last case.
Between the two discussions, the trip participants scattered around Addis to check on Rotary supported projects. The group I joined visited a school where Rotary had helped fund a water filter to ensure that the kids always have safe, clean drinking water.
The school is part of the Muday Association, run by Muday Mitiku Meles.
Muday founded the school more than a decade ago as a for-profit business. She was charging affluent members of the community to send their children to her school but allowing low income children to attend for free. The affluent parents began to rebel, threatening to leave. Muday would not be dissuaded: poor children would be welcome.
The paying customers all left and Muday was left to teach the poor children without the revenue for teaching the affluent children.
A student at Muday.
Ten years later, the school continues to grow. Not only is she teaching 180 children and feeding almost as many more who attend other schools in the community, she also trains mothers who were previously begging for a living or working as prostitutes. She trains them to make handicrafts, like scarves woven on manually operated looms using thread spun on site from cotton or wool.
Muday helps the women sell their wares and then give the proceeds to the women to help them develop their own sense of independence.
Muday Mitiku Meles (near the center in a dress) with Rotary volunteers and some of her staff.
In the spirit of a true social entrepreneur, Muday operates some agricultural businesses like milking cows and growing mushrooms to support her school. Her business leaves her short of budget and so she relies entirely on donations from individuals in the community.
Dawit Alemishet of Splash explains the water filter’s operation.
Rotary partnered with the nonprofit Splash to provide the drinking walter filtration system, which provides more than enough water for the entire population of the school.
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
Bob Cairns, one of the Rotarians on the trip, is a retired civilian employee of the U.S. Navy who previously served in the Air Force; he worked managing the Navy’s largest fuel depot. He is distinctly not an entrepreneur nor tech savvy. He should be cruising with his wife of 40+ years, Christine. But he’s not. I’ll tell you why.
Bob has a plan to revolutionize education in Kenya and across Sub-Saharan Africa with a gadget called a Raspberry Pi developed in the UK by a team from Cambridge’s Computer Laboratory. The gadget is a tiny, radically affordable computer. It costs just $38.41 on Amazon.com. The Raspberry Pi Foundation is a nonprofit based on the UK.
Working with Spencer Foxworth, who does know something about computers, Bob and Spencer followed instructions from the nonprofit WorldPossible to equip the tiny device with a wifi antennae and a 32 gig SD card onto which they have downloaded an educational database called Rachel, produced by World Possible. The database includes 6,000 curated Wikipedia articles, thousands of Khan Academy videos, a deep database of health and wellness content, thousands of K-12 text books (most including teacher editions), world literature, and a variety of other educational content.
Raspberry Pi in a demo case with wifi antennae and SD card
Because Bob intends to deploy the devices in places in Kenya where power is unreliable or unavailable, he powers the Pi with a battery mounted to a small solar panel.
Of course, students don’t have laptops or iPads with which to access the Pi or its vast database, so Bob has sourced six-inch Android tablets for about $42 (Bob says they can get the cost down to about $37 when they start buying tablets by the hundreds). Each Pi can support up to ten simultaneous users.
Bob is rolling out a pilot program to nine schools in Kenya in three phases. Phase one is now complete. All nine schools have one Raspberry Pi and one tablet with the solar powered battery, allowing teachers to begin developing lessons using the Rachel database. Phase one was funded personally; Bob has covered his own travel to spend a month in Africa (after spending ten days with his wife and granddaughter, Ashley Carter, in Kenya he’s joined the Rotary team here in Addis Ababa to do polio immunizations, after which he’ll move on to Uganda for more service). Marybeth Foxworth, Spencer’s mother, purchased all of the hardware for the first phase of the project.
Phase II will be to provide the nine schools with additional tablets so that students can begin accessing the database. This $7,000 effort will be funded 50 percent by Bob’s own Port Orchard Washington Rotary Club with the balance coming from his Rotary District.
Phase III will be to provide each school with more Raspberry Pi units and more tablets so that each school will have three Raspberry Pi units and 30 student tablets plus a teacher tablet. This final phase is part of a larger effort that Bob is leading to do some significant work in Kenya, including a major water project and scholarships for high school students in Kenya. The total budget of nearly $125,000 is funded by Rotary, with money coming from local clubs in Washington, the Rotary District and the Rotary Foundation at Rotary International.
On the ground in Kenya, Bob is partnering with a local nonprofit called Hifadhi Africa to provide support to the schools as they work to implement the technology into their curriculum and practice.
Bob is soft-spoken, unassuming and yet remarkably passionate about his work in Africa, especially the Raspberry Pi and Rachel program, which will put computers and vast amounts of educational material in the hands of kids who have don’t even have current text books today.
