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 The mission of the "Your Mark on the World Center" is to solve the world's biggest problems before 2045 by identifying and championing the work of experts who have created credible plans and programs to end them once and for all.
Crowdfunding for Social Good
Devin D. Thorpe
Devin Thorpe

Monthly Archives: November 2014

Michigan Researchers Present ‘Roadmap’ For BoP Progress

A team of researchers at the University of Michigan’s William Davidson Institute have recently published a document called, “A Roadmap for the Base of the Pyramid Domain: Re-Energizing for the Next Decade.”

The team of authors included Ted London, Stuart Hart and Sateen Sheth.

According to Ted, “The Roadmap outlines a shared vision for the future of the BoP domain. It includes a set of actionable initiatives that serve as platforms to share knowledge, learn, and support BoP enterprises more effectively. The document helps chart the way forward for inclusive business ventures that serve low income communities in developing countries.”

He further explained, “The Roadmap was created because, in the past decade,there has been tremendous growth in the number of BoP enterprises launched, as well as investor interest and support. However, there is a need for greater efforts to determine what works, what doesn’t, and what’s needed to increase positive impact in the BoP domain.”

Implementing the Roadmap initiatives requires support and commitment from the entire BoP community. The BoP Roadmap lays out the path ahead of us, but success requires a willingness to continue to invest in learning, as well as doing,” Ted concluded.

On Thursday, November 20, 2014 at 10:00 AM Eastern, Ted will join me for a live discussion about the Roadmap. Tune in here then to watch the interview live.

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

More about the William Davidson Institute:

The William Davidson Institute (WDI) is a non-profit research and educational institute established at the University of Michigan in 1992. Through a unique structure that integrates healthcare and base of pyramid (BoP) research, educational outreach, field-based collaborations, and development consulting services, WDI creates long-term value for academic institutions, partner organizations, and donor agencies active in emerging markets. WDI also provides a forum for academics, policy makers, business leaders, and development experts to enhance their understanding of these economies. WDI is the only institution of higher learning in the United States that is fully dedicated to understanding and promoting actionable business and public policy approaches to addressing the challenges and opportunities in emerging market economies.


Ted’s bio:

Ted London is a Senior Research Fellow at the William Davidson Institute and a member of the faculty at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. An internationally recognized expert on the intersection of business strategy and poverty alleviation, London focuses his research on developing enterprise strategies for base of the pyramid (BoP) markets, building cross-sector collaborations, and assessing poverty-reduction outcomes. He has published extensively with a focus on creating new knowledge with important actionable outcomes, serves on several advisory boards, and shares his research in venues across the globe. He has also advised dozens of leadership teams in the corporate, non-profit, and development sectors on designing sustainable and scalable BoP enterprises. Prior to coming to the University of Michigan, London was on the faculty at the University of North Carolina, where he also received his Ph.D. in strategic management. He also has held senior management positions in the private, non-profit, and development sectors in Africa, Asia, and the U.S.

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Devin D. Thorpe

Tech, Art, and Community: Working Together for a Better World

This is a guest post from Zack Holland, Founder of Angeleno Artistry

In an over-connected global economy where products are designed in California, created in Asia, and shipped to your doorstep, the idea of a local community has been downsized and warped to simply mean the neighbors that you nod to while they go about their days.

Since an early age, I’ve always been fascinated by the oft-ignored capability of technology to develop bonds within local neighborhoods and cities. Tech makes the world a smaller place, yes, but sometimes there is too much connectivity from places and people that are unwarranted, and we forget about connecting to and supporting the humans that live around and with us.

At sixteen I founded a company that gathered information from all members of a neighborhood, and produced an online directory that allowed, for a small one-time fee, people to browse whom in their neighborhood could babysit, or help with lawnwork, etc. I suppose that, even in my current position with Angeleno Artistry, I’ve continued to focus on enabling the support of local individuals and companies in an effort to empower a community’s culture; only the neighborhood is slightly larger and we’re working with artists instead of babysitters.

Zack Holland

If you haven’t noticed, the millennial generation is leading a unique shift in response to general consumer culture’s insensitivity to local creation. Small-batch, earth conscious companies that support local design and manufacturing are replacing massive corporate brands, and an honest philanthropic approach is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity. This ‘Anti-Industrial Movement’ continues to gain steam as the US economy picks itself back up, and young consumers are willing to spend extra cash on clothes and products that they believe in.

