Thanks to your generosity and that of Rotarians around the world, we have raised a new one-year all-time record of $372.6 million for our Foundation,” said TRF Trustee Chair Paul Netzel, amidst thunderous applause as he delivered the keynote address at the Toronto Convention. This was in response to a comprehensive fundraising goal of $360 million, the top two funding objectives being $150 million for Polio and $135 million for the Annual Fund.
He recalled that last year when TRF celebrated its centennial, the target of $300 million was met with $304 million. He added that even though some thought the amount collected this year would be lower after the success of the centennial year, TRF Trustees were determined to prove that 2017–18 being the first year of The Rotary Foundation’s second century, a higher goal should be set and met. “They believed that you Rotarians would respond to the challenge, because the needs around the world are more pressing now than ever.”
Prime Minister Trudeau has committed Canada to remain a strong partner until polio is completely eradicated. We promise to continue to make every effort to benefit the world’s children now and forever.
— Ian Riseley, Rotary International President
The Foundation has invested more than $4.4 billion in humanitarian projects over the last century and over 85 per cent of the districts worldwide are participating in global grants. Nearly 1,200 global grant applications have been approved this year, including 487 district grants, involving 168 countries.
Marvelling at how the Foundation has adapted itself with various services to a rapidly changing world, he looked back at the decades gone by — the Institutes for International Understanding launched in the 1930s; the scholarship programmes for graduate study in the 1940s which “even earned us a seat at the table at the 1945 San Francisco Conference where the United Nations Charter was signed.” The 1960s saw international partnerships between clubs/districts. In the 2000s, the Rotary Peace Centres began equipping students from all continents for careers in peacebuilding, conflict prevention and resolution. “And, today, this programme has 1,162 graduates, with 100 new Rotary Peace Fellows being added each year. We will be adding four new peace centres over the next decade,” said Netzel.
On Rotary’s momentous role in polio eradication, he pointed out how Toronto supported this milestone achievement. When in the 1950s
Dr Jonas Salk first developed the vaccine against polio, he did not know how to mass produce the vaccine for large-scale distribution. “But here in Toronto, a Canadian scientist, Dr Leone Farrell, was working on what is now referred to as the ‘Toronto Method’ to produce the vaccine in large quantities.” She pioneered a method of vaccine production by gently rocking cell cultures to stimulate the polio virus growth. This helped Salk’s serum to successfully immunise 1.8 million children in the US, Canada and Finland during 1954–55, making this the largest medical experiment in history. While Dr Salk appeared on the cover of the Time magazine, Dr Farrell faded into relative obscurity. “Like her, we have so many unsung heroes in our fight against polio whom we remember today through two ways; first we can honour their legacy by delivering a polio-free world; second, we can build Rotary’s future by getting ourselves ready for a post-polio era.”
In the last one year, Rotary and several global leaders pledged $1.5 billion to end polio, with Rotary’s pledge being for $450 million. “We are very near to achieving this year’s $50 million goal and to this we will have the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s 2 for 1 match of $100 million contribution to TRF.”
We are so fortunate to have Rajashree Birla as a donor from a country that has been polio-free for over five years.
— Paul Netzel, TRF Trustee Chair
He highlighted the generosity of Rajashree Birla, Chairperson of the Aditya Birla Foundation for Community Initiatives and Rural Development, who had recently contributed $1 million to the Polio Fund taking her total giving to $11 million. “We are so fortunate to have her as a donor from a country that has been polio-free for over five years.”
Referring to TRF’s ambitious aim to build an Endowment of $2.025 billion by 2025, Netzel said that when that happens, the Foundation can reasonably anticipate receiving — in today’s dollars — approximately $100 million each year from investment earnings. These funds will ensure that future Rotarians will have the resources they need to design and implement projects to make a difference.
On a sober note, he recollected his visit to India, as district governor, to provide corrective surgeries for polio survivors when he was moved by the gesture of a 9-year-old polio victim Pareekh and his parents. “I was speechless and time virtually stopped for me when they bent and touched my feet. The next time you think about the level of your gift to our Rotary Foundation, please think of the Pareekhs of the world. Thank you!”
Your fundamental principle of Service above Self doesn’t just describe your dedication. It shows the world what everyone can do when we come together.
— Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
One of the highlights of the day was the conferring of the Polio Eradication Champion Award to the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by RI President Ian Riseley and International PolioPlus Committee Chair Michael McGovern.
Although Canada got rid of polio 20 years ago, the country has supported the cause with CAD $750 million, including a $100 million pledge for global eradication of polio in 2017, and $20 million for polio eradication efforts in Pakistan. In early June, Canada, as host of the G7 summit, was joined by G7 leaders in affirming commitment to polio eradication.
Canadian Rotarians have contributed $66.6 million towards polio eradication, besides travelling to polio-afflicted countries to participate in mass vaccination campaigns.
Canada was the first government to join Rotary to work for a polio-free world. “Prime Minister Trudeau has committed Canada to remain a strong partner until polio is completely eradicated. We are grateful for your nation’s long-standing support for this historic endeavour. We promise to continue to make every effort to benefit the world’s children now and forever,” said Riseley.
In his acceptance speech, the Prime Minister said, “Wherever you go in Canada, the word ‘Rotarian’ makes people think of service. That’s because the work you do every day adds up to something incredible. Sixteen million volunteer hours every year… congratulations. Not only has Rotary spent over $2 billion, you have also put pressure on the governments to create change. So while receiving the Polio Eradication Champion Award, I want to thank you all too.”
“Your fundamental principle of Service above Self doesn’t just describe your dedication. It shows the world what everyone can do when we come together. I want our kids to grow up in a world without polio. I want a world where gender equity is a reality and everyone has the chance to succeed. Together I know we can work hard and build a better world. Thank you all. Merci beaucoup!”
Trudeau is the third Canadian Prime Minister to receive the award, joining Prime Ministers Jean Chrétien and Stephen Harper. Past recipients also include Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan; Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany; Xavier Bettel, Prime Minister of Luxembourg; Muhammadu Buhari, President of Nigeria; Nevin Mimica, European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development; and Ban Ki-moon, former UN Secretary General.
Pictures by Mike Thorn