Bob’s uncommon passion didn’t spring from nothing. In 2004, Bob was serving as the Scholarship Chair for his local Rotary Club and met a young refugee from Rwanda named John. Fleeing the genocide, at age seven, John had become responsible for his two younger brothers ages four and six months. Over the years since, Bob’s life has slowly been moving into an African orbit, drawn by the three young men whom he has helped over the years. The middle brother, Nsengimana Jovenal, is one of the three founders of Hifadhi Africa, providing support for the implementation of the Raspberry Pi/Rachel program.
Having seen the struggles of these three young men and the challenges facing so many in Africa, Bob now finds himself working with unquenchable fire to help eradicate poverty there.
In a meeting today with about 30 visiting Rotarians from the United States and Canada, U.S. Ambassador Patricia M. Haslach thanked Rotarians for their service to Ethiopia and the world and pledged continued cooperation and support for Rotary’s PolioPlus initiative.
The Ambassador noted that while Ethiopia was declared polio free in 2008, imported cases, including one as recent as August of this year, remind us that the effort is vitally important.
The Ambassador also reviewed a host of other issues with the visitors and praised the Ethiopian people for their cooperation and preparation, noting that the Ethiopian armed forces are presently involved in five peace-keeping operations on the continent. She highlighted the progress the country has made in combating the spread of HIV/AIDS, noting that 50 percent of the people in the country with HIV/AIDS are now getting treatment.
Prior to visiting with the Ambassador, the group made a visit to the world renowned Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital founded by Catherine Hamlin (now 93) and her husband in 1974.
Catherine Hamlin visit with Rotarian Ezra Teshome.
The hospital treats women with obstetric fistulas that result primarily for inordinately long deliveries–labor lasting for days and often ending in the death of the baby. The pressure from the delivery causes tears in the vaginal wall and ruptures in the bowel and/or in the urethra, leaving sufferers incontinent.
Not understanding the cause or treatment, women suffering from the condition or ostracized and shunned. Frequently their husbands abandon them and take the children. The women are completely robbed of dignity and hope.
Into this desperate circumstance comes Catherine Hamlin, twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. The clinic, now 40 years old, is set on a beautiful campus with rose gardens and other flowers decorating every walkway. Never a hint of odor from the patients’ problems can be detected in the spotless facilities–one building was funded by Oprah Winfrey.
The hospital recently added a maternity ward. Women who have been treated and returned successfully to their former families require cesarean sections when delivering subsequent children. The procedures are performed free of charge–as are all of the other services at the clinic.
As we were about to leave the facility today, one of the visiting Rotarians pointed out a young girl and asked if she could be a patient. I protested that I hoped and prayed that she was the daughter of a patient.
He investigated and discovered that she was raped when she was nine years old and delivered a baby at age ten. Less than half the age of the average age of women at the hospital, this darling girl was in bright spirits. When I handed her a donated soccer ball, she lit up like a candle.
Today’s meetings also included lunch and dinner with local Rotarians, reminding me that they are the ones who are making the big sacrifices and doing the hard work here day in and day out in the fight to end polio. They deserve the real kudos for the success of the program here.
For most people who get polio, the battle is not waged at the doorstep of the morgue, rather it is fought over whether a child will walk or crawl, beg or work, die single or raise a family.
Today, we visited the Cheshire Home Rehabilitation Centre here in Addis Ababa. Here, “clients” are provided with life changing surgeries and other treatments to allow them to walk.
The polio victims at Cheshire are now teenagers. The disease has been eradicated here for years. They come in crawling and they leave walking, usually requiring about six months. During that time they have surgery, sometimes more than one, and then receive extensive physical therapy and are provided with braces and crutches to allow them the dignity of walking.
The Centre does other work as well. On site, they manufacture wheel chairs, not only for their own clients, but for others as well. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is one of their largest customers; the Church purchases the wheel chairs to donate to people who, for whatever physical disability, are living life on the ground.
The wheel chair shop was, during our visit today, building a custom tricycle for a carpenter with one leg and no good arms. He uses his leg like the rest of us use our arms.
The highlight of the day for the visiting Rotarians, was to see the new hydrotherapy facility that is 90 percent complete. Denny Wilford from Port Orchard, Washington, has led an eight-year campaign to raise the money for the facility.
Cheshire official expresses thanks to Denny in the nearly completed hydrotherapy pool.
Today, Denny choked back emotion as he saw the nearly complete facility. He announced over lunch that the new facility would be named for a recently deceased Rotarian, Past District Governor Nahusenay Araya, who had devoted his life to serving the people of Ethiopia.