At the forefront of the return to localized spending is one of the oldest and most honest means of making a living – art. The drive to support oneself via artistic self-expression is a brave and difficult task; yet while technology has done marvelous things for a myriad of occupations and careers, it has generally failed artists in their task of injecting our world with originality and beauty. Stock images and mass-produced products by companies such as IKEA and have stifled even the most talented of this once-proud occupation, as people seem to think relegating original artwork to flea markets and museums is an acceptable norm.

However, the aforementioned shift towards authentic, local products is bringing genuine excitement back to the world of art. Hanging an original work from a real artist is again taking the place of bland movie posters and cityscapes, especially as consumers discover that supporting local artists can be an affordable and fulfilling experience.

We created Angeleno Artistry to fulfill the apparent need for a tech-infused connection between deserving local artists and the conscious consumer. Based in Los Angeles, California, the platform introduces five paint, photography and design artists a month, each with an Artist Profile that encourages commission inquiries, and with a unique Art Print design that is created in limited edition. The artists are selected with the aid of a network of gallery owners, museum curators and veteran industry professionals, and each brings a unique style, story, and message. A portion of each print sold in Angeleno Artistry’s online gallery goes directly to our non-profit partner P.S. Arts, to help fund art education in Los Angeles’ underfunded public elementary schools.

One of our early taglines for Angeleno Artistry has been Artwork with a purpose, from Los Angeles, California. This purpose aligns with and joins a host of quality companies arising from young entrepreneurs and mindful executives across the nation in a unified movement: a return to locally crafted products with honest and authentic missions. From our small piece of this wave, I strongly encourage you to seek out a local artist whose work speaks to you, and choose to spend your hard-earned money on products that directly better the lives and businesses of those around you.

Join the movement at

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Can We, Should We Really End Polio?

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

For the past week, I have been a guest of Rotary International here in Ethiopia to participate in and observe an expedition of U.S. and Canadian Rotarians and friends of Rotary (I am a member of the Salt Lake City Club) to support the National Immunization Day for polio. The lessons from this effort for social entrepreneurs and other change agents are important.

The opinions and conclusions of this article are, of course, entirely my own.

The group of 35 North Americans who came to Ethiopia have been received almost as heroes. President Mulatu Teshome, elected Ethiopia’s president in 2013, took time to meet with a subset of the group that included me; our visit with the President and our efforts to eradicate polio were the subject of a four-page story in the local paper. While we as a group immunized only a few hundred children, we brought attention to and helped to reinvigorate the effort to vaccinate every child in Ethiopia last week.

Rotary team meets with Ethiopian President Mulatu Teshome

Ethiopia was declared polio free in 2001, but recent outbreaks in Somalia have led to 10 cases of polio in Ethiopia over the last 24 months, the last of which was in January of 2014. The country is still on high alert, hoping to quickly eliminate the virus not only from the country, but from the continent and then the world.

According to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative or GPEI, there have not been any documented cases of wild polio virus in Africa in the last 90 days on the entire continent. That said, James McQueen Patterson, with UNICEF, told us during our visit that real or potential gaps in surveillance mean that no one should start celebrating until at least six month after the last reported case.

Even as Africa seems to finally be getting a tight grip on polio, things are going badly in Pakistan, with 235 cases so far this year, more than any year since 1998. Many of the Pakistan-originating cases end up in Afghanistan, so it too is reporting cases.

Ever since the U.S. identified and killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan, the Taliban there has forbidden children in regions it controls to be immunized and a reported 60 health workers and their security have been murdered in the effort to immunize children there.

Rotary’s Polio Plus Chair in Pakistan, Aziz Memon, explains, “The Taliban in Pakistan oppose polio vaccination after the CIA’s undercover agent Dr. Shakeel Afridi was responsible for locating Bin Laden’s hideout using a fake campaign. It jeopardized the work of many International NGOs and humanitarian workers. The ban imposed on North and South Waziristan in June 2012 by the tribal leader Hafiz Gul Bahadur caused some 350,000 children to be deprived of vaccination for a period of almost 2 years. However, there are other tribal leaders in the Pushtun belt where polio vaccine is riddled with misconceptions and myths some of them range from reason for refusals as stated: cause of infertility, not halal (kosher), contains pig fat, against religion, [and] vaccines cause harm.”

Can We?

This begs the question, can we ever expect to get polio eradicated from the planet? Won’t there always be someplace on the globe where we simply can’t make people accept the vaccine?

Let’s take a look at that these questions together.

There is no question that eradicating polio will be difficult, so it is fair to ask whether or not the dread disease can actually be eliminated.

The premise for eradicating polio is actually rather simple. The virus lives only in humans and in no other species. You can’t get polio from a pig, a monkey or any other critter. While it can and does live outside of a host for some time, no animals except humans are at risk of getting polio. So eradicating polio is theoretically not that difficult. If every child is immunized no one can get the disease and the virus will be extinct.

That’s why Rotary tackled the problem in the first place; it looked distinctly possible even then. Looking back, Rotary was perhaps naïve, thinking in 1988 that polio could be eradicated by 2005, the organization’s 100th anniversary. Naïve maybe. Optimistic, no doubt. But that naiveté combined with help from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, WHO, UNICEF and more recently the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and participating governments around the world, have brought us to the brink of the disease’s extinction.

The virus, which causes paralysis in children, once caused about 400,000 cases per year. In 2013, there were only 416 cases of wild polio on the planet, meaning that we have reduced the number of cases by 99.9 percent.

The last cases will be the hardest to eliminate for political reasons more than biological. Ebola is stealing lots of attention—for good reason—from the polio fight, but that puts the polio work in West Africa at risk if just one outbreak occurs there in the coming months.

We’ve already talked about Pakistan where the number of cases of polio are actually increasing rather than decreasing.

Even give those concerns, being here on the ground in Ethiopia and having participated in and observed the effort on the ground in India in February, it begins to make sense.

In the developed world, there isn’t much of a dedicated polio infrastructure. Virtually all children are immunized routinely shortly after they are born and there haven’t been cases of polio in most of the developed world for decades. It is hard to imagine or even understand the scale of the global polio infrastructure.

In the developing world, there are places where the only contact poor villagers have with the outside world is a polio health worker or volunteer coming in to immunize a child. There are on the order of 20 million volunteers working on polio eradication around the globe. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative partners mentioned in this article have spent billions of dollars and anticipate spending another $5.5 billion in what they call the “end game strategy.”

Here on the ground, I can tell you first hand that they aren’t merely throwing money and volunteers at the problem in a brute force effort, rather they are working with increasing sophistication to reach every last child and to monitor every case.

Using genetic testing, every case of polio can be traced to a strain to know exactly where it came from, allowing everyone to trace people and provide immunizations around people and communities at risk. By combining focused immunization campaigns in at risk communities with nationwide efforts to immunize every child in a country multiple times per year, the disease can be defeated.

In Pakistan, where much of the polio world’s attention is now focusing, every possible tactic is being used. Permanent immunization clinics along with national immunization days and new applications of technology that allow health workers with simple cell phones to text data to central repositories to accelerate surveillance responses to neighborhoods and villages with outbreaks.

Furthermore, in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan controlled by the Taliban, people have been allowed to leave the region. Hundreds of thousands of people have done so. Their children are being immunized at check points there as they leave the region, so thousands of previously unvaccinated children are now being vaccinated.

Aziz Memom, Polio Plus Chair, Pakistan

Memon explains further, “Our social mobilizers at the Resource Centres, the UNICEF mobilizers and the Provincial Government are constantly holding community meetings, workshops, seminars, Ulema conventions, encouraging renowned scholars and religious leaders to hold International Conferences and issue ‘Fatwas’ (decrees) on the safety of polio vaccine. These leaders from around the world gather at International forums to spread the word to mobilize other religious clerics to pass these Fatwas to Ulemas at grass roots through mosques and madrassa’s. The incidence of refusals have reduced considerably, but a constant reminder is necessary for recall.”

Additionally, just this week, the AP reported that the government of Pakistan is stepping up its efforts. One new initiative is a law that makes it illegal for a religious or community leader to prohibit members of their communities from receiving vaccinations.

Having witnessed the challenges and the success in both India and Ethiopia, I conclude that we certainly can eradicate polio. While there may be a few dozen recent cases in the world, there are huge investments of time and resources being deployed to those communities to extinguish the outbreaks. Just as the disease was improbably eradicated in India, it can be done in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria—and in the other countries where it has resurfaced in recent years.

Not only can it be done, it can be done soon. In India in 2009, there were 741 cases. The following year, there were just 42 and the last case in India was in January of 2011. When the political will exists, the resources will be found to end polio and there is no reason to believe that can’t happen in 2015. If it does, the WHO will certify the world polio free in 2018 and we can stop immunizing children against polio and put those resources to work on ending another disease.