Later today, we visited a local library that was built by Rotary Clubs in Washington State about 15 years ago. The clubs continue to provide support for the library.
Dave Weaver and Ezra Teshome, both of whom were involved in the library project from its outset. Note the faded sign behind them.
Finally, we visited Rotary Village, an actual village outside of Addis that has now been consumed by the sprawling city. Still there, but now within the reaches of the city, the village is home to families in great need. The original occupants were all refugees.
The village homes all include running water and electricity. They were built at a cost of $2,000 each. Much of the financing came from Rotary International.
From a journalistic view of this trip, it is highly inappropriate of me to report on my arrival today, simply because my exposure to the place is so limited. On the other hand, from a journaling point of view, my first impressions are relevant, if only to provide a basis for further learning.
Reception for arriving volunteers held at the Hilton in Addis Ababa.
Having traveled about 30 hours without the benefit of any sound sleep, I arrived in Addis nearly two full days after I left, having also lost 10 hours by crossing time zones. I’d be lying if I said I arrived in good spirits. I was thankful simply to have arrived.
Having gone nearly 40 hours without a shower (I left Salt Lake City in the evening), I was hardly fit for a reception, so quickly checked in to the hotel, connected my computer to the internet (how many of you would have felt the compulsion to get connected to the internet first?) I took a shower and a nap.
The weather today was strikingly pleasant. Addis is just north of the Equator so one would normally expect hot weather, but Addis sits on a high plateau about 8,000 feet above sea level, making the weather just delightful.
The city, which I have seen little of so far, strikes me as somewhat more developed than I expected. So far, we have experienced no interruption in power or internet services. The streets are clean and drivers are well behaved. In my short travels today, we experienced no traffic jams. The city is also cleaner than cities of similar scale in some other developing countries.
Addis Ababa from my hotel balcony.
My first experiences with Ethiopians have all be pleasant. Our group is led Ezra Teshome, a native of Ethiopia who now lives and works in Seattle. A Past District Governor for Rotary, Ezra is a State Farm Agent who has been leading groups like this one to Ethiopia for twenty years. He is extremely well respected in Rotary circles.
By: Betsey Fortlouis, Camp Corral Executive Director
In 2003, Sgt. Rosanna Powers was deployed to Kuwait, only to return a month later after finding out she was pregnant with her first child. Ten months after her young son was born, Rosanna was notified that her brother, Lance Cpl. Caleb Powers, and her fiancé and the father of her son, Sgt. Richard Lord, had both been killed—one day apart—serving our country in Iraq.
Rosanna now lives with her 10-year-old son in a rural town outside of Gainesville, Florida. Rosanna’s son has grown up without a father, an uncle and kids who understand him most: the children of fallen military service members. However, thanks to Camp Corral, Rosanna has been able to give her son a priceless gift: a fun-filled week of summer camp with other military kids who are just like him.
Since October 2001, the world in which American military children grow up has changed dramatically because of high levels of deployment and an increased reliance on Reserve and National Guard members. More than 2.5 million military service members have deployed since 2001, and nearly half of those who serve are parents. As a result, we have seen an increased need for resources for military children, many of whom face similar challenges to those of Rosanna Powers’ son.
Rosanna and her son enjoying a sporting event.
Rosanna’s son playing guitar at the Camp Corral talent show.
Launched in 2011 by Golden Corral founder James Maynard and his daughter Easter Maynard, Camp Corral is a nonprofit organization that provides a free week of summer camp to the children of wounded, disabled or fallen military service members. What began as a one-camp pilot program has grown into 22 camp sessions in 16 states across the country, with thousands of kids having the week-of-a-lifetime each year. Each camp celebrates “Hero Day,” a time for campers to honor their loved ones, and is staffed with a military family life counselor. However, Camp Corral is not a “military camp.” The camp’s goal is to let military children just be kids for a week, and the programming includes traditional outdoor camp activities, such as canoeing, fishing, archery and horseback riding.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned since joining the Camp Corral team as executive director in 2013, it’s that the demand is high. Despite the generosity from so many individuals and organizations, 2,409 children were waitlisted this summer, demonstrating the increased demand from military families for opportunities for their children to have fun and connect with peers who share similar experiences.
Military children face many unique challenges, including deployments, frequent moves, uncertainty, and the emotional and/or physical absence of a parent. Even after a parent retires or leaves the military, kids still face difficulties, such as assimilating into civilian life. For many children, it can be challenging to build friendships with those who don’t understand what it’s like to go through a deployment, have a disabled parent or grieve the loss of a parent. When we talk with camper parents, it’s clear that many of their kids feel like the “odd man out” at school and in their communities, which is precisely why Camp Corral exists: “to serve those who have served us” by providing a place where military children feel at home.