Should We?

Given the difficulty and the cost of polio eradication, some have asked if we shouldn’t just be happy with the 99.9 percent progress we’ve made. Should we make the final push to eradicate polio?

The Gates Foundation looked at the financial aspects of this question to determine if the rather expensive end game strategy has a positive return on investment or ROI. The Foundation concluded that certainly it does.

In a world where polio continues to impact hundreds of children each year, not only do we need to continue to immunize every child in the world against the disease, but we need to provide expensive, lifelong care to those who are crippled by the disease. This virtually ignores the fact that some children will die from the disease and the world loses their potential contributions permanently.

Don’t forget that the rate of immunizations in the U.S. has fallen in recent years. As the world shrinks effectively, drawn closer by technology and increasing global affluence allowing more and more people to travel around the world, American children are at serious risk of getting polio.

The Ebola epidemic today is a reminder that allowing a terrible disease to persist in impacting a few people each year simply because it doesn’t impact a lot of people is a not a strategy at all.

We owe it to the world to eliminate the risk of disease that we can eradicate. How would we explain to the hundreds of children impacted by polio each year in the future that we simply don’t care enough about them to do the hard things required to protect them.

The fact of the matter is that the resources are largely there. A funding shortfall of $600 million in the total $5.5 billion end game strategy is all that stands between us and polio eradication. That, and a bit more political will.

We can do this. We should do this. In fact, we must.

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Chevron’s ‘Fuel Your School’ Program Via DonorsChoose Raises Millions

This post was originally produced for Forbes.

Chevron CVX -0.67% has committed $140 million to education in the U.S. since 2010 and will top $45 million in 2014 alone, according to Brent Tippen, a spokesman for Chevron.

In a partnership with the crowdfunding-for-teachers site DonorsChoose called “Fuel Your School” over 17,000 projects at more than 3,000 schools have been funded, according to Tippen.

Commenting on Chevron’s motivation, Tippen noted, “Effective STEM education – science, technology, engineering and math – is one of the most fundamental requisites to securing healthy future economic growth for the country.”

“Innovative approaches are needed to help public school classrooms,” he added.

DonorsChoose CEO Charles Best reported, “This back-to-school season was our best ever at, which is great news for teachers who spend, on average, about $500 of their own money each year for classroom resources.”

“Chevron is helping us reach our “big hairy audacious goal” of raising $100 million for 100% of the nation’s highest poverty schools, all in one calendar year,” he concluded.

Best and Tippen will join me on Thursday, November 13, 2014 at 5:00 Eastern for a live discussion about the Fuel Your School program and its impact on teachers and students. Tune in then to watch the interview live.

More about Chevron:

Chevron is one of the world’s leading integrated energy companies, with subsidiaries that conduct business worldwide. The company is involved in virtually every facet of the energy industry. Chevron explores for, produces and transports crude oil and natural gas; refines, markets and distributes transportation fuels and lubricants; manufactures and sells petrochemical products; generates power and produces geothermal energy; provides energy efficiency solutions; and develops the energy resources of the future, including biofuels. Chevron is based in San Ramon, Calif. More information about Chevron is available at

More about DonorsChoose:

Founded in 2000, makes it easy for anyone to help a classroom in need. At this nonprofit website, teachers at 62% of all the public schools in America have created project requests, and more than 1.5 million people have donated $286 million to projects that inspire them. All told, 13 million students—most from low-income communities, and many in disaster-stricken areas—have received books, art supplies, field trips, technology, and other resources that they need to learn.

Visit to hear Oprah Winfrey and Stephen Colbert tell the story.


Brent Tippen

Tippen’s bio:

Brent Tippen is a Global Public & Government Affairs Advisor and Company Spokesman for Chevron Corporation based in San Ramon, California. He serves as the Chevron Fuel Your School program manager.

A native of West Monroe, Louisiana, Brent earned his B.A. in Communications in 2004 from Louisiana Tech University and his M.A. in Communication in 2007 from the University of Louisiana. In 2007, he studied abroad for graduate school through the University of Southern Mississippi in London, UK, studying Intercultural Communication.

Before joining Chevron, Brent was a media and communications representative for a prominent U.S. Senator, a media spokesperson for the American Cancer Society, and worked with Entergy Corporation, an electric power producer. After serving in positions of increasing responsibility, in 2008, Tippen transitioned careers and now works in Policy, Government and Public Affairs for Chevron Corporation, a California-based energy company.

Brent has worked and continues to work with many service and charitable organizations in leadership positions including: Rotary International, the Public Relations Society of America, the International Association of Business Communicators, Louisiana Communication Association, active member of the Louisiana Tech University Alumni Association as well as the University of Louisiana, Monroe Alumni Association. In 2013 he was named “Young Alumnus of the Year” at Louisiana Tech University.

At Chevron Corporation, Brent serves as a Global Public and Government Affairs Advisor and company spokesman on a large portfolio focusing on Downstream and Chemicals and has previously included corporate issues / community engagement / corporate social responsibility. He also currently manages Chevron’s Fuel Your School program operating in 22 U.S. markets as well as Canada, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and New Zealand. Brent brings a broad knowledge base both in the nonprofit and political realms with a strong background in communication and media relations.


Charles Best

Best’s bio:

Charles Best leads, a nonprofit organization that provides a simple way to address educational inequity. At, public school teachers create classroom project requests and donors can choose the projects they want to support. Charles launched the organization in 2000 out of a Bronx public high school where he taught history. is one of Oprah Winfrey’s “ultimate favorite things” and was featured on the cover of Fast Company as one of the “50 Most Innovative Companies in the World.” For three years, Fortune Magazine has named Charles to its “40 under 40 hottest rising stars in business.”

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Learn More About Traveling To Nepal With CHOICE Humanitarian And Me

I am so excited! Fresh off my Rotary trip to Ethiopia for polio immunizations, I’m now looking forward to my service expedition with CHOICE Humanitarian to Nepal in February. Here’s the news: you can join me. I hope you will!

Wade Alexander, who recently returned from Kenya himself, is the expedition leader for CHOICE. He says, “Expeditions are life-changing experiences. Expeditions allow others to broaden global perspectives and serve hand-in-hand with rural villagers.”

See my interview with CHOICE Humanitarian Founder Jim Mayfield for Forbes.

On Thursday, November 13, 2014 at 2:00 Eastern, Wade will join me for a live discussion about the trip. Tune in then to watch the discussion live.

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes.

More about CHOICE Humanitarian:

CHOICE Humanitarian works in rural communities across the globe, empowering villagers from the bottom-up to pull themselves from poverty and drive themselves down a path toward self-reliance. CHOICE relies on local leadership to implement a community-wide model of self-sustainable development that will have a positive impact on the village as a whole. At this time, CHOICE works in five distinct countries: Mexico, Guatemala, Bolivia, Kenya, and Nepal.


Wade’s bio:

R. Wade Alexander was born and raised in Fairfax, Virginia. He first left the United States in 1999 to serve an ecclesiastical mission in northwest Argentina until 2001. Following subsequent trips to South America for both tourism and human rights research, Wade graduated from BYU in 2005 with degrees in Latin American Studies and Human Development.

Wade joined CHOICE Humanitarian in 2009, a non-profit organization focused on building local leadership and empowering rural villages across the globe. As Director of Expeditions, he organizes all field visits and service-related trips, often leading large groups of volunteers across Latin America, Africa, and Asia. In 2013, Wade completed the Executive MPA program of BYU.

Wade and his beautiful wife, Tania, live in Eagle Mountain (Utah) with their two darling children. He is a competitive grappler, creative artist, and a published travel writer and photographer with such work appearing in both Transitions Abroad and South American Explorers.

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Emmy Award Winner Leads Storytellers For Good

Emmy Award winner Cara Jones gave up her fabulous career as a television report to build Storytellers for Good to share stories about people who are doing good. 

Cara explained her work to me, saying, “Storytelling has the power to cut through the digital noise and create authentic connection." 

She added, ”People want to be part of something that is inspiring and makes them feel good and are motivated from that place.“

On Thursday, November 13, 2014 at 1:00 Eastern, Cara will join me for a live discussion about her work. Tune in then to watch the interview live.

You can download an audio podcast here or subscribe via iTunes

More about Storytellers for Good:

Storytellers for Good is a team of producers and videographers who tell and promote stories of people and organizations making a positive difference.