Not only is Camp Corral so important for military children, but it has also proven to be a gift for the camper parents, including veterans, active duty and reserve service members. Thanks to so many donors who share our same passion for serving military families, Camp Corral is provided free-of-charge to all campers, excluding transportation costs. According to Cathy Valenza, a veteran and camper parent who lives in the Washington, D.C., area, she would never have been able to afford a high quality summer camp for her kids—the camps in her area are simply too expensive for a disabled veteran with four children. For other parents, Camp Corral gives them the opportunity to reconnect with a spouse for a week without typical, everyday parental responsibilities.
As we look a head to summer 2015, our goal is to expand our programs to additional states and give the gift of summer camp to even more of our nation’s young heroes. We have talked with numerous camper families about their experience with Camp Corral, and it’s evident that Rosanna’s story is just one of many. Just like Rosanna’s son, so many campers can’t wait to return to camp next summer and dream of becoming a Camp Corral counselor when they are old enough. For these kids, Camp Corral is an opportunity to just be a kid for a week, have fun, and build lifelong friendships, and it is truly an honor to be able to serve military families in this way.
For more information about Camp Corral, visit www.campcorral.org. If you are interested in learning more about how you can help Camp Corral expand its programs and serve more military families, visit www.campcorral.org/donate or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.You can also connect with us on Twitter and Facebook.
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
Largely for tax purposes, I began tracking the miles I drive my car rather carefully, noting the mileage at the beginning and end of each month. I was fairly shocked to note that in several months during the year, I had driven only 200 miles. I figure the car costs me about $500 per month to own, so I was paying a lot for driving a little just to keep the option to drive a lot.
That got me wondering, could I live without a car? I don’t live in Manhattan so it had never really occurred to me that I could live without a set of wheels to call my own. Plus, I quite like my car. About once a month I would comment to my wife Gail that I was glad we still have the BMW we bought when I was the CFO of a global food and beverage company and not a woefully under compensated online journalist.
After looking at the numbers, we agreed that we could save a lot of money on paper by selling the car, but we wondered if we could really do it. We decided that before we would sell the car, we’d go a month without driving it. So, as ridiculous as it seems, we decided that on those occasions when we really needed a car to drive, we’d rent one rather than drive our own and pretend we’d rented one.
The experiment was a surprising success. In general, we found we could get places when we wanted without the car, almost always with a more environmentally friendly option.
Now, let’s be clear about something. While we don’t live in Manhattan, we may live in exactly the only spot in Salt Lake City where living without a car is virtually as convenient as owning one. What I’m saying is that most people who read this wouldn’t be able to make the switch so painlessly. We don’t judge you for driving your own car!
The list of tools we use to make this possible follows, along with some commentary and anecdotes about our experiences with each.
Even in our current location, we couldn’t have made this decision so easily even one year ago. The Trax line to the airport wasn’t running, Lyft and Uber weren’t operating here and the Green Bike program was running only in a limited pilot last year. Salt Lake City is completely redesigning traffic patterns right now on some streets to make bike lanes safer. Things have suddenly gelled to make it easy for us to sell the car. The social entrepreneurs who are bringing us the sharing economy are quickly changing the world.
Will the same confluence of factors make it easy or possible for you to sell one or more of your cars in the near future? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Recently, I wrote here about my trip to Ethiopia to do polio immunizations for Rotary. I’m now writing this post on the airplane. First leg: SLC to SFO. (You’re right, that’s the wrong way. When I get to SFO, I’ll turn right around and head to London, flying over SLC on my way.)
When I posted about my trip, I asked friends to donate soccer balls that I could take and share with the kids in Ethiopia, many of whom lack such luxuries. I thought my friends might help me get a dozen balls and I was nervous about getting 12 soccer balls, plus the pumps I promised to buy to go with them. You really came through for me! Before I knew it, I had 28 soccer balls stacked on the dining room table and 28 pumps to match. Rotary had also suggested bringing pens (I packed 240), raisins (I packed 48 individual packs) and post cards (20) and little Rotary flags (6). Spread out on the table I couldn’t believe I would get them into the suitcase I was allowed for the purpose, but two hours of soccer ball origami allowed me to get them all in.
Let me just say thank you to all of the people who donated soccer balls (or money to buy soccer balls) for this trip:
The kids in Ethiopia will thank you!
I’ll post more about the trip as I can. According to the organizers of the trip, we shouldn’t count on internet access anywhere in Ethiopia. I’m hoping to find a way, but if not, I’ll offer up a full report on my return.