Cara’s bio:

Cara is a multiple Emmy Award winning reporter, producer, and speaker with vast experience in using video to tell compelling, inspiring human-interest stories. She has more than a decade of experience in broadcast journalism and has reported for network affiliates in Southwest Florida, Boston and the San Francisco Bay Area. Cara started telling inspiring stories as a way to cope with the tragedy-focused ones she was assigned in the news industry. The perspective and personal transformation she experienced while creating those stories inspired her to start Storytellers for Good in 2009. She, and a talented team of producers and videographers, have since been creating short films that move and inspire as well as raise awareness and support for world-changing people and organizations. Cara also leads regular storytelling workshops throughout the Bay Area, blogs for the Huffington Post, and has shared her expertise at conferences including SXSW, NTEN and Nonprofit Day. Cara is a graduate of Princeton University with a degree in public policy. She has solo-backpacked around the world, teaches yoga and recently learned to surf while creating a short film on India’s first surfer girl.

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Quick Review: Ethiopian Polio NID Trip With Rotary

This is another in a series of reports from a Rotary expedition to Ethiopia to End Polio Now.

We’re packing up and heading home. The group is a bit tired but ebullient at the same time. Ethiopia is an extraordinarily beautiful place with kind, happy people. 

In a group of about 35 volunteers, virtually connected to Rotary in some way, I found some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met. To a person, the focus of the trip was to do some good. And did they ever do good.

They were all thoughtful about and respectful to the local people, whether talking to local Rotarians or the children they inoculated. There was no attitude of North Americans coming to save the Ethiopians, rather an eagerness to simply dip an oar in the water alongside them to provide a bit of moral support and to build bridges.

Relationships are being built on this foundation. The Rotarians who come back year after year are leading projects in cooperation with local Rotarians to provide housing, clean water, libraries, food, education and so much more. These partnerships will evolve over time. Some will have a natural end as projects end, but others will go on indefinitely.

Ethiopia is a desperately poor country, but the economy is growing quickly. There are signs of that growth all around: new construction, roads, businesses, and a frantic pace that suggests they have work to do. What a great place for more foreign direct investment and impact investing!

The following video may help you to glimpse in a few minutes what I saw during my visit here.

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Mission Accomplished? No Way!

This is another in a series of reports from a Rotary expedition to Ethiopia toEnd Polio Now.

Today we wrapped up the Ethiopian NID with more immunizations. Most of our time was spent going house to house looking for children who had not yet been immunized. It was wonderful to find children whose left pinkies were already marked with purple ink, meaning that they had been immunized yesterday. We found dozens of kids to immunize today.

In contrast with house to house immunizations in New Delhi, where I participated in February, and people live literally on top of one another such that a morning of searching for and immunizing kids occupies no more than a full city block, we logged miles along a dusty highway in the outskirts of a town called Mojoo, itself a suburb of Nazret, little more than an hour outside of Addis Ababa.

The weary Rotarians are joyous about their work. Denny Wilford, one of the perennial stalwarts on the team, is himself a polio survivor. Battling polio and saving kids from it is personal to him. By extension, it is personal to everyone on the team.

As we move slowly along the highway, the North American volunteers stand out and draw a small crowd. When we start sharing a few gifts—pens, raisins, post cards, baby toys and an occasional soccer ball—the crowd of families really starts to grow.

The phenomenon is actually pretty shocking. One moment you had a Bic pen to a child and within 60 seconds a dozen kids have swarmed looking for a pen. Many take a pen with one hand and then immediately raise the other to grab another pen.

Raisins, it turned out, are a harder sell. The little yellow boxes of Newman’s organic raisins were unfamiliar and the children were uncertain if they wanted them.

Soccer balls were a big hit. I didn’t appreciate how valuable and unusual they were until our drivers began begging for the balls we were giving away to the children. Even with relatively good employment, buying a soccer ball and a pump was apparently out of the question.

The trinkets and the foreigners work their magic. Families are drawn out and welcome the opportunity to get their toddlers vaccinated. Most of the older kids, that is the three and four year olds, are typically pretty good about complying with instructions and find that the drops don’t taste so bad and certainly don’t hurt. The littler ones, however, sometimes need stern or forceful help from mom to get their drops.

So, as the group begins the trek home, we all feel a certain mix of satisfaction and anxiety. One can’t help but feel proud of the work having come so far from home both literally and figuratively to help, but that pride is tempered by the realization that close as we are to getting on top of this disease, there is a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done quickly.

It will not be enough to simply keep doing what we’ve been doing to eradicate polio. We must do it more thoroughly, more completely than ever before.

There are so few cases of polio in Africa this year that it is reasonable to believe that the continent will be polio free perhaps as soon as 2015—certification from the WHO follows the last documented case in a region by three years.

That said, Pakistan with more cases in 2015 than it has had in 15 years, now holds the world hostage to polio. A recently publish AP stories reports that the country will impose new penalties on leaders who prohibit children from receiving polio vaccinations. Don’t be discouraged. The number of cases in neighboring India dropped from over 700 in 2009 to about 40 in 2010 with the final case in January 2011. There is no reason to believe that focusing the world’s attention and resources on Pakistan over the next 14 months can’t end polio there, too.

Then, and only then, can we say, “Mission accomplished.”

National Immunization Day Ethiopia

This is another in a series of reports from a Rotary expedition to Ethiopia toEnd Polio Now.

Today began the two-day National Immunization Day here in Ethiopia. 

The group I am traveling with includes about 35 people from the U.S. and Canada, all of whom traveled to the other side of the world to immunize kids they didn’t know and will likely never see again against a disease that hasn’t made anyone in the U.S. or Canada sick in decades.


Barbara Finley broke down in tears after immunizing a handful of kids at a school today.

The remarkable thing about Rotarians is their ability to see the big picture of polio eradication on a global scale and at the same time recognize what that means to each and every child individually. Rotarians can explain the different between monovalent and trivalent vaccines, name the three countries on the planet that remain polio endemic and at the same time tear up while giving the famous “two drops” to a single child.


The group of 35 Rotarians immunized fewer than 200 people today, but their efforts pay dividends far beyond this. Yesterday’s visit with President was featured in the local news and everywhere the North Americans go, throngs appear to find out what’s up. This attention ensures that thousands more will be immunized in this round than otherwise.


The presence of international visitors also fires up the local Rotarians, who are also actively engaged in the effort. While Rotary is relatively small in Ethiopia (as compared with the U.S. or India) it’s presence in the polio eradication effort here is nonetheless pervasive.

While some might characterize the polio eradication effort as a war against the polio virus, as you watch Rotarians at work, you recognize that they see this much more as a campaign for the health of the world’s children.

Meeting The President To Talk About Polio

This is another in a series of reports from a Rotary expedition to Ethiopia toEnd Polio Now.

The “advocacy group” of Rotarians, about one third of the total group visiting Ethiopia was granted a private meeting with Mulatu Teshome, the President of the country in the Presidential Palace. The President expressed gratitude for Rotary’s work and expressed genuine concern for his people and the world if polio is not eradicated soon.

Ethiopian President Mulatu Teshome

We’ve been staying at the Hilton, which is less than a kilometer from the Palace. We planned to leave well in advance of our 3:30 appointment in order to negotiate traffic and clear security. It’s a good thing we did.

Best laid plans in the developing world seem to run crosswise into reality more often than in more developed countries. Ultimately, we left with little time to spare. Thankfully, we experienced no traffic delays and the men in the group were quickly screened by security and ushered into the palace. The women were provided with a private screening process, separate from the men, that reportedly was much more thorough.

Eventually, we were all reunited in a waiting room in the palace, which is apparently in much the same condition it was in—magnificent—when the Emperor Haile Selassie’s rule ended in 1974. Subsequent rulers have attempted to maintain the building.

After a brief wait, we were escorted into a large meeting room that could easily have accommodated about 30 people (there were only twelve of us). After we each personally greeted the President, we took seats that felt uncomfortably separated in the spacious room.

Media and staffers with cameras danced about the room filming and shooting still photos of everything that happened for the first five minutes, then, without warning, they all disappeared.

We were served water, tea and coffee along with cookies.

Trip leader Ezra Teshome, no relation to the President, introduced our mission and thanked the president for seeing us. Ezra recounted the history of his mission, noting that this is the 19th Rotary trip he’s led to Ethiopia. Ezra went on to explain that not only has the group performed immunizations on every trip, but the group has also conducted a number of other projects from drilling wells to building homes.

The President expressed gratitude for Ezra’s work and for Rotary more broadly. Evidencing a good understanding of the issues around polio, he expressed concern that his people would always be vulnerable until and unless polio is eradicated globally.

Most members of our group took the opportunity to personally express thanks to the President for seeing us and for supporting polio eradication efforts in Ethiopia—which was declared polio free in 2008.

At the end of the meeting, Ezra presented the President with a globe, intended to remind the President of the need to eradicate polio globally.

The staff photographers returned to memorialize the moment and then a group photo was taken. We left hoping to receive copies!